More than half of three and four-year-old children in Auckland and Waikato attend early childhood centres where food is provided daily, but most providers don’t serve food that meets nutrition guidelines, according to University of Auckland research.
Published this week in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, the research surveyed over 250 licenced childcare centres and for those where lunches and snacks were provided daily the menus were compared to nutritional requirements.
Lead author Sarah Gerritsen, a doctoral researcher at the university’s Centre for Longitudinal Research – He Aka ki Mua, said half the menus did not contain sufficient quantities of grains and dairy to meet half of the pre-schoolers’ daily requirements. More than half the menus contained too many “sometimes” foods like muffins, ice cream and sausage rolls. ‘
“We were really surprised by the level of occasional food and drink served,” Gerritsen told Radio NZ. “These sorts of treat foods we know children are consuming in excess outside of daycare centres as well, so if they’re also getting them while they’re there it’s kind of a double whammy.”
“Three- and 4-year-olds need to be eating a wide range of vegetables to get a full palate of tastes and vitamins and minerals – all the colours of the rainbow,” she told the NZ Herald. “The lack of variety is problematic too, it’s mostly apples and bananas. They need to be having exposure to a wide range.”
The survey findings were covered by local media, including:
Newshub: Kids not getting their five-a-day at preschool – study
Radio NZ: Let them eat cake? ECE centres’ food criticised
NZ Herald: Survey bombshell: Too many treats and not enough healthy food at childcare centres
Radio NZ: ‘Special occasion’ food a regular event at childcare centres