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Nutritional content and quality of food consumed at recess and lunchtime by 5–8-year-olds

02 October 2020
18 min read
Volume 1 · Issue 5

Abstract

Background:

One in 4 children are overweight or obese and many do not meet the required fruit and vegetable intake of the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

Aim:

To systematically examine the international literature on the nutritional content and quality of meals consumed at recess and lunchtime of primary school children between the age of 5 and 8 years.

Method:

A systematic literature review of peer-reviewed articles published in English with no date restriction placed on publication.

Findings:

Nine studies met the search criteria. Eight studies reported on packed lunches, 4 studies on school prepared lunches and 3 studies on a combination of packed and school prepared food. The majority of food consumed was in excess or short of the countries' recommended guidelines of food groups and nutrients.

Conclusions:

Further study is required to develop a means of improving the problem of not meeting the guidelines of food groups and nutrient consumption.

One in four (29.4%) Australian children between the ages of 5 and 17 years are overweight or obese and more than seven in ten (73.0%) are not meeting the guidelines of fruit and vegetable intake (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2018). Twenty percent of 4–8-year-old males and 25% of 4-8 year old females are overweight or obese (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2018). It has been shown that obese children are more likely to suffer from bullying, reduced exercise ability, gastrointestinal problems, orthopaedic complications and sleep apnoea. These children are also more likely to become obese adults and develop non-communicable diseases (Serdula et al, 1993; World Health Organization, 2020).

Diet plays an important part in children's academic performance (Florence et al, 2008). Studies show that undernourished children have decreased attention spans and poorer academic performance (Taras, 2005). Recent studies show that eating breakfast has a positive effect on school-aged children's cognition as well as academic performance and behaviour (Mathews, 1998; Kleinman et al, 2002; Taras, 2005). A survey on dietary intake, height, weight and sociodemographic status conducted with grade 5 children in Nova Scotia, Canada, demonstrated that diet variety and adequacy were important in the academic performance of these children (Florence et al, 2008). Particularly important was an adequate dietary intake of fruits, vegetables and fat (Nicklas et al, 2004).

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