‘No more packed lunches’ – Academics urge Scots kids to ditch homemade lunches for canteen food

SCOTS parents should ditch packed lunches and let their kids eat in school canteens, a group of academics have claimed.
For some parents any mention of school lunches summons a nightmarish vision of fatty chips, calorific pizza and the notorious turkey twizzlers.
But researchers have found that – whilst lunches made at home do include more fruit and veg – they also contain more fat, saturated fatty acids and sugars.
Now they are recommending that parents take a backseat – as school dinners appear to be the healthier option.
The infamous turkey twizzlers which used to be served up at school lunches. Credit: rjp
 The new study by Carina Norris, Michael Clapham, Isobel Davidson and Laura Wyness, from the School of Health at Queen Margaret University, in Musselburgh, East Lothian.
It is titled “Daily nutrient intake based on lunchtime meal type in a group of 11-14 year old Scottish schoolchildren.”
In the study the authors looked at the daily nutrient intake of children  as related to the type of lunches they ate on schooldays.
It reviewed the intake of 332 11-14 year-old secondary students in Fife who eat school dinners, packed lunches or “street lunches” – when kids leave school to buy food from local shops.
And their results showed that on the days children ate canteen lunches their general nutritional intake was far better.
They write: “Canteen lunch days had the lowest total daily energy intake and the highest nutrient density of all lunch types.”
They study showed that on days kids ate canteen lunches their average intake of calories was 1,877 – in comparison to 1,990 when they ate a packed lunch or 2,174 in a street lunch.
Meanwhile, on the days when they ate packed lunches, kids also consumed three more grams of fat and two more of  “NME” sugars – the kind found in honey and glucose – than on canteen days.
Those eating packed lunches are found to consume more sugar than children eating canteen meals. Credit: CostaPPPR
But the study had the most damning results for children eating “street lunches”.
It said: “The street lunch was the least healthy lunchtime option, and the nutrition it provided was so poor that this was not compensated for over the rest of the day.
But – the researchers admit: “Overall, the diets of schoolchildren in this area of Fife, Scotland, were nutritionally poor.”
Only 2.5% of canteen lunch days met the recommendation of “five a day” fruit and veg – with packed lunch days doing slightly better with 5%.
But on “street lunch” days none of the kids ate the recommended amount of fruit and veg.
Tam Fry – of the National Obesity Forum – said the findings would surprise parents, who believe they know best when it comes to their children’s diets.
He said: “However careful and loving parents may be in trying to put in what they put in to packed lunch, on analysis it has been shown to be otherwise.
“It’s a huge ask to have parent produce healthy and nutritious lunches with care always varied and it doesn’t work.
Campaigners have warned of the dangers of ‘street food’. Credit: k3b4b
But he also took the opportunity to hit out at “street lunches” – and the local traders who capitalise on children leaving school to buy lunch.
He said: “The problem with the street lunches is the local traders will use the portion size to tell the child that they’re getting a great deal
“In some big cities over the country they recognise the pulling power of the “street meal” with its fat and with its sugar is worth it to them to get the child into the shop – at which point they will go and buy other stuff as well.
“So they will treat the food as a less to get the child into the shop to buy other stuff as well. The proviso is that the children are wearing a school uniform
“The local traders dont give a damn, they see the sweet food as a come on.
“You’re dealing with the lowest common denominator with the lowest standards and nutrition, but children love it because it’s delicious.”