September 23, 2011

Obesity Prevention Should Consider Day Care

This study is correct that day care needs some light shined on it to help in the fight against childhood obesity, and not mentioned is the fight against childhood type 2 diabetes. Focusing attention on one factor (day care) should not be the case although this article does bring up some excellent weaknesses and problems with our day care facilities and systems which needs to be highlighted and parents need to heed.

With 82 percent of American children under the age of six in child care centers while their parents work, parents need to be concerned about the food their children consume away from their control. Children in full-time day care can consume two-thirds of their daily calories and this is under the control of other adults and their nutritional guide.

The study disclosed that most states have minimal requirements for healthy eating and physical activity while a child is in day care. These requirements may not meet public health care recommendations.

Day care centers that quality for government financial assistance must meet guidelines that call for children to get foods high in nutrients, but low in fat, sugar, and salt. Studies have found that some day care centers fall short of meeting these standards. Other day care centers that receive no federal assistance are under no requirements to provide at the same standards and many do not.

Then the other problem is that children do not always eat what they are served and demand foods that they should not have. So day care caters to these demands rather than have the children complain that they are hungry when the parents pick them up.
Often the children do not eat enough of the recommended foods if they eat any at all.

Some day care providers provide healthy foods and eat the same foods with the children to encourage the children to eat them. Most Head Start programs follow this model. Other studies show that the providers often do not coach the children to heed their feeling of fullness or hunger. Many just make comments about how much or how little the child was eating and do nothing to reinforce good eating.

When it comes to physical activity, day care seems to have no standards or even guidelines that they follow. Studies have followed children at day care centers and in many the children were sedentary more than 80 percent of the time under observation. The studies that many children are not getting much exercise because staffers do not encourage this or they take physical activity away as a punishment.

What should parents do? Because you are giving control of your child or children to a day care center, several suggestions are offered that can help parents. For physical activity, look at the entire center, outdoor areas, and indoor areas and ask questions about how they are used and if they have scheduled activity times. Know that the larger child care centers have more specific regulations for food and physical activity while home-based child care centers may not.

Look at the eating area and ask how food is served. Are meals served family style for the children able to help themselves and are the children taught how to take responsibility for what the put on their plate. This gives them a good sense of what to eat and does not give them situations of a pile of food being place on their plate that they may not eat.

Ask to see a menu and look at the variety of foods offered. Look for duplications on certain days and especially watch for fried foods such as chicken nuggets, fish sticks, and french fries and these should raise red flags about the variety and healthfulness of the foods. Then ask the staff about how the children are doing at mealtimes and whether the children are willing to try new foods.

Carry this over to the home setting and ask the child what he had to eat. If the child says he had something that he does not eat at home, don't be afraid to ask the care center for the recipe and continue to engage the child in conversations about the day care center. Look for both positives and potential warning signs. Also check the child's weight on a regular basis and compare it to what the doctor says is normal or near normal weight for size and age.

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