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Soy-Based School Lunches Lower Kids' Fat Intake

Friday April 13, 2001

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Schools that substitute soy protein for beef, pork and turkey appear to make the grade when it comes to students' health, results of a study suggest.

According to the report in the April issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, reducing the meat-based portion of school lunches by 30% and adding a soy protein reduced the amount of calories, fat and saturated fat students consumed.

``The addition of soy protein to lower the fat and saturated fat content of entrees would be one strategy for improving the nutritional quality of school lunches,"" Joan M. Thomas, a nutritionist at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina, and Dr. Susan F. Lutz from the University of Missouri-Columbia, write.

The researchers reduced the meat content and added soy protein to 132 different lunch selections--including sloppy joes, lasagna, pizza, and tuna and ham salad--in elementary schools.

The average number of calories and grams of fat declined the most in the pork, beef and turkey lunches. Grams of saturated fat were reduced the most in beef and pork lunches. Cholesterol fell by an average of 9 to 15 milligrams in all lunches while amounts of protein remained almost the same.

Before the soy substitute was added, chicken entrees had the least calories, fat and saturated fat. Pork and turkey dishes had the highest number of calories, fat and cholesterol. Chicken and pork lunches had the lowest protein levels while the one turkey entree included in the study had the most protein.

Thomas and Lutz note that the US Department of Agriculture, which oversees the federal school lunch program, limited soy protein substitution at 30% for entrees at the time of the study. New regulations allow schools to include entrees that consist entirely of soy protein.

``Soy protein use may now have even greater impact because regulations no longer limit the amount of soy protein that can be used in school lunches,"" the authors conclude.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2001;101:461-463.

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