Groups pushing for stricter nutritional standards at day cares

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Kids in day care can spend up to 10 hours a day there, playing a big role in their development. And right now, the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) is re-writing standards for child care centers in Texas.

Since so many children are enrolled in day care, the Partnership for a Healthy Texas says making sure the centers follow certain rules is imperative to making sure young children develop a healthy weight and healthy habits.

“Child care centers are a key member of the team for helping kids start off healthy and stay healthy,” said Dr. David Lakey, who currently serves as Chief Medical Officer and Associate Vice Chancellor for Population Health at the The University of Texas System.

Some centers in Austin already having strong policies in place for nutrition and outside activity, like Escuelita Del Alma.

“The majority of their meals they’re going to be consuming when they’re under our watch,” said Director Dina Flores. “What better opportunity than to get the children to start on those eating habits, especially when they’re this young?”

The center prepares fresh meals in-house. They don’t serve sugary snacks and incorporate grains and as much organic food as possible.

But health groups say obesity is a critical problem that needs to be addressed across the state. They hoping stronger guidelines at child care centers will help.

“This means guidelines on juice, and what juice to provide,” said Adriana Kohler, senior health policy associate at Texans Care for Children. “This also means additional training opportunities for staff so they can learn about integrating active play time into their activity plans.”

Kohler believes this is an opportunity for DFPS and the state to make sure parents and childcare centers are partnering to support healthy kids.

About one in 12 2-5 year olds are obese. Nearly one-third of 2-5 year olds (31 percent) from low-income Texas families participating in the Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) program are either overweight or obese.

Before DFPS publishes its final standards, the Partnership for a Healthy Texas is asking the agency to consider the following recommendations:

  • Strengthen existing nutrition standards by including guidelines for children under age one and adopting key national best practices for children’s nutrition, such as limiting the amount of 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice served, not serving desserts to satisfy the requirement to serve grains, and limiting the amount of sugar in servings of yogurt:
  • Require child care centers to update their “Activity Plans” to include outdoor play at least twice a day with both structured and unstructured play;
  • Limit time watching TV or other electronic devices to no more than 30 minutes per week and only when children are not eating meals or snacks; and
  • Include lessons on child nutrition and active play in the required training for child care teachers.

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