Why Child Care?

why child care
Child care settings can play an important role in helping children develop healthy nutrition habits.

Children develop taste preferences and eating habits in their earliest years (1). By modeling healthy beverage habits early, child care providers can help children establish healthy lifelong habits and help reduce the incidence of childhood obesity and obesity-related health problems.

Nationally, the obesity rate among preschoolers has tripled in the last 30 years (2). In California, almost one in four children enters kindergarten already overweight or obese. Overweight or obese children are more likely to be overweight or obese as adults (3, 4, 5), placing them at risk for developing severe chronic health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, as well as poor social and developmental outcomes.

California schools have taken steps toward promoting healthier foods and beverages and discouraging unhealthier options (6), but we need to start earlier- in child care settings!

Additionally, a 2009 study of child care sites (7) found that:

  • Fewer than 70 percent reported that water was easily available inside for self serve.
  • Only 28 percent reported always providing water with meals and snacks.
  • 10 percent of sites reported that they usually served flavored or sweetened milk, with certain types of child care sites as high as 20 percent.
  • Whole milk (unnecessary for children over two) was usually served at over 20 percent of all sites, with rates as high as 40 percent in family day care homes not on the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), which is a federal nutrition program.

Encouraging water consumption and serving only unflavored, fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk to children ages two and older in child care settings helps teach them good eating habits, and helps prevent obesity-related disease.