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Home Prepared Lunches Don't Meet Daycare Children's Needs

Analysis shows most lunches are low in essential nutrients and fiber, and high in sodium

FRIDAY, Jan. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Sack lunches prepared by parents may not meet the nutritional needs of children enrolled in child-care centers, according to a report published in the January issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Sara J. Sweitzer, of the University of Texas at Austin, and a colleague observed and recorded the contents of three consecutive sack lunches carried by 74 children aged 3 to 5 years who attended full-time child-care centers, and evaluated the lunches according to Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) and Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) standards.

The researchers found that more than 50 percent of the three-day means provided less than 33 percent of the DRI for energy, carbohydrate, vitamin A, calcium, iron and zinc. They also found that 71 (96 percent) of the children received less than 33 percent of the DRI for fiber, that the mean sodium content of the lunches was 114 percent of the DRI, and that most lunches did not meet CACFP standards for servings of fruits and vegetables or for servings of milk (71 percent and 80 percent, respectively).

"As child-care centers shift the responsibility for providing meals and snacks to parents, they must address the practices that affect the long-term health and well-being of the children they serve," the authors conclude. "Nutrition professionals should work with child-care providers and parents to provide safe, nutritious food choices that meet children's physical needs as well as teach healthful dietary habits."

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