Davies, O. Howell, Suleiman, S., Nicholas, J., Bradbury, Jane, Msebele, S., Prior, G., Hall, L., Wreford, S., Jarvis, L., McGee, A., Poulter, J. and Nelson, M. (2008) Food portion weights in primary and secondary school lunches in England. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 21 (1). pp. 46-62. ISSN 09523871

Background  National Nutritional Standards for school lunches were reintroduced in 2001, and included guidance on portion sizes for primary schools. For the first time since 1997, nationally representative data on school food portion sizes in England have been collected using direct assessment rather than reported portion sizes.

Methods  Food portions were weighed directly in foods served in nationally representative samples of primary and secondary school meals. Results were grouped by food or food group.

Results  The number of portions weighed was 7975 in primary schools and 3354 in secondary schools. Individual portion weights were grouped by food or food group to yield mean, median, SD and inter-quartile range. For a given food or food group, the number of portions weighed varied from 5 to 210 portions in primary schools and between 5 and 194 portions in secondary schools.

Conclusions  The results provide a good representation of typical portion weights for different foods and food groups in primary and secondary schools in England. Portion size is one factor that determines nutrient intake. New standards for school lunches are both nutrient and food-based. Guidance on portion weights will help to ensure that pupils consume the correct balance of foods to obtain the recommended nutrient intake. The present findings complement and extend existing guidance on portion sizes for pupils in schools in England and Scotland.

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