Following concerns about the nutritional content of school lunches and the increased prevalence of overweight and obesity in the UK, changes to the standards of school meals were made. From September 2008, all primary schools in England were required, by law, to be fully compliant with the new food-based standards (FBS) and nutrient-based standards (NBS) for school lunches. The aim of the present survey was to evaluate the introduction of the NBS for school lunches on the nutritional profile of food and drink items provided by schools and chosen by pupils at lunchtime. A nationally representative sample of 6696 pupils from 136 primary schools in England aged 3–12 years and having school lunches was recruited. Data were collected on lunchtime food and drink provision at each school and on pupil food and drink choices at lunchtime. Caterers also provided planned menus, recipes and other cooking information. Compliance with both the FBS and NBS was then assessed. Results show that even when the FBS was met, many schools did not provide a school lunch that met the NBS as well. The average school lunch eaten was significantly lower in fat, saturated fat and Na in schools that met both the FBS and NBS for school lunches compared with schools that met only the FBS. Change in school lunch policy has contributed to improvements in pupils' choices and the nutritional profile of foods selected at lunchtime.