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Using smart card technology to monitor the eating habits of children in a school cafeteria: 3. The nutritional significance of beverage and dessert choices

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Abstract Objective 

The consumption patterns of beverages and desserts features highly in the current debate surrounding children's nutrition. The aim of this study was to continuously monitor the choice of beverages and desserts made by nearly 1000 children in a school cafeteria. Methods 

A newly developed smart card system was used to monitor the food choices of diners (7–16-year-old boys) in a school cafeteria over 89 days. A wide variety of beverages and desserts were on offer daily. Results 

Despite coming from an affluent, well-educated demographic group, the boys’ choices of beverages and desserts mirrored those of children in general. Buns and cookies were over 10 times more popular than fresh fruits and yogurts. Sugary soft-drinks were over 20 times more popular than fresh fruit drinks and milk combined. Appropriate choices could, over a month, reduce intake of added sugar by over 800 g and fat by over 200 g. Conclusion 

The smart card system was very effective at monitoring total product choices for nearly 1000 diners. In agreement with a recent national school meal survey, where choice is extensive, children show a preference for products high in fat and/or sugar. The consequences of these preferences are discussed.

Keywords: beverages; desserts; monitoring food choice; school meals; smart cards

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Institute of Food Research, Norwich Research Park, Colney, Norwich, UK 2: Netherlands Institute for Health Promotion, Woerden, The Netherlands 3: School of Medicine, Health Policy and Practice, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK 4: Gemplus Ltd, New Lane, Havant, Hampshire, UK 5: CCM (Southwest Ltd), Crown Place Industrial Estate, Priorswood, Taunton, UK 6: Scolarest Caterers, Icknield House, Dunstable, Bedfordshire, UK

Publication date: August 1, 2005

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