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Prev Chronic Dis. 2009 Oct;6(4):A117. Epub 2009 Sep 15.

School lunch source and adolescent dietary behavior.

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  • 1University of California at Los Angeles Center for Health Policy Research, Los Angeles, California, USA.



As rates of childhood obesity rise, the nutritional content of lunches eaten at school is more heavily scrutinized. We examined the association between dietary behaviors and the number of days that adolescents bring lunch to school.


We analyzed cross-sectional data for 2,774 adolescents who responded to the 2005 California Health Interview Survey and reported dietary behaviors for a weekday.


In bivariate analyses, adolescents who typically brought their lunch from home 5 days per week ate fast food on fewer occasions; consumed fewer servings of soda, fried potatoes, and high-sugar foods; and ate more fruit and vegetables compared with adolescents who never brought their lunch to school. In linear regressions controlling for demographics, body mass index, desire to change weight, parent education, and adult presence after school, students who typically brought their lunch to school 5 days per week ate fast food 0.35 fewer times and consumed 0.35 fewer servings of soda, 0.10 fewer servings of fried potatoes, 0.25 fewer servings of high-sugar foods, and 0.95 more servings of fruit and vegetables per day compared with students who never brought their lunch to school.


These findings suggest that adolescents who bring lunch to school from home have more positive dietary behaviors than do adolescents who get their lunches from other sources. Improving the nutritional quality of foods offered from other sources, such as the National School Lunch Program and competitive foods, could help improve adolescent dietary behaviors.

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