According to new analysis of data from the 2009-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) that evaluated eating patterns of 3,647 children ages 4-13 years, 13% of younger children and 17% of 9-13 year olds skip lunch on a given day.
The study found that the behavior persisted throughout the week with nearly a quarter of 9-13 year olds skipping lunch on the weekends.
These findings are of particular concern given that lunch skippers had lower intakes of nutrients, including calcium and fiber, than lunch consumers. In addition, the data show that for some children, the lunch meal was primarily responsible for the higher essential nutrient intakes of vitamin D, potassium and magnesium, as well as a nutrient of concern, sodium.
Kevin Mathias, lead author of the study and Scientist at the Nestle Research Center, said that the study highlights an opportunity for both government and the food industry to develop new strategies to encourage children and adolescents to consume a healthy lunch.
The findings were presented at the American Society of Nutrition conference.