Preschool Children in Childcare Settings Do Not Consume a Healthy Diet Despite Menus that Meet Recommended Dietary Standards
Keywords:Dietary Intake, Early Childhood, Served, Food Preference.
Purpose/Objective: To compare preschool lunch menus that meet dietary guidelines to what is actually served and consumed.
Methods: Fifty-two preschool children (mean±SD, age 3y and 10m ± 8m) from a university early childhood center participated in the 10-week study. Dietary intake was measured by a registered dietitian using direct observation for pre and post meal analysis. Energy and nutrient content was completed using Food Processor Nutrition Analysis by ESHA.
Results: There was a significant (p<0.05) difference for total kilocalories (kcals) between what was on the menu (448 ± 130) and to what was served to the children (523 ± 148) compared to what was consumed (361 ± 178) by the children.There was a significant (p<0.05) difference for grams of fat between what food was listed on the menu (16.0 ± 8.7g), the food served to the children (21.2 ± 9.7g), and the food consumed (14.5 ± 10.0g) by the children. There was a significant (p<0.05) difference for grams of carbohydrate between what food was listed on the menu (55.3 ± 18.9g) and the food served to the children (56.5 ± 20.5g) compared to what was consumed (38.5 ± 21.7g) by the children. Children consumed only 46.9% of the vegetables, 88.9% of dairy products, 82.0% of fruits, 81.8% of grains and 72.8% of meats served, and 77.9% of all fats/sweets served to them at lunch.
Conclusion: The results indicated that menus that meet recommended dietary standards do not translate into what children are served or consumed, in particular, for vegetables.
 Head Start Program Performance Standards. 45 CFR 1304.23 Child Nutrition. 98-115. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families Head Start Program Performance Standards Web site. Accessed July 19, 2018.
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