Nutrient Density and the Cost of Vegetables from Elementary School Lunches. Academic Article uri icon


  • Vegetables are the major source of the dietary fiber, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins A and C that are crucial in the diets of children. This study assessed the nutrient content of vegetables offered through the National School Lunch Program and examined the relation between the overall nutrient density of vegetable subgroups and the costs of nutrients offered and wasted before and after the changes in school meal standards. Using data collected from 3 elementary schools before and after the changes in school meal standards, we found that vegetable plate waste increased from 52% to 58%. Plate waste for starchy vegetables, exclusive of potatoes, was relatively high compared with other subgroups; however, plate waste for white potatoes was the lowest among any type of vegetable. Energy density; cost per 100 g, per serving, and per 100 kcal; and percentage daily value were calculated and used to estimate nutrient density value and nutrient density per dollar. Cost per 100 kcal was highest for red/orange vegetables followed by dark green vegetables; however, nutrient density for red/orange vegetables was the highest in the group and provided the most nutrients per dollar compared with other subgroups. Given that many vegetables are less energy dense, measuring vegetable costs per 100 g and per serving by accounting for nutrient density perhaps is a better way of calculating the cost of vegetables in school meals.

published proceedings

  • Adv Nutr

altmetric score

  • 1

author list (cited authors)

  • Ishdorj, A., Capps, O., & Murano, P. S.

citation count

  • 7

complete list of authors

  • Ishdorj, Ariun||Capps, Oral||Murano, Peter S

publication date

  • January 2016