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Are You Daycare Diet Aware?

An unhealthy school lunch

Laura Aiken is a community health specialist with WakeMed and director of Advocates for Health in Action.

Yesterday the House approved and sent to the Senate legislation that would direct the state Child Care Commission to create stronger nutritional standards for childcare centers. 

The bill, as origionally introduced, included provisions limiting sugar-sweetened beverages and prohibiting serving whole milk to children over 2 years of age in daycares.

Before approving the measure Monday, lawmakers stripped out a provision requiring rules banning the serving of all sugar-sweetened beverages and preventing children from drinking juice from a bottle. The standards are now also only recommendations and wouldn’t ban 100 percent fruit juice.

While this bill passage is a step in the right direction, the truth of the matter is that our children are being raised in an environment that supports unhealthy eating. Many daycares often serve children a rotating menu of pizza, macaroni and cheese, French toast sticks, chicken nuggets, canned corn, frozen green peas, canned fruit in syrup, white bread, etc.  The reasoning is that kids will eagerly consume these high fat, high starch foods that are easy to prepare and are typically lower cost.

Children in daycares are forming their lifetime eating habits. Once they develop a preference for sugar-sweetened, high fat food and beverages, it is difficult to change. Any adult who has tried to change their eating habits should recognize this and want to prevent children from having to engage in that struggle.

Parents have the right to feed their children as they see fit in their homes, but for the future of our country the default in daycares, schools and other institutional settings should always be the healthier option. Unfortunately, to make the healthy options the standard across the board it requires legislative action.

Feeding our children’s bodies in a healthy way prevents obesity and associated diseases like cancer and diabetes. And, if children are never exposed to healthier foods because it is assumed that they will not eat broccoli, eggplant or fruit that isn’t soaked in sugary syrup, then we as a society are doing them a terrible disservice.

It is time that we stand up for the health of our children and create an environment where they can thrive.  I applaud our elected officials who are working hard to protect the health of our children. Maybe someday we will live in a country where the healthy choice is the easy choice and we will not have to impose legislation to protect the health of our children.

Interested in doing a self-assessment of your daycare?  Click here to access a Nutrition and Physicial Activity Self-Assessment for Child Care.

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One thought on “Are You Daycare Diet Aware?

  1. Is there a non-profit organization involved in the matter? I am sure if the menus were to change (and I hope they do) the cost will be passed down to the consumers. Daycare is already costly enough and school menu rates are also pricey when you have multiple children in need of breakfast and lunch. If there were an organization we could donate to for the cause, I think we could cut some of the cost.

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