Research Research and Practice Innovations| Volume 113, ISSUE 8, P1084-1089, August 2013

Assessing Foods Offered to Children at Child-Care Centers Using the Healthy Eating Index-2005


      The Healthy Eating Index-2005 (HEI-2005) has been applied primarily to assess the quality of individual-level diets but has recently been applied to environmental-level data as well. Currently, no studies have applied the HEI-2005 to foods offered in child-care settings. This cross-sectional study used the HEI-2005 to assess the quality of foods and beverages offered to preschool children (3 to 5 years old) in child-care centers. Two days of dietary observations were conducted and 120 children (six children per center) were observed at 20 child-care centers in North Carolina between July 2005 and January 2006. Data were analyzed between July 2011 and January 2012 using t tests. Mean total HEI-2005 score (59.12) was significantly (P<0.01) lower than the optimal score of 100, indicating the need to improve the quality of foods offered to children. All centers met the maximum score for milk. A majority also met the maximum scores for total fruit (17 of 20 centers), whole fruit (15 of 20 centers), and sodium (19 of 20 centers). Mean scores for total vegetable (mean=2.26±1.09), dark green/orange vegetables and legumes (mean=0.20±0.43), total grain (mean=1.09±1.25), whole grain (mean=1.29±1.65), oils (mean=0.44±0.25), and meat/beans (mean=0.44±0.25) were significantly lower than the maximum scores recommended (P<0.01). Mean scores for saturated fat (mean=3.32±3.41; P<0.01) and calories from solid fats and added sugars (mean=14.76±4.08; P<0.01) suggest the need to decrease the provision of foods high in these components. These findings indicate the need to improve the quality of foods offered to children at the centers to ensure that the foods provided contribute to children's daily nutrition requirements.


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      T. O. Erinosho is a research assistant professor, Department of Nutrition and Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


      D. Stanton Ward is a professor, Department of Nutrition and Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


      P. P. Hanson is a research assistant, Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


      A. E. Vaughn is a research associate, Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


      S. C. Ball is a nutrition consultant in private practice, Chicago, IL.