A study reveals that children's nutrition suffers an hour after they leave daycare.

A study reveals that children's nutrition suffers an hour after they leave daycare.

 Kids eat fewer healthy foods and take in 22 percent of their day’s added sugar intake in the single hour after they’re picked up from child care, a recent study found. The analysis looked at children’s food consumption during two periods that can be among the most stressful for caregivers and kids — the transition between home and day care.

Published in the journal Children’s Health Care, the study used dietary intake data from 307 children attending 30 child-care centers in Hamilton County, Ohio, between 2009 and 2011. The children were an average of 4.3 years old, and 57 percent were eligible for subsidized meals through the federal Child and Adult Care Food Program, which reimburses child-care centers for providing nutritious foods.

Children ate an average of 1,471.6 calories a day, the study found, but the kids ate fewer servings of dairy and vegetables in the hours before and after child-care pickup and drop-off and more added sugar and snack foods. In the hour after arriving at a child-care center, the researchers found, the children ate less and took in less added sugar and sweet and salty foods, and were more likely to eat dairy and fruit.

The hour after pickup from child care was the least healthy, the researchers note, with kids eating more added sugar, snack foods and sugar-sweetened beverages. The children in the study took in an average of 290.2 calories during that hour — 20 percent of their average daily caloric intake and about 22 percent of the day’s average intake of added sugar.

The better nutrition in child-care centers may be because of the nutritional guidelines federally subsidized centers must follow, the researchers wrote. But stress, time limitations and a parent’s desire to placate or comfort a child could also be at play, the researchers noted, calling for more research on “these potentially important transition periods.”

“Every parent knows how busy that time of day can feel. Parents can feel stressed, the kids may be cranky, hungry, or tired. There’s nothing wrong with treats once in a while,” the study’s senior author, Kristen Copeland, an attending physician at Cincinnati Children’s and a professor at the University of Cincinnati’s department of pediatrics, said in a news release. “But that car ride home also can be an opportunity to instill healthier habits instead of less healthy ones.”

Focusing on nutrition during transitions could provide “outsize” nutritional benefits to kids, the researchers concluded.


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