Differences in Nutrient Intake Associated with State Laws Regarding Fat, Sugar, and Caloric Content of Competitive Foods

A study found that California high school (HS) students consumed fewer daily calories than HS students in states that allowed schools to sell unhealthy snacks and drinks.

The authors analyzed 680 HS students’ nutrient intake, using 24-hour recall data to determine daily intake in home, school and other locations. They compared students in California, where schools have strict limits on competitive foods, with students in 14 states that did not have such standards. Competitive foods include all foods and drinks sold or served to students outside of school meal programs.

California HS students consumed less fat and sugar, and an average of 158 fewer calories per day, than students in other states. These results remained similar when the researchers repeated the analysis with only Hispanic students, a population with particularly high obesity rates. The study also found that California students took in fewer vitamins and minerals at school than students in other states.

Strong nutrition standards for competitive foods in schools may be a good strategy for reducing teen weight gain. The authors note that California’s laws do not require schools to offer healthy options and suggest that this may be why the overall nutritional composition of students’ in-school diets was similar across all states in the study.