Child Care Falling Short on Nutritious Snacks

May 31, 2013

Kids in child care are not meeting their daily nutritional needs with the snacks provided. Find out why and some great snack ideas here.

Kids in child care are not meeting their daily nutritional needs with the snacks they tend to eat, according to a study published online in the Journal Childhood Obesity. Researchers from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center found that despite efforts to improve the diets of children in child-care settings, meals, and especially snacks lack nutritional quality despite providing about 26 percent of children's daily calorie intake.

Researchers reviewed menus at 258 child-care centers in southwestern Ohio and analyzed the average weekly frequency for servings of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, juice and sweet or salty foods, finding that the composition of lunches differed from snacks in all food categories.

Fruits, vegetables and meats were rarely included in snacks, but were listed almost daily as a component of lunches. On the other hand, 87 percent served sweet and salty foods – such as gummy snacks, pretzels and crackers – at snack time more than three times per week. The study also found that a sweeping majority (87%) rarely listed non-starchy vegetables for snacks, but 67 percent included them at lunch more than three times per week.

Kristen A. Copeland, MD, the study’s main author commented, “Snack time for kids is a missed opportunity… With some 75 percent of kids ages 3–5 in child care, revising the types of foods and beverages served at snacks in child care may be a way to address the growing obesity problem.”

We know by now that childhood is a great time of influence and starting healthy eating habits early is essential. Parents and child-care providers play an important role in shaping the eating habits and food preferences of young children, so it’s important to send the right message. Here are some of SupermarketGuru’s favorite snacks:

Fresh fruit is so easy to buy and to have around the house. Just peel a banana and enjoy! Munch an apple or sink your teeth into a juicy pear or peach. There's always something from the fruit world in season whether it's stone fruit or berries in the summer or apples and oranges year round. Frozen berries and other fruits taste great defrosted and mixed in with a scoop of ricotta cheese or plain yogurt. When in season, papayas, mangoes, melons, and kiwis are wonderful snacks.

Try low-fat cottage cheese sprinkled with your favorite seasonings like chili pepper, pepper, or Italian spices, or serve with a circle of pineapple, chopped pears or apples, or a small handful of green or red grapes. Other good dairy choices are 4 ounces of plain yogurt, one to two ounces of cheddar cheese with apples or whole grain crackers or a thick slice of mozzarella with a slice of fresh tomato either with a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar and olive or with a few leaves of fresh basil.

The blender is a great tool for freshly made vegetable juices. Use it for blending leftover veggies or use fresh ones with water or add a little vegetable or chicken stock, blend, heat and serve as a pureed soup or hot drink.

Crudités aren't just for grownups. Cut up stalks of celery, buy some baby peeled carrots, slice some colorful bell peppers (red, yellow, green or purple) and tell the kids to dive in. Lightly blanched cauliflower or broccoli florets are also delicious for snacking. All are delicious on their own or with a little hummus or babaganoush!

Small quantities of raisins or currants, nuts (pistachios, cashews, almonds, walnuts) or a home-made trail mix of raisins and nuts and seeds like pumpkin seeds are delicious with a small glass of milk or juice.