Plate Waste in Elementary-School Lunches: A Focus on Food Pairings, Shortfall Nutrients, Potatoes and Sodium
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Elementary-school students have been found to waste a large amount of food served to them at school while consuming items high in sodium. This has led to decreased intake of calories, and the shortfall nutrients, fiber, potassium and calcium. There are many potential solutions to this problem including appropriate pairing of entrée and vegetable and providing items that are well accepted and naturally low in sodium. Plate waste studies were conducted to analyze waste, consumption, nutrient intake, and nutrient loss in elementary-school lunches based on the entrée and vegetable selection. Pairing of the entrée and vegetable was analyzed, as well as consumption of the different vegetable products and their associated intake of calories and three of the shortfall nutrients, fiber, potassium, and calcium. The research found that there is an association between entrée and vegetable pairing. Four of these pairings provided over 1000 milligrams of sodium. Potato products provided the highest average amount of calories at an average of 65.7, as well as the high average amount of calcium at 31.45 milligrams. Average waste for potato products was under 70% for each type of potato product, with tater tots having the lowest average amount of waste. This data could be used to assist in school menu preparation that might decrease waste in elementary school lunches, as well as increase consumption of crucial micronutrients potassium and calcium, as well as calories and fiber. This data can also be used to analyze which items are high in sodium in order to reduce the consumption of sodium.
Destefano, Megan K (2014). Plate Waste in Elementary-School Lunches: A Focus on Food Pairings, Shortfall Nutrients, Potatoes and Sodium. Master's thesis, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from