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To categorize and assess all foods, beverages and ingredients provided over one week at Australian long day care (LDC) centres according to four levels of food processing and to assess the contribution of Na from each level of processing.
Menus for lunch, morning and afternoon snacks were collected from LDC centres. The level of food processing of all foods, beverages and ingredients was assessed utilizing a four-level food processing classification system: minimally processed (MP), processed culinary ingredients (PCI), processed (P) and ultra-processed (ULP).
A total of thirty-five menus (lunch, n 35; snacks, n 70) provided to 1–5-year-old children were collected from seven LDC centres. Proportions of foodstuffs classified as MP, PCI, P and ULP were 54, 10, 15 and 21 %, respectively. All lunches were classified as MP. ULP foods accounted for 6 % of morning snacks; 41 % of afternoon snacks. Mean daily amount of Na provided per child across all centres was 633 (sd 151) mg. ULP foods provided 40 % of Na, followed by P (35 %), MP (23 %) and PCI (2 %).
Centres provided foods resulting in a mean total daily Na content that represented 63 % of the recommended Upper Level of Intake for Na in this age group. A significant proportion of ULP snack foods were included, which were the major contributor to total daily Na intake. Replacement of ULP snack foods with MP lower-Na alternatives is recommended.
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