Public Health Nutrition


Nutritional quality and acceptability of a weekly vegetarian lunch in primary-school canteens in Ghent, Belgium: ‘Thursday Veggie Day’

Willem De Keyzera1a2 c1, Sven Van Caneghema1, Anne-Louise M Heatha3, Barbara Vanaelsta2a4, Mia Verschraegena1, Stefaan De Henauwa2a1 and Inge Huybrechtsa2a5

a1 Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Faculty of Health Care Vesalius, University College Ghent, Keramiekstraat 80, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium

a2 Department of Public Health, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

a3 Department of Human Nutrition, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

a4 Research Foundation – Flanders, Brussels, Belgium

a5 Dietary Exposure Assessment Group, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), Lyon, France


To determine the nutritional adequacy and acceptability to children of vegetarian lunches served on ‘Thursday Veggie Day’ – a public health initiative in Ghent (Belgium) primary schools.

A comparison of food leftovers from main courses on regular days and Thursdays was made using a visual plate waste method. The nutritional value of the vegetarian meat analogue and meat components of main courses served on five ‘Thursday Veggie Days’ and five comparable conventional main courses was evaluated using three criteria (maximum 30 % of energy from fat, maximum of one-third of fat as saturated fat and minimum 1·5 g of dietary fibre per 420 kJ).

Two canteens from primary schools in Ghent, Belgium, participating in the ‘Thursday Veggie Day’ campaign.

Primary-school children aged between 6 and 12 years.

In total, 1242 and 472 main course plate waste observations of conventional and vegetarian menus, respectively, were evaluated. There was no significant difference in plate waste between vegetarian (16·7 %) and conventional (17·3 %) main courses. Overall, the five vegetarian components were found to be nutritionally adequate with a mean score of 2·2 out of 3, compared with 0·4 for the meat component. However, three of the vegetarian components provided >30 % of energy from fat and, in one, the amount of saturated fat exceeded one-third of total fat.

Vegetarian canteen meals offered as part of ‘Thursday Veggie Day’ appear to be nutritionally appropriate and as acceptable as conventional main courses to children in primary schools in Ghent.

(Received May 27 2011)

(Revised December 12 2011)

(Accepted February 10 2012)

(Online publication March 22 2012)


  • Schools;
  • Food services;
  • Child;
  • Vegetarian diet;
  • Plate waste


c1 Corresponding author: Email