3 percent of younger children and 17 percent of 9-13 year olds skip lunch on a given school day and 23 percent of 9-13 year olds skip lunch on the weekends - yet obesity is a growing problem.

They may be eating more junk food instead. 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. 

The eating patterns of the 3,647 children ages 4-13 years were analyzed as part of Nestlé's new Kids Nutrition&Health Study (KNHS) and presented today at a poster session entitled "What Happened to Lunch? Dietary Intakes of 4-13 Year Old Lunch Consumers and Non-Consumers in the United States" during the American Society of Nutrition conference.  The analysis of data is from the 2009-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

"We were concerned to see lunch skipping happening all week long and even more so on the weekends, with the largest group of skippers being girls 9-13 years of age. Lunch skippers are missing out on some key nutrients essential for growth and development," said the lead author of the study, Kevin Mathias, PhD and Scientist at the Nestlé Research Center. "This 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."