With approximately three quarters of US children spending time in out-of-home child care and homeschooling, it’s become increasingly difficult to make sure that their children are being given healthy food choices outside of the home. This is likely a substantial factor in the rising childhood obesity rates of 12% amongst pre schoolers and 20% of 6-11 year olds. This can make it harder to maintain their health and keep them from getting sick as often as they normally would at home. These statistics often come as a shock to a lot of parents, who expect that their childcare providers are making the right choices for their kids.
There are also organizations and programs such as NAP-SACC that are designed to ensure that schools and organizations are sticking to best practice when it comes to making sure your child is eating healthy outside of the home. But, even though NAP SACC has been popular in terms of voluntary pick up, the reach of such programs and interventions are not 100% and they’re not a legal requirement. Although the childcare programs that took up NAP SACC saw remarkable improvements across a 51 point scoring system on nutrition.
Despite the success of the NAP SACC scheme, the childcare industry is often short staffed, and with incredibly high turnover rates, something that was marked as in issue for fully implementing NAP SACC due to the training issues this presented. A lot of programs also didn’t provide their own catering and had limited ability to change suppliers or simply didn’t have the space to provide further areas for physical activity. As such childcare settings aren’t always going to get things right, making it increasingly important that parents take an active role in teaching their child about nutrition and exercise. Here are some tips on how to ensure your preschooler is eating healthy and staying active while in school.
How to Ensure Your Preschooler is Eating Healthy and Staying Active
Choose the right daycare provider
When you are looking for a daycare provider, it is important to find one that will support your child's healthy eating and living habits. Here are a few things to look for:
- A provider that offers healthy food options and discourages sugary snacks and drinks.
- A provider that encourages physical activity throughout the day.
- A provider that limits screen time.
- A provider that works with you to create a healthy routine for your child.
- A provider that communicates with you about your child's eating and activity habits while in their care.
- A provider that uses NAP SACC where one is available
- A provider that makes healthy living fun for your child!
Provide the daycare provider with feedback
It's important to partner with your child's daycare provider to ensure they are receiving the best care possible. One way you can do this is by providing feedback on their eating and activity habits.
Eat together as a family
The best way to ensure your preschooler is eating healthy is by setting a good example yourself. Try to eat together as a family as often as possible. Not only will this provide quality time together, but it will also give you a chance to model healthy eating habits. When everyone sits down at the table to eat, there are no distractions and the focus is on the meal. This is a great opportunity to talk about what foods are good for our bodies and why it’s important to eat them.
Let them eat their own food at some point during the day
It's important to let your preschooler eat their own food at some point during the day. This will help them develop a sense of independence and responsibility. Plus, it'll give them a chance to try new foods and practice their motor skills. Here are a few tips for making sure your preschooler is eating healthy:
- Make sure they're eating breakfast: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so make sure your preschooler isn't skipping it. A nutritious breakfast will give them the energy they need to get through the day.
- Pack their lunch with healthy options: When packing your preschooler's lunch, include items like fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads, lean protein, and low-fat dairy.
Cut out excess sugar, salt, and fat from snacks
It's no secret that many processed snacks contain high levels of sugar, salt, and fat. While a little bit of these ingredients isn't necessarily bad for you, too much can lead to health problems down the road. To make sure your preschooler is getting the most nutritious snacks possible, try to cut out excess sugar, salt, and fat. This can be as simple as making your own snacks at home or reading labels more carefully when you're at the store. It is also important that you teach children about calories and that they need to consume the right amount to stay healthy. This can vary day to day, but they should learn about good averages for their age and height and when they may need more or less. This should not be overtaught, a simple understanding is enough.
Remove all unhealthy drinks from the house
It's important to set a good example for your preschooler by having a healthy household. That means no sugary drinks like soda, sports drinks, or fruit juice. Instead, stock the fridge with water and milk. You can even add some flavor to the water by adding slices of fruit or herbs. Whilst completely removing soda isn’t going to be for everyone, the inclusion of low calorie options should be the minimum consideration as well as explaining that artificial sweeteners, whilst not the healthiest option, are not unsafe despite what some people may say and are usually a better option to the excess calories in sugar.
Take daily walks together
Walking is a great way to get some exercise and spend time together as a family. Plus, it's a great opportunity to teach your child about nature and healthy living. You can even talk about important topics such as vaccines and explain to them the importance of the jabs they often receive in their young years. Putting even more focus on their overall health.