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The present study evaluated the extent to which child-care centre menus prepared in advance correspond with food and beverage items served to children. The authors identified centre and staff characteristics that were associated with matches between menus and what was served.
Menus were collected from ninety-five centres in New York City (NYC). Direct observation of foods and beverages served to children were conducted during 524 meal and snack times at these centres between April and June 2010, as part of a larger study designed to determine compliance of child-care centres with city health department regulations for nutrition.
Child-care centres were located in low-income neighbourhoods in NYC.
Overall, 87 % of the foods and beverages listed on the menus or allowed as substitutions were served. Menu items matched with foods and beverages served for all major food groups by >60 %. Sweets and water had lower match percentages (40 and 32 %, respectively), but water was served 68 % of the time when it was not listed on the menu. The staff person making the food and purchasing decisions predicted the match between the planned or substituted items on the menus and the foods and beverages served.
In the present study, child-care centre menus included most foods and beverages served to children. Menus planned in advance have potential to be used to inform parents about which child-care centre to send their child or what foods and beverages their enrolled children will be offered throughout the day.
The present study compared foods and beverages provided to and consumed by children at child-care centres in New York City (NYC) with national nutrition recommendations.
The study used survey, observational and centre record data collected from child-care centres. Food and beverage intakes from two days of observation and amounts of energy and nutrients were estimated using the US National Cancer Institute’s Automated Self-Administered 24 h Recall system.
Meal and snack time at 108 child-care centres in low-income communities in NYC.
Children aged 3–4 years old in classrooms selected by the directors of the participating child-care centres.
Foods and beverages provided to and consumed by children (n 630) met >50 % of the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for most nutrients. Intakes of fibre and vitamins D and E were <30 % of the DRI. Foods and beverages provided >50 % of the recommended average daily intake amounts for total grains, fruits and fruit juices, and dairy, but <50 % of the recommended amounts for whole grains, protein foods and vegetables. Intake of oils was below the allowance for energy levels, but foods and beverages with solid fats and added sugars exceeded the limits by 68 %.
Providing more whole grains, vegetables and low-fat dairy and fewer foods with solid fats and added sugars may improve children’s diet quality when at child-care centres. Centre staff may need training, resources and strategies in order to meet the nutrition recommendations.
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