The Lunchbox Study: A Pilot Examination of Packed Lunches of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Laura Seiverling, Jennifer Felber, Monica Howard, Keith Williams, Helen M. Hendy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: This study examined foods packed and consumed by children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and calculated the percentage of packed school lunches meeting National School Lunch Program (NSLP) standards. Fruit and vegetable (FV) consumption was further examined by investigating its association with the number and type of foods packed. Methods: Participants included 59 private school students observed for five school meals. Servings of foods and beverages packed and consumed and the percentages of correspondence between food packed and consumed were calculated. Next, the percentages of lunches meeting NSLP guidelines were calculated. Finally, mealtime means were calculated for the number of foods packed, FVs packed, and FVs consumed. Results: There was a high correspondence between foods packed and consumed. Fresh fruits and sugar-added drinks were most often packed and consumed. The percentage of meals meeting NSLP guidelines was higher than previous non-ASD samples. More FV consumption was associated with more FVs packed and fewer total foods packed. FV consumption was highest with 4 < 5 foods packed, including 2+ FVs. Conclusions: Future studies should compare foods packed and consumed by children with and without ASD. The FV consumption findings suggest parents may increase children’s FV consumption by packing approximately four total foods with two FVs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1338
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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