School lunch: A comparison of the fat and cholesterol content with dietary guidelines

Robert C. Whitaker, Jeffrey A. Wright, Anita J. Finch, Richard A. Deyo, Bruce M. Psaty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Objective: To compare the fat and cholesterol content of the foods offered and selected in an elementary school lunch program with current dietary guidelines. Design: For 105 school days we recorded the food items selected by elementary school students in an entire school district (262,851 meals) who were given a choice between two entrees. The nutrient content of foods was assessed with a computerized nutrient data base supplemented by the food manufacturers' data. Setting: Sixteen elementary schools in the Bellevue (Washington) School District. Participants: The number of students eating school lunch averaged 2500 per day, of whom 25% were from households with incomes less than 185% of poverty. Intervention: None. Main outcome measures: We determined the nutritional content of the average meal selected; the proportion of days when one of the two offered entrees met fat and cholesterol guidelines; and the proportion of children selecting the entrees that met the guidelines. Results: The average lunch selected had 35.9% of calories from total fat and 12.6% from saturated fat, exceeding the guidelines of 30% and 10%, respectively. Lunch contained an average of 57 mg cholesterol (106 mg/1000 kcal) and met guidelines. One of the two daily entree choices met guidelines for both total fat and saturated fat on 20% of days, and met both fat and cholesterol guidelines on 14% of days. When available, entrees meeting the fat guidelines were chosen by 37% of students, and entrees meeting both fat and cholesterol guidelines were chosen by 34% of students. Conclusions: In this school district the average lunch selected did not meet the current guidelines for dietary fat; when given the choice, more than one third of students selected the entrees that met these guidelines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)857-862
Number of pages6
JournalThe Journal of pediatrics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1993
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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