WA childcare meals lacking
Researchers say a big study into childcare meals is needed after a Perth pilot study found toddlers and preschoolers were not getting enough of important food groups such as meat, dairy and vegetables.
A study of meals offered to 252 children in eight metropolitan childcare centres found none was giving children 50 per cent or more of their daily dietary requirements across all six food groups, which is recommended for children who spend the day in child care.
Average meat serves were smaller than recommended, while servings of dairy, vegetables and cereals were also inadequate.
Edith Cowan University health science researchers told last week’s Public Health Association of Australian conference in Perth that they studied the raw ingredients used in snacks and meals offered to children aged two to four over two days.
They said the fact childcare centres were not providing enough of children’s dietary needs had implications for their future health and called on the industry to have standardised guidelines on how to meet children’s nutritional needs.
Researcher Ros Sambell said it was an important issue because of the growing number of children who were spending an average 27 hours a week in child care.
The findings were not intended as a criticism of operators but were a way to help them improve children’s nutrition.
“They are crying out for guidance, ” Ms Sambell said.
“Childcare centres need to ensure they are providing at least one serve of meat or meat alternative, dairy and vegetables, and two serves of cereals per day while children are in their care to optimise nutrition.”
ECU associate professor Amanda Devine said researchers had developed the nutrition website snacwa.com.au to help early education and childcare centres.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: WHAT TODDLERS AND PRESCHOOLERS SHOULD BE EATING EACH DAY
The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommendations for 2-3 year olds:
Cereals and grains: 4 serves
Vegetables: 2.5 serves
Fruit: 1 serve
Dairy: 1.5 serves
Meat or alternative: 1 serve
© The West Australian
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