Dietitians Rank Five Worst School Lunches: Beef and Cheese Nachos, Meatloaf Top List

The Physicians Committee
NEWS RELEASE May 11, 2010
Dietitians Rank Five Worst School Lunches: Beef and Cheese Nachos, Meatloaf Top List
Analysis of Cafeteria Menus Pinpoints Meals That Threaten Children's Health
Kathryn Strong, M.S., R.D.

WASHINGTON—With 1,500 milligrams of sodium and more saturated fat than a child should eat in an entire meal, beef and cheese nachos topped a list of the five most unhealthful foods commonly served in school cafeterias. Meatloaf and cheeseburgers are among the other lunch items singled out in the “The Five Most Unhealthful School Lunches” report from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM).

PCRM dietitians analyzed lunch menus and nutrition information from 18 elementary schools across the country to determine which commonly served meals may be putting children’s health at risk. As Congress considers making changes to school nutrition programs, PCRM found that many schools are still serving meals too high in saturated fat. But some schools are also featuring healthful options that could be offered more frequently. PCRM supports the Healthy School Meals Act of 2010, a bill that would help schools serve more low-fat, plant-based meal options.

“Some school lunch entrées have more fat and sodium than a child should eat in an entire meal,” says PCRM nutritionist Kathryn Strong, M.S., R.D. “Schools want to serve more healthful foods, but they need help, particularly in offering lower-fat and vegetarian options.”

The five worst school lunches are:


Worst School Lunch Item

Disturbing Nutritional Facts


Beef and Cheese Nachos

24 grams of fat and almost 1,500 milligrams of sodium

Second Worst

Meatloaf and Potatoes

472 calories and 78 milligrams of cholesterol

Third Worst


More saturated fat than a child should consume in an entire meal

Fourth Worst

Cheese Sandwiches (including toasted cheese and cheese quesadilla)

More than 7 grams of saturated fat and almost 1,000 milligrams of sodium

Fifth Worst

Pepperoni Pizza

More than 6 grams of saturated fat; pepperoni is a processed meat that increases cancer risk

The report suggests that schools increase the number of days they serve healthier options already on their menus, such as vegetarian chili and veggie burgers, which are low in fat and cholesterol and high in fiber.

For a copy of the report or an interview with a PCRM dietitian, please contact Vaishali Honawar at 202-527-7339 or

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.

Media Contact:
Vaishali Honawar
202-527-7339 office
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