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Objectives: To undertake secondary analyses of the 1997 National Diet and Nutrition Survey of Young People aged 4-18 years in order to describe the contribution of school meals to daily food and nutrient intakes; and to compare the findings from 1997 with data collected in English primary and secondary schools in 2004-2005. Design: Cross-sectional analysis of 7-day weighed inventory food consumption data according to age, sex, household income, free school meals and breakfast consumption. Comparison of food consumption with the Balance of Good Health and of nutrient intake data with the Caroline Walker Trust (CWT) guidelines. Setting: United Kingdom. Subjects: One thousand four hundred and fifty-six UK schoolchildren aged 4-18 years, 7058 English primary-school pupils and 5695 English secondary-school pupils. Results: Pupils' school meal choices in 1997 did not accord with the Balance of Good Health. Food choices in school were less healthy than choices outside school. School meals failed to make good the shortfalls in daily intakes of non-starch polysaccharides and zinc in primary-school pupils, and of calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin A and non-starch polysaccharides in secondary-school pupils, nor excess daily intakes of saturated fatty acids, non-milk extrinsic sugars and sodium at all ages. School meals typically failed to meet CWT guidelines. They were more likely to meet CWT guidelines when choice of foods was restricted. Conclusions: School meals need substantial improvement to meet CWT guidelines for healthy eating. The introduction of food-based guidelines for school meals in England in 2001 did not improve the food choices in school meals. © 2007 The Authors.

Original publication




Journal article


Public Health Nutrition

Publication Date





652 - 662