Transitioning to New Child-Care Nutrition Policies: Nutrient Content of Preschool Menus Differs by Presence of Vegetarian Main Entrée

Published:October 19, 2013DOI:


      Children who attend child care outside the home may be at increased risk for developing obesity. In 2012, the South Carolina ABC Child Care program issued new standards for food and nutrition. The goal of our study (conducted June to December 2012) was to examine changes that occurred at a large, Columbia, SC, preschool during the implementation of the South Carolina ABC Child Care program standards using an observational design, including a survey of parents and nutrient analysis of menus. The nutrition content of menu items before (n=15 days; six of which were vegetarian) and after (n=15 days; six of which were vegetarian) implementation of the new standards was compared. In addition, parents (N=75) were surveyed to examine opinions and support for the changes. Independent samples t tests were used to compare nutrient values before and after menu changes and analysis of variance was used to compare pre- and post-change vegetarian menus and pre- and post-change nonvegetarian menus. There were no significant differences between before and after menus with the exception of a 0.3 cup/day increase in vegetables (P<0.05). Vegetarian menus after the revisions were significantly higher in fiber (13±3 g) than postrevision nonvegetarian menus (11±3 g; P<0.05) and lower in sodium (1,068±207 mg) than postrevision nonvegetarian menus (1,656±488 mg; P<0.05). Standards that received the most parental support were serving at least two vegetables (score of 8.7 on a scale of one to nine) and two fruits per day (score of 8.6) and implementing policies against staff using food as a reward or punishment (score of 8.6). The center-specific policy of only bringing healthy foods for celebrations received the lowest support (score of 5.8). Adding more vegetarian menu items has the potential to improve the nutrient content of menus while keeping energy intake, saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol levels at a more optimum level.


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      G. M. Turner-McGrievy is an assistant professor, Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia.


      S. B. Hales is a licensed master social worker and a graduate research assistant, Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia.


      A. C. Baum is an assistant professor of early childhood education, Department of Instruction and Teacher Education, College of Education, University of South Carolina, Columbia.