Lunches packed at home are generally not as nutritious as school lunches, a new study shows.
Researchers compared more than 750 school meals with more than 560 packed meals given to pre-K and kindergarten students in three schools, analyzing them for nutritional value over five days.
“We found that packed lunches were of less nutritional quality than school lunches,” said lead researcher Alisha Farris, a Ph.D. candidate at Virginia Tech University.
The packed lunches had more fat, and included more desserts and sugary drinks than the school lunches did, the researchers found.
As a whole, the packed lunches overall had more calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar, vitamin C and iron than school lunches. In addition, meals brought from home generally had less protein, sodium, fiber, vitamin A and calcium than school lunches, according to the study.
There was a spectrum,” Farris said. “There were some really healthy packed lunches. But overall, they were pretty unhealthy.”
The study is published in the November-December issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.
About 50 million children go to elementary and secondary public schools in the United States every day, according to background information in the study. About 60 percent eat the school lunch; the other 40 percent bring their lunch.