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What's for Lunch? An Analysis of Lunch Menus in 83 Urban and Rural Oklahoma Child-Care Centers Providing All-Day Care to Preschool Children

Elsevier Inc.
DOI: 10.1016/j.jand.2013.09.025
  • Child-Care Center
  • Dietary Intake
  • Menu
  • Preschool Children
  • Biology
  • Medicine


Abstract Background More than half of 3- to 6-year-old children attend child-care centers. Dietary intakes of children attending child-care centers tend to fall short of Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs). Objective Our aim was to examine macro-/micronutrient content of child-care center menus, compare menus to one third of DRIs, and determine menu differences by population density. Methods A stratified, random, geographically proportionate sample of Oklahoma child-care centers was obtained. Child-care centers providing all-day care for 2- to 5-year-old children were contacted to complete a telephone questionnaire and asked to send in that month's menus for the 3- to 4-year-old children. Overall means and standard deviations of the nutrient content of 5 days of lunch menus were calculated. Comparisons were made to both the 1- to 3-year-old and 4- to 8-year-old DRIs. One-sample t tests compared mean nutrient content of lunches to one third of the DRIs for the overall sample and urban/rural classification. Independent t tests compared nutrient content of urban and rural lunches. Participants/setting One hundred sixty-seven child-care centers were contacted; 83 completed the study (50% response). Results Menus provided statistically significantly insufficient carbohydrate, dietary fiber, iron, vitamin D, and vitamin E. Calcium was higher than the 1- to 3-year-old DRI, but lower than the 4- to 8-year-old DRI. Folate was higher than the 1- to 3-year-old DRI, but not different from the 4- to 8-year-old DRI. Sodium was higher than the DRI for both age groups. Thirty-four child-care centers (41%) were classified as urban and 49 (59%) as rural. Urban menus provided less than the 4- to 8-year-old DRI for folate, but rural child-care center menus did not. Conclusions Oklahoma child-care center menus appear to provide adequate protein, magnesium, zinc, vitamin A, and vitamin C, but may be deficient in key nutrients required for good health and proper development in preschool-aged children. These issues can be addressed by including food and nutrition practitioners in the process to ensure child-care center menus are a useful resource and nutritionally appropriate for preschool children.

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