Nutrition-wise blog

What do your kids eat away from home?

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. May 4, 2011

Instilling healthy habits in our children reaches beyond the family dinner table. More than 35 percent of children under the age of six attend a child-care facility.

However, state regulations regarding nutrition and physical activity are not consistent when it comes to child-care facilities. This is according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recently released the 2011 Children's Food Environment State Indicator Report, part of a series of reports that highlight environmental and policy indicators to improve nutrition, physical activity and reduce obesity.

Reading this report, I was surprised to learn that only two states have regulations that restrict sugary drinks, such as regular sodas and sweetened fruit drinks, in child-care settings. And fewer than half of states have regulations in place to limit screen time.

OK, parents, pull out your checklist. I've got a few suggestions to add to the list of questions you ask when evaluating child-care providers:

  • What foods are served for meals and snacks? The day care may be on a food program that sets guidelines about how many servings of carbohydrates/starches, protein, vegetable, fruit, and dairy should be provided at meals and snacks. This is a good start. You need to ask, however, about the foods being served. Consider, for example, that one starch or carbohydrate serving could be sugary cereal or refined grain crackers containing trans fat.
  • What are kids given to drink? What types of beverages are offered? Are water and milk the most common options? Are sugary drinks available?
  • Are there rules about screen time? Are television, video games and computers allowed? Television exposes children to a blitz of food commercials. These foods are often high in fat, calories, sugar and sodium. In addition, screen time is still time. Kids need to be moving, exploring and using their imaginations. Kids under the age of 2 should have no screen time. Older kids should have no more than two hours of screen time a day.

Well-nourished children thrive developmentally as they play, explore and learn. Choose a child-care facility that will share in the responsibility of promoting the health and happiness of your child.

- Katherine

3 Comments Posted

May. 04, 2011