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Total Sugar in Free Breakfasts Served in Virginia Elementary Schools

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Objective: School meals comprise a significant amount of children's overall dietary intake. The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act made substantial improvements to the nutritional quality of meals served within the School Breakfast Program (SBP); yet, there are limited guidelines regarding sugar. In this study, we carried out a systematic evaluation of the sugar content of breakfast items offered within the SBP in Virginia elementary schools with free meals. Methods: We obtained menus and nutritional information from 32 districts, and examined one week of breakfasts. We categorized entrées based on standard deviations (SD) from the grand mean total sugar available: higher-sugar (>+1 SD), average-sugar (within 1SD), or lower-sugar (>-1 SD). Total sugar (g), energy (kcal), and % energy from sugar were examined for entrées and milk. Results: Across districts, entrées varied in total sugar (0-39g; mean+SD = 10.4±4.5g) and energy (60-530kcal; mean+SD = 205±47.8kcal). Most (96.9%) offered 100% fruit juice; of those that specified, 50.0% offered sugar-sweetened milk. Highly processed foods were prevalent. Conclusion: Findings suggest that meals offered might contribute to excessive overall sugar availability for children. Continued enhancements to the SBP are needed to optimize the nutritional content of meals served to low-income children.
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Keywords: CHILDHOOD OBESITY; DIETARY SUGAR; NUTRITION; SCHOOL BREAKFAST PROGRAM; SCHOOL FOOD POLICY

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2019

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  • Health Behavior and Policy Review is a rigorously peer-reviewed scholarly bi-monthly publication that seeks manuscripts on health behavior or policy topics that represent original research, including papers that examine the development, advocacy, implementation, or evaluation of policies around specific health issues. The Review especially welcomes papers that tie together health behavior and policy recommendations. Articles are available through subscription or can be ordered individually from the Health Behavior and Policy Review site.
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