Here's a dramatic statistic - nearly 82% of American children under the age of 6 are in daycare. So nutrition, exercise or physical activity and other health issues are all being handled by persons other than the primary parents for a significant number of hours daily. And consider the additional reality that if your child is in full-time daycare, they are probably eating at least 2 meals plus a couple of snacks in that environment and not at home. When you went to check out your local daycare, did you investigate their perspective on nutrition? And if you did, and were pleased with their approach, have you checked out the daycare, spontaneously, to see if those meals and snacks are actually what is being served?
According to a new position statement published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, daycare centers should be required to meet certain baseline nutritional targets as a matter of public health policy. Since a significant number of calories during the day will be consumed by a child in this setting, it would seem reasonable to expect that those calories contain a nutritionally sound balance of vitamins and minerals as well as "best selections" of the major food groups. With daycare being such a prominent feature of most families' lives, shouldn't parents expect or demand good nutrition practices?
The position statement went on to suggest that health professionals who specialize in nutrition practices become partners with the child care providers, in order to provide guidelines of basic, practical nutrition for the daycare. The dieticians involved in the paper stressed that these daycare centers are the actual models for childhood eating practices, because kids spend so much time at these centers. Specific suggestions included:
• Use the Dietary Guidelines for Americans as a guideline
• Serve kids fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C daily, and foods rich in vitamin A at least 3 times a week
• Try to ensure that kids eat adequate servings of whole grains in the form of cereals, breads and also legumes on a weekly basis
• Limit food and drinks high in calories, sugar and sodium
• Try to offer balanced nutritious meals and snacks
• Parents should see posted menus so they know what their children are being served
• Child care personnel should be role models since they are parent substitutes
• Child care personnel should receive some nutritional education
If you're a parent using daycare, are you aware of what is being served to you child?
Are you concerned about the current menu program at your local day care?
Will this article inspire you to try and change the current menu plan at your daycare?