Any loving parent wants the best for their children, and for many that includes packing a lunch and snacks from home for school. But two new studies question if parents are packing the healthiest lunches and snacks possible, as studies suggest that in comparison, most school-made lunches and snacks are actually healthier.
In one study, researchers from Virginia Tech University looked at the nutritional components of more than 1,000 lunches from three elementary schools and compared those made by the school to those packed at home (1). Overall, the lunches from home provided more calories, total fat, saturated fat, and sugar than the school lunches. What’s more, homemade lunches lacked in protein, fiber, vitamin A, and calcium compared to school lunches.
“We assumed there would be differences between school and packed lunch, but not such stark differences,” lead author and Ph.D. candidate at Virginia Tech University Alisha Farris said in a press release. “I also think, for a long time, people have viewed packed lunch as the healthier option, but our results show that’s really not the case.”
Another study, from researchers at Harvard School of Public Health, compared after-school snacks that were either provided by the school or from home (2). It found that those from home included more sugary candy and beverages. On days when kids brought home-packed snacks they also ate more salty and sugary foods and consumed almost twice as many calories compared to days when they ate snacks provided by school.
These results echo those found by researchers at the University of Minnesota that kids today eat far more snacks than kids in the 1970s and that most kids eat high-calorie snacks lacking in nutrients (3). Left unchanged, unhealthy snacking habits may lead to nutrient deficiencies, obesity, and increased risk for chronic disease as a child ages.
Makeover for Snacks and Lunches
Instead of carb-and-fat-heavy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or high-sodium lunch packs, parents ought to pack some of these popular Isagenix products in school lunch boxes:
- IsaLean Bars® make an excellent high-protein centerpiece for a school lunch. With 18 grams of protein including whey protein, it can provide the highly valued branched-chain amino acids that are necessary for growing muscles.
- Whey Thins also make a great alternative to chips or crackers. Providing 10 grams of protein in each bag, they can help satisfy that desire for a crunchy snack.
- IsaFruits® is an easy-to-make drink mix that is delicious yet has only 1 gram of sugar. The product also helps provide a variety of spray-dried fruit powders to complement a child’s need for fruits and vegetables in their diets.
Rather than reaching for snacks and lunch items containing empty calories from sugar and fat, parents should be packing nutrient-dense items that can still taste good and that kids will like. Luckily for parents, Isagenix takes the guesswork, and time, out of packing healthy, nutrient-dense lunches and snacks for school.
- Farris AR, et al. Nutritional comparison of packed and school lunches in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten children following the implementation of the 2012-2013 national school lunch program standards. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2014 Nov-Dec;46(6):621-6.
- Kenney EL et al. Identifying sources of children’s consumption of junk food in Boston after-school programs, April-May 2011. Prev Chronic Dis. 2014 Nov 20;11:E205.
- Hess J, Slavin J. Snacking for a cause: nutritional insufficiencies and excesses of U.S. children, a critical review of food consumption patterns and macronutrient and micronutrient intake of U.S. children. Nutrients. 2014;6(11):4750-4759.