Homemade foods are no more the first choice of the health experts for the school going children in the United States as a new study has found strong leads suggesting that school lunches could be healthier and more nutritious than food brought from home.
According to the researchers, a significant population of student (about 60 percent) going to elementary and secondary schools in the US receives a good portion of calories from lunches provided by their schools’ cafeteria.
The study, carried by the researchers at Virginia Tech, looked at the school lunches provided at three rural schools in Virginia for the youngest students. These school lunches were compared to samples of lunches that were brought from home. Researchers, comprising of a group of graduates and undergraduates, were each assigned with around ten students to observe analyse their eating pattern and health level over five days.
The study group found that on average the food offered by the schools were more nutritious and healthier than home-packed lunches. During this period, they found that 57.2 percent of students chose eating lunches provided by the schools, but the remaining 42.8 percent ate homemade foods.
The researchers examined 750 school lunches and their 560 homemade counterparts.
Study leader Alisha R. Farris said, “We found that both packed and school lunches almost entirely met nutrition standards, except school lunches were below energy and iron recommendations, whereas packed lunches exceeded fat and saturated fat recommendations.”
According to the researchers, the homemade meals were rich in carbohydrates, fat, sugar and saturated fats in comparison to those provided by schools.
On the other hand, school lunches contained more vitamin A, protein and calcium than meals brought from home. They were also found containing higher concentrations of sodium – an average of 1,000 milligrams, than 880 for home food.
The study was reported in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.
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