Determinants of a regular intake of a nutritionally balanced school lunch

Determinants of a regular intake of a nutritionally balanced school lunch among 10–17-year-old schoolchildren with special reference to sense of coherence

Tilles-Tirkkonen et al JHND Early View

Background

Free nutritionally balanced school lunches are offered to all schoolchildren in basic education in Finland in each school day. Having school lunch on a regular basis has been found to reflect overall eating patterns. However, skipping part of or even the entire lunch is common. The present study investigated the determinants of the regular consumption of a nutritionally balanced school lunch among schoolchildren, with special reference to the role of sense of coherence (SOC).

Methods

In total, 887 children (457 girls and 424 boys), aged 10–17 years from three municipalities in Eastern Finland, filled in a web-based questionnaire in class during a school day and reported eating patterns, body height and weight and perception of body image. SOC was measured by using the 13-item scale. The statistical analysis was carried out with logistic regression modelling and the chi-squared test.

Results

In addition to female gender, frequent shared family meals, perception of body image as appropriate and younger age, SOC was a significant determinant of regularly eating a nutritionally balanced school lunch in the final multivariate modelling. Strong SOC was also associated with more regular meal frequency and health-promoting snack choices.

Conclusions

To promote healthy eating patterns among school-aged children, special attention should be paid to children with weak SOC because they may need specific support and encouragement. They might lack sufficient belief in their own capability and/or do not have adequate support from their family to influence their eating and other lifestyle patterns.

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