Thursday, March 20, 2014

State health program raises child care center nutrition standards to prevent obesity

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is working with more than 500 child care centers throughout Colorado to improve nutrition and physical activity for thousands of Colorado children.

“We know obese children often turn into obese adults,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, department executive director and chief medical officer. “If we can help child care providers offer nutritious meals to our youngest Coloradans, we can help stop obesity before it starts.”

In Colorado, 8.4 percent of children ages 2-4 are obese. The department’s Child and Adult Care Food Program works with child care centers statewide to promote the positive mealtime environment, good nutrition and active play young children need to grow up healthy.

Child care providers who participate in the program follow USDA guidelines that include low-fat milk, fruits, vegetables, grains and lean protein. These guidelines allow children to enjoy a wide variety of food, meet basic nutrition requirements, and lower their consumption of sodium and saturated and trans fats. With its Healthier Meals Initiative, the Child and Adult Care Food Program implemented higher standards than required, including:
  • Provide at least one serving of whole grains a day.
  • Limit processed and pre-fried meats to once a week.
  • Limit fruit juice to two servings a week.
To help meet these standards, participating child care centers received toolkits that include child-friendly recipes developed by a professional chef, nutritious menus and meal suggestions, and an interactive curriculum designed to teach children about the importance of eating nutritious foods.

The department also is offering “I Am Moving, I Am Learning” training for child care providers. This obesity prevention program is intended to increase moderate to vigorous physical activity, improve the quality of movement activities, and promote healthy food choices every day.

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