Snacks often don't provide kids' nutritional needs, study finds

Cincinnati Children's Hospital researchers look at child-care center menus

CINCINNATI — Kids in child care are not meeting their daily nutritional needs with the snacks they tend to eat, according to a new study.

The study, conducted by researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and published online in the journal Childhood Obesity, found that despite efforts to improve the diets of children in child-care settings, meals, and especially snacks, lack nutritional quality despite constituting 26% of children's daily calorie intake. The 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.

The study found that fruits, vegetables and meats were rarely included in snacks, but were frequently found in lunches. But 87% of centers served sweet and salty foods like gummy snacks, pretzels and crackers at snack time more than three times a week. One-hundred percent fruit juice was also listed as a component of snacks at least three times per week in more than one-third of the centers surveyed, but rarely with lunch.

"Snack time for kids is a missed opportunity," lead study author and Cincinnati Children's pediatrician Kristen Copeland said. "With some 75% 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."


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