Child care facilities such as preschools and day cares could improve their efforts tackle childhood obesity, according to a new review article.
The study reviewed state regulations of child care facilities, as well as common practices and policies within these centers that might influence children's eating habits and physical activity levels.
The results showed there is room for improvement in the nutritional quality of foods given to children , the amount of time children are engaged in physical activity, the caregivers' promotion of healthy behaviors and the use of health education material.
"Early prevention is considered to be the most promising strategy for reducing obesity and the many serious health conditions that may result as a consequence of excessive weight gain in childhood," said study author Nicole Larson, who researches epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota.
"The majority of U.S. parents depend on child care providers to support the development of healthful behaviors by providing their young children with nutritious foods and regular physical activity ," Larson said.
Most states reviewed in the study lacked strong regulations related to healthy eating and physical activity, Larson said.
More can be done to make sure the child care facilities' policies regarding nutrition and physical activity are in line with recommendations from professional groups, including American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Public Health Association, the researchers said.
In an accompanying editorial, Margaret Briley and Michael McAllaster, both of The University of Texas at Austin, wrote "America is facing the reality that many children younger than 5 years can be classified as obese or overweight."
"Parents must become advocates for their children's food intake and support policy changes that strengthen nutrition programs that will enable all children to eat nutritious meals and snacks that support a lifetime of good health," they said.
The review and editorial were published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. The review was funded by Healthy Eating Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Pass it on: Better policies regulating nutrition and physical activity within child care centers may help tackle obesity in kids.
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