The quality of school lunch consumed reflects overall eating patterns in 11-16-year-old schoolchildren in Finland

Tanja Tilles-Tirkkonen (Corresponding Author), Saara Pentikäinen, Jenni Lappi, Leila Karhunen, Kaisa Poutanen, Hannu Mykkänen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    21 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Objective

    To explore how the quality of school lunch consumed reflected overall eating patterns in school-aged children.

    Design

    Children filled in an Internet-based questionnaire about their eating patterns. The children were then divided into balanced and imbalanced school lunch eaters on the basis of their responses in the questionnaire. A balanced school lunch consisted of, by the definition used in the present study, a main dish, salad and bread.

    Setting

    Eleven primary schools and one middle school in eastern Finland.

    Subjects

    A total of 531 schoolchildren (247 boys and 284 girls) aged 11–16 years.

    Results

    The school lunch was balanced in 46·5 % of children. Eating a balanced school lunch was associated with overall healthier eating patterns outside school. Children who ate a balanced school lunch had more regular meal times and consumed healthier snacks. They ate fruit or berries and vegetables, dairy products and wholegrain foods more often, consumed fewer salty snacks, pizzas, meat pies and drank fewer soft drinks and energy drinks. Their eating patterns at home were also healthier, with vegetables being offered at every family dinner and fruit being offered daily, whereas soft drinks were offered seldom.

    Conclusions

    The choices made by children in their school lunch reflect the overall eating patterns among school-aged children. Eating a balanced school lunch is associated with more regular meal patterns, the availability of healthier foods at home and an overall healthier diet, suggesting that healthy eating patterns are learnt at home.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2092-2098
    Number of pages7
    JournalPublic Health Nutrition
    Volume14
    Issue number12
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2011
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

    Keywords

    • School lunch
    • eating pattern
    • children
    • adolescents

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