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A portion in the blame

Packed lunch for 7-year-old

*Ham sandwich on white bread (no butter)

*Frutini fruit pieces in fruit juice

*Skips (prawn-flavoured corn snack)

*Two mini-Penguins (chocolate biscuits)

*Tap water in bottle

Cost #163;1.10

One panellist said: "It's just what I like. I prefer Frutini because an apple hurts my teeth and lots of them are coming out just now." While another claimed "I don't eat fruit. I prefer salt and vinegar crisps."

Dr Lawson's judgment was: "Not too bad. Rather low in fibre and high in salt and sugar. Wholemeal bread in sandwich, using a tomato or other vegetable would be better. Canned fruit in fruit juice still sugary: either cut out one Penguin or use fresh fruit."

Cost ***

Nutrition ***

Flavour ****

Cooked school meal for 7-year-old

*Roast pork with gravy

*Vegetarian option: fish Boomerangs (shapes coated in breadcrumbs)

*Small crunchy roast potatoes


*Choice of two crackers with grated cheese; jelly and a small biscuit; apple or orange

Cost #163;1.10

This failed to impress the younger panellists who disliked the lumpy gravy: "It's so disgusting, you can't believe it. That meat is so old! How do they do that to the gravy?" Another complained that you only got two fish Boomerangs and that the sweetcorn came with burnt bits.

According to Dr Lawson it was "rather fatty, especially if the fish Boomerangs are fried. Cheese too fatty to have after such a fatty main course. Jelly and biscuit are sugar and not much else. Why not make fruit salad as a more appealing healthy dessert?"

Cost ***

Nutrition **

Flavour *

Vegetarian lunch for 12-year-old

Egg and cress sandwich

Skittles (sweets)

Bottle of still mineral water

Cost #163;1. 31

This combination provoked healthy condemnation. One panellist said: "The sandwiches are horrible. They are too floppy." While another went further: "It tasted like spew, so I got the Skittles to take the taste away."

Dr Lawson was not that much more complimentary: "Low in fibre, seems to be low in calories, unless sandwichunusually large. Wholemeal bread and salad would add nutrients. Sweets contribute little apart from energy. Low-sugar yoghurt, raisins, or fruit would be better."

Cost **

Nutrition **

Flavour: for sandwich 0

for Skittles ****

average **

Hot school meal for 12-year-old

Spaghetti bolognese

Tap water

Vegetarian option:

vegetable stir-fry with rice

Cost #163;1

A mixed reaction to this one: one panellist said: "It was ok, it filled you up." And another: "Stuff this I'm off for a burger."

Dr Lawson was more generous: "A good choice, containing protein, cereal, especially if the sauce contained vegetables. If made with whole-wheat pasta, so much the better. Almost any dessert could follow this. Protein would be increased if tofu or an egg were included. "

Cost ****

Nutrition ***

Flavour ***

Packed lunch for 14-year-old

Tuna and mayonnaise sandwich

Bio yoghurt (strawberry)

Packet of Quavers

Citrus-flavoured spring water

Cost #163;2.50

Nothing much to frighten the horses here, though one tester found that "I still get hungry after school if I have a sandwich lunch". Not only that but "It's all very fiddly to eat when you want to go and play football."

Dr Lawson was more concerned that it's "low in fibre and quite high in fat and sugar. Use dark rye or wholemeal bread in sandwich, cut down on mayonnaise, and include salad in sandwich. Fibre intake would also be improved if a yoghurt with grains, like Mller Break-fast Time, were used."

Cost HH

Nutrition **

Flavour ***

Cooked school meal for 14-year-old

Lancashire hotpot with sprouts and carrots

Fizzy mineral water

Cost #163;1.30

This drew the highest compliment from the panel: "It's a real dinner and I always like real food. " Although another felt "It's too much like what my mother makes." For Dr Lawson it represented "a well-balanced meal, with protein, carbohydrate, vitamins and fibre.

"An active 14-year-old would have to eat a very large portion to get enough energy, though, and I would recommend a dessert such as fruit and custard or a bread roll to accompany it. "

Cost ****

Nutrition ****

Flavour ****

Non-school dinner for14-year-old

Big Mac extra value meal, comprising Big Mac double burger, with mayonnaise and vegetable garnish, large portion fries, large Coke

Packet of Rolos

Cost #163;3.88

"Yum" said the panel. Dr Lawson was morecircumspect: "High in sugar and salt, low in fibre. Easy on themayonnaise! Better to have two separate

burgers because more bread is eaten that way.

"Replace large fries with small fries and have low-sugar Coke. Take a piece of fruit to eat afterwards rather than Rolos. Even a muesli bar would be better."

Cost *

Nutrition *

Flavour ****

Panel members: Jeremy Jones (7), Nicholas Demetriou (7), Robert Jones (12), Jack Powell (12), Thomas Jones (14) and Andrew Sinclair (14)

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