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NZ childcare centres failing to provide nutritional food

To New Zealand, where a new report highlights some of the issues facing parents wanting healthy eating options in childcare centres.

Research from the University of Auckland may cause some parents to reconsider their childcare choices. The University of Auckland’s Centre for Longitudinal Study has released research showing that of the childcare centres surveyed, over half failed to meet the dietary requirements for preschoolers. The research has been published in the Australia and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

The survey included childcare centres in Auckland and Waikato that provided lunch and two or more snacks each day. Of the centres surveyed over half failed to provide 50 per cent of a child’s recommended daily requirements of grains and dairy. Additionally, the survey stated that there was a lack of vegetables compared to fruit. New Zealand Early Childhood Education regulations state that when food is provided by a childcare facility, it should provide the nutritional needs of each child.

The researchers expressed concern at the amount of food being served to children that is classified as occasional. The report argues that food considered to be a treat or occasional item has no place being served at a childcare centre. Concerns were also raised over sometimes food, which is defined as food that may have some nutritional value but also contains high levels of fat, salt and/or sugar.

Childcare centres that had dedicated cooking staff as well as those with staff who had participated in workshops run by the Heart Foundation provided food that most closely aligned with nutritional guidelines.

This is the first time analysis has been carried out on menus in childcare centres in New Zealand. The lead author Sarah Gerritsen hopes it will, “Provide a baseline for monitoring compliance with nutrition guidelines. Together with the information about home environments from the Growing Up in New Zealand study of child development it provides clear evidence that can be used for promoting appropriate nutrition for preschoolers and developing programs to improve the food supplied in early education settings.”

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