Food in US day cares needs to be improved and here is how

November 18, 2010 by  
Filed under OBESITY

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Childhood obesity is becoming a major concern not only in the US but in many developed countries as well. Current estimates indicated that a 3rd of American children are overweight or obese.

Two factors have been identified as major contributors to obesity – poor nutrition and lack of physical exercise.

The US federal government is now tackling the problem of nutrition at an early age – the day care centers.

A recent report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends improvements in the nutritional quality of meals and snacks served to children and adults at day care centers and this may be done through a federally supported  the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). The recommendations include increasing the amounts as well as the variety of fruit and vegetables and reducing the amount of salt, added sugar, and fats in the meals.

CACFP is a U.S. Department of Agriculture food program and caters to family day care homes, traditional child care centers, and other places that offer care outside of school hours.

Other concrete recommendations include:

At least half of the grain products served should be rich in whole grains. 

Baked or fried grain products that are high in fat and added sugars would be allowed only once a week.  Sites should use vegetable oils and limited amounts of salt when preparing meals. 

Meats should be lean; soy products, beans, eggs, nuts, and other meat alternatives may be used.

Healthy infants should receive only breast milk or formula until they reach six months, when day care sites should gradually introduce baby foods. 

Children should be given whole milk until age 2.  Milk provided to participants age 2 and older should contain no more than 1 percent fat.

Considering that CACFP provides meals to 3 million children and 114,000 functionally impaired and elderly adults, these recommendations are long overdue. During the last couple of years, the US government have taken steps in improving nutrition programs outside the home, including that National School Lunch and Breakfast programs.

According to chair Suzanne P. Murphy, researcher, professor, and director of the Nutrition Support Shared Resource, Cancer Research Center of Hawaii, University of Hawaii, Honolulu:

“The meals and snacks made possible through the Child and Adult Care Food Program are an important source of nutrition for millions of children and tens of thousands of adults. This report points the way to updating the program’s meal requirements so that they reflect the latest nutrition science.  The changes recommended will help program beneficiaries get more of the nutrients they need without getting too many calories and will promote lifelong healthy eating habits.”

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