Soy goes to school: acceptance of healthful, vegetarian options in Maryland middle school lunches.


Lazor K, Chapman N, Levine E.

Year Published: 



J Sch Health.


Study Design: 


BACKGROUND:Soyfoods provide healthful options for school breakfasts and lunches that are lower in saturated fat, cholesterol, fat, and calories and can help meet demands for vegetarian choices. Researchers tested acceptance of soy-based options substituted for popular lunch items with a diverse student population. METHODS:Researchers conducted a plate waste study in 5 middle schools in Montgomery County, Maryland, to test the comparability of soy-based alternatives to 4 popular meat-based menu items. Initially, students ranked taste, appearance, and texture of 15 soyfoods to narrow to "hybrid" beef patties, soy-based nuggets, soy-based chicken-less slices, and soy macaroni and cheese. After the meal, trained observers randomly tagged and collected trays with and without test items and weighed leftover entrées. Researchers used a proportional odds model to compare amounts and proportions of food consumed, and a mixed model to account for differences between schools. RESULTS:Students consumed the same amount of soy-based and traditional patties, nuggets, and pasta, and less soy than regular chicken in the salad (odds ratio 0.122, p value < .0001). Students consumed higher proportions (p value < .05) of traditional chicken nuggets, beef patties, chicken slices, and pasta compared to soy-based alternative products. On average, soy-based entrées had fewer calories; less total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol; and more iron, fiber, and sodium compared to traditional menu items. CONCLUSIONS:This study indicates that middle school students readily consume almost equal numbers of soy-based products compared to popular school lunch items. Soyfoods provide nutritional advantages.