Providing a child with a proper diet is vital for their future health. But what if we told you that daycare and child care centers are feeding children healthier foods than they get at home? That’s what a recent study from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center has concluded.
Let’s start with why child care centers are providing better food choices. These centers base the children’s meals off of guidelines from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. These guidelines include how much fruit, vegetables, and milk a child should be consuming under their care.
The study exposed that once children left the centers, they weren’t eating enough fruits and vegetables, or drinking enough milk. They were also consuming more calories than needed; In fact, the excess calorie consumption (including sweet and salty snacks such as pretzels, crackers, cookies, etc.) was to the tune of 140 additional calories.
This is a dangerous recipe for childhood weight gain — and future health. A retrospective study found that as BMI increased in adolescence the probability of obesity as an adult significantly increased as well. Obese male youths are 18x more likely to become obese adults, while obese female youths are 49x to become obese adults (1).
So, where’s the disconnect? How can there be such a contrast in diet between child care centers and the home? When it comes to children, we first have to look at who’s feeding them. Centers run their diet by guidelines; however, what are the guidelines that parents or caretakers are adhering to? As obesity numbers continue to skyrocket in the United States, it appears that the poor diet habits of adults are trickling down to children. It should come as no surprise that children born to obese mothers are twice as likely to be obese and to develop type 2 diabetes later in life (2).
What can we do? Let’s start with having some guidelines of our own, such as the ones created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics which were created to lay the foundation of the best diet possible. Sure, we can occasionally indulge in crackers or cookies, but if children are eating too many of these, it’s safe to conclude that adults are as well. Let’s apply healthy guidelines in our own diets, and do the same for children. Let’s lead by example.
(1) Wang LY, Chyen D, Lee S, et al. The Association Between Body Mass Index in Adolescence and Obesity in Adulthood. Journal of Adolescent Health, 42(5): 512-518, 2008.
(2) Maternal and Infant Health Research: Pregnancy Complications. In U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (accessed March 2011).