Forget Frying: Day Care Food Gets a Healthy Makeover

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently proposed new rules requiring day care providers to serve kids a wider variety of fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, and less sugar and fat.
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french fries

Photo by: juan moyano

juan moyano

Should our youngest children be scarfing down greasy fried food in the middle of their day? Is there any reason we shouldn’t be feeding our toddlers tofu?

The Obama administration has concluded that the answer to both those questions is a solid “no.” New rules proposed in January by the U.S. Department of Agriculture would require day care providers to serve kids more (and more varied) fruits and vegetables and whole grains, and less sugar and fat. On-site frying would be banned (although, curiously, pre-fried packaged foods heated another way are A-OK). Tofu would be a totally acceptable alternative to meat. Drinking water must be available.

The changes, which aim to give meals subsidized by the USDA Child and Adult Care Food Program a healthy update, will affect more than 3 million children — not only those in day care, but also those in after-school programs — as well as some adults in assisted-living programs.

The USDA maintains that the proposed regulations will not boost grocery bills; some providers predict that they will prove financially burdensome. One Tennessee-based home day care provider, speaking to the Wall Street Journal, complained that the children she looks after will miss her fried chicken.

But Blake Stanford, president of the National CACFP Sponsors Association, which offers education and support for organizations that administer the USDA food program, told the Journal he thought the changes could be “a lot worse” and “a lot more complicated” and that his association was “very appreciative of [the USDA’s] measured approach.”

Amy Reiter also contributes to FN Dish.

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