Balanced diet: uneaten food a problem for school children

Skipping school lunch could lead to tiredness and lack of attention during afternoon classes.

File picture of Finnish school meals / Credit: THL

Is your child eating all of their lunch at school?

A new study by the National Institute of Health and Wellness THL finds that many children don’t eat everything on their plate.

The new research finds only 7% of sixth grade girls, and 12% of sixth grade boys eat everything they’re supposed to – and when they move to eighth grade number drops even further: only 4% of girls and 8% of boys eats in the right quantities, to meet balanced nutrition requirements.

“The nutrition content of lunch meets the recommendations only when all of the meal components are eaten” explains Susanna Raulio, a Senior Researcher at THL.

“Schools should stress the importance of eating all of the meal components” she adds.

Experts warn that not getting the right nutrition at lunchtime might cause concentration problems or tiredness for pupils during the school day.

Balanced school meals

A balanced nutritious meal consisting of protein, carbs and vegetables or salad should account for about a third of a child’s daily energy intake – but only if they eat it all.

The importance of eating a regular school meal is also emphasized when students move from lower grades to higher.

“We have noticed that while sixth-grade-students move to higher grades they start replacing school meals with other snacks more often” says Railio.

Some of the most-skipped items include salad, milks and bread. Boys eat less vegetables than girls, with lettuce said to be particularly unpopular.

The new research also highlights the role of school principal and teachers in creating a positive environment for healthy eating”.