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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Health Note/Larded Lunches

Air Date: Week of

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Living on Earth’s Jessica Penney reports that students may be eating too much fat from á la carte items in the school cafeteria.


CURWOOD: Just ahead, keeping track of trash in space. First this environmental health note from Jessica Penney.

[MUSIC: Health Note Theme]

PENNEY: School lunches have gotten a lot of bad press lately because of their high fat content. But a new study shows that lunches aren't the only unhealthy option for students. Researchers at the University of California at San Diego analyzed all the food available at 24 middle schools in Southern California. Their study is one of the first to determine the fat content of extra items available for students to purchase, such as chips, deserts, and pizza.

The US Department of Agriculture says these so-called “a la carte” foods should only supplement school lunches, but the researchers found that they accounted for more than a quarter of the fat consumed by students each day at school. The USDA recommends that students eat a maximum of about 20 grams of fat at school each day, yet the average a la carte item contained 13 grams of fat. Considering the average school lunch contained 31 grams of fat, it's easy to see how these extra items could push students’ fat consumption far beyond the recommended amount.

On the other hand, the researchers found that parents seem to do a much better job of providing healthy meals. The average brown bag lunch brought from home contained about a third less fat that school lunches. The researchers say they would eventually like to analyze individual students' diets to find out what really gets eaten.

That's this week's environmental health note. I'm Jessica Penney.


CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.

[MUSIC: Chris Whitley “Good Thing” Din of Ecstasy Sony Music (1995)]



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