Date of Award

Summer 8-11-2011

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)

Department

Public Health

First Advisor

Dr. Rodney Lyn

Second Advisor

Dr. Frances McCarty

Abstract

Background: The amount of time children spend in child care (CC) each week has increased in recent years. As a result children consume a large proportion of their daily energy intake at CC facilities. The purpose of this study is to describe the baseline dietary practices and environment in preschool-aged children attending CC centers in Southwest Georgia before the implementation of a one-year policy implementation program.

Methods: The data is the baseline data of a pilot study evaluating nutrition and physical activity wellness policy implementation in twenty four licensed CC in Georgia. Each CC provided a sample one week menu (three meals/day: breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks). The energy and nutrient contents of 360 meals were analyzed using NutriKids. Food groups were assessed using a menu rubric. Menus were compared to the Dietary Reference Intakes and MyPyramid food group recommendations for children 3 to 5 years of age

Results: Children were served a mean of 883 kcal at three meals. The menus content met the requirements for energy, macro-nutrients, vitamins A and C. However, the menus were high in saturated fat, and sodium content and did not meet the requirements for iron, fiber and calcium. The majority of the centers did not meet the requirements of the Food Guide Pyramid for pre-schoolers. With the exception of milk, children at all participating centers were served less than the recommended amounts for grains, vegetables, meat/beans and fresh fruits.

Conclusions: Child care settings provide a unique opportunity to influence children's dietary behaviors and health. Our data suggests that children are not consuming recommended amounts of whole grains, fruits or vegetables while attending full-time childcare. Instead, children are consuming excessive amounts of added sugars from sweet snacks, sodium, and saturated fat from whole milk and high-fat or fried meats. We anticipate that by the end of the one-year implementation of the wellness policies, day-care centers in Southwest Georgia will be better equipped to improve the quality of food served to this population of children. Findings from this study and the policy recommendations that emerge could significantly impact efforts to provide healthier nutrition environments to children in child care centers.

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