Contribution of school lunchboxes to the daily food intake of adolescent girls in Durban
AbstractObjective. To determine the contribution of school lunchboxes to the daily food intake of adolescent girls in a school in an informal settlement
in Durban, South Africa.
Methods. The study was conducted among a group of 61 secondary schoolgirls aged 13 - 18 years. Two 24-hour recall questionnaires were
completed during an interview with participants to gather data on dietary patterns over a period of two consecutive days. The researcher weighed and recorded the contents of randomly selected lunchboxes.
Results. The lunchboxes contributed one-third of the daily nutrient intake of the children. The 24-hour recall and lunchbox content data revealed an energy-dense, carbohydrate-based diet. The contribution of total fat (34.04%) to the total energy intake of the girls was higher than the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation of 15 - 30%. The daily fruit and vegetable intake (87.95 g and 83.97 g according to 24-hour recall and lunchbox analysis, respectively) was insufficient compared with the WHO-recommended intake of >400 g/day. Although the mean intake of most of the nutrients was sufficient, a large number of the girls did not receive the daily requirements for this age group.
Conclusion. The results of the study indicated a high-fat diet low in fruits and vegetables. The majority of respondents consumed carbohydrate-based food items and their lunchbox contents did not meet the basic requirements of a balanced diet. Although increased dietary needs are seldom met in adolescents, overweight is an emerging problem among young people in both low- and high-income countries. Nutrition education in this age group should concentrate on healthy food choices in school lunchboxes, as school children can spend up to 8 hours a day at school.