Lunch at school, at home or elsewhere. Where do adolescents usually get it and what do they eat? Results of the HELENA Study

Appetite. 2013 Dec;71:332-9. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2013.09.002. Epub 2013 Sep 17.


Considering the lack of uniformity regarding school meals in Europe, information on adolescents' school lunch patterns is of public health importance. Thus, the aim of this analysis was to describe and evaluate lunchtime energy and food intake of European adolescents at different lunch locations. Data on nutritional and health-related parameters were derived from the HEalthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence Cross-Sectional Study (HELENA-CSS). A sub-sample of 891 adolescents (47% male) with plausible data on total and lunchtime energy intake (2 × 24 h recall) as well as usual lunch location was considered. Food intake was compared to lunch of the Optimized Mixed Diet (OMD) for children and adolescents. Although energy intake was nearly in line with the recommendations, food intake was suboptimal compared to the OMD regardless of usual lunch location. Adolescents had more potatoes and less sweets at school, and more drinks (water, coffee and tea) and vegetables at home when each compared with the other locations. Food intake of adolescents getting their lunch elsewhere was characterized by the smallest amounts of potatoes and the highest amounts of sweets. Although lunch patterns may differ among countries, schools in Europe do not seem to reveal all their potential to offer access to a healthy lunch for adolescents yet.

Keywords: Adolescents; Energy and food intake; Europe; HELENA Study; Lunch; Optimized Mixed Diet.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior
  • Choice Behavior
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet / psychology
  • Energy Intake
  • Europe
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Food Preferences
  • Food Services / standards
  • Fruit
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Lunch / psychology*
  • Male
  • Schools
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vegetables