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Is daycare making your child fat?

You cut out fast food. Snacks are healthy. Sweets are offered on a treat basis once in a while. But a new study says that if your child is going to daycare regularly, he is 50 percent more likely to be overweight than if he stayed home.


How do you combat something that you can’t exactly control and keep your kid’s weight healthy?

If you send your kids to daycare, some grim news came from a recent study. According to researchers at the University of Montreal and the CHU Sainte-Justine Hospital Research Centre, kids between the ages of 18 months and 4 years who attend daycare are 50 percent more likely to be overweight than those who are cared for by family members. For the study, researchers looked at more than 1,600 kids born between 1997 and 1998 in Quebec.

Scary, right? But before you cancel your daycare and quit your job, there is hope — smart daycare choices could spell good news for your child’s weight.

What to watch out for

Mama, beware. What your child is eating and doing in daycare could be hurting them. Specifically, it’s important to know what the daycare is serving kids — and how often.

“Some common issues with daycare centers are the amount of juice and other sugar-sweetened juices and low-nutrient snacks [that] are served,” says Angela Lemond, RD CSP LD, a dietitian consultant, speaker and wellness coach who is spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Also, be sure that the daycare doesn’t focus on clearing the plate at every meal. “One big thing I am seeing these days with daycares and schools is that they are aggressively encouraging the kids to make a ‘happy plate.’ A happy plate is what they call a plate with no food left on it,” says Lemond. “We know now through research that we should not be infringing on the kids hunger and satiety. All we do is provide the healthy meals and snacks and they can choose to eat them or not.”

Finding a healthy daycare

Not all daycares are created equal, and that’s exactly why you should really take care in choosing one for your kids. It may seem like a lot to remember, but the ratio of kids to teachers and curriculum are really just as important as the health factors of the daycare you choose.

When choosing a daycare, don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions about what food the kids eat — assuming the daycare provides food. Also ask about when the kids eat. “Make sure the daycare focuses on mostly whole, minimally processed foods with minimal added sugar and salt,” says Lemond.

Of course, food isn’t the only consideration that parents should remember. “Just as importantly as the food offerings, parents also want to make sure children stay appropriately active at daycare along with appropriate nap times for age,” says Lemond.

More on daycare

Should I start a home daycare?
How to make a daycare drop off easier without separation anxiety

How to find a good childcare program for your child

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