Study finds sack lunches need more nutrition

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

cafeteria food
If cafeteria food turns your stomach, make sure you pack a nutrition-filled lunch.

Nothing’s more disgusting than lukewarm mystery meat served by school cafeterias, so it’s no wonder some kids prefer bringing their own lunch from home. According to a new study, however, these brown-bagged goodies may be lacking in nutrition, especially calcium! Thankfully, there are some simple food items that will make sure you get all the healthy eating you need.

A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics took 600 sack lunches from third and fourth graders, and compared them to the National School Lunch Program guidelines. According to this national criteria, a healthy lunch should contain servings from the five major food groups: fruits, veggies, grains, protein, and dairy. After going through all 600 of the sack lunches, researchers found that not a single one contained servings from all five major food groups! In fact, less than 30% of the lunches contained more than 3 food groups at a time. As far as beverage options, water was the number one choice, with some form of sweetened liquid coming in second.

Not a single lunch sack contained milk, which is a vital source of calcium. Thankfully, there are a number of other food items that are packed with calcium. For example, a single cup of almonds contains 243 milligrams of calcium, which is just as much as a glass of milk! It also has the added bonus of magnesium – a mineral needed for several bodily processes. A cup of sunflower seeds can contain as much as 109 milligrams of calcium, and the handheld snacks are fun to eat. If you just love veggies, a cup of broccoli has about 70 milligrams of calcium, plus double the dose of vitamin C. Speaking of, oranges come with an impressive amount of both vitamin C and calcium!

So, if you prefer to bring lunch from home, be sure that your little brown bag contains parts of all five food groups and enough calcium for your growing body.

Featured image courtesy of John Watson on Flickr. Image of cafeteria food courtesy of Casey Lehman on Wikipedia.