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School Lunches Linked to Kids' Obesity

Study Shows Kids Who Bring Lunch From Home Are Less Likely to Be Overweight

Parents' Options

So should you be packing your kids lunch?

Michael Barrett, MD, co-chairman of the committee that chose which studies to highlight at the meeting and a cardiologist at Temple University in Philadelphia, says that's not necessarily the solution.

There's no way to be sure what you’re packing in their lunches is what they are actually eating; foods can be traded and snacks can be bought from vending machines or local stores, he says.

Instead, parents need to work with school systems to ensure that school lunches have less salt and fat and more fiber, Jackson says.

Parents also need to feed kids healthy foods at home, both at meals and for snacks, she says.

From an exercise point of view, "integrate small steps such as walking to school," Jackson says.

Recent data show that while an estimated 30.6 million U.S. students eat school lunches, only 6% of school lunch programs meet the requirements established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For example, the average sodium content was twice that recommended, and 80% of schools exceeded rules to keep fat to less than 30% of total calories.

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