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Preschool Lunch Doesn't Always Pack Nutritious Punch
Date:1/19/2009

Study finds meals from home often lack fruits, veggies, whole grains,,,,

MONDAY, Jan. 19 (HealthDay News) -- When parents pack their preschoolers' lunches, they may be sacrificing nutrition by giving the children food they like.

That's one of the conclusions of a new study in the January issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. The study also found that 71 percent of packed lunches didn't have enough fruits and vegetables, and that one in four preschool tots didn't get enough milk with lunch.

"What we found primarily was that parents weren't sending in as many fruits and vegetables and whole grains as they should, and the number of milk servings was low, too," said study author Sara J. Sweitzer, a registered dietician and a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at Austin.

An estimated 13 million American children eat three or more meals and snacks each day at one of the country's 117,000 regulated child-care centers. With the cost of food preparation and storage rising, more centers are requiring parents to provide food for their children, according to background information in the study.

The impetus for the study was a recent change in Texas day-care regulations allowing day-care programs to stop providing meals and snacks. A subsequent survey found that about half of child-care centers in two Texas counties had chosen to do just that. But, the survey also reported that directors of those centers said that children were being given chips, prepackaged lunches and "junk food" by their parents, and vegetables, fruits and whole grains were rarely included.

To assess whether or not this was true, Sweitzer and her colleagues interviewed the parents of 74 children from five child-care centers. All of the children were between 3 and 5 years old, and most were white and from families headed by two adults.

The children's lunches were observed for a three-day pe
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