Volume 118, Issue 7, Pages 1291-1300 (July 2018)
It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that early care and education (ECE) programs should achieve recommended benchmarks to meet children's nutrition needs and promote children's optimal growth in safe and healthy environments. Children’s dietary intake is influenced by a number of factors within ECE, including the nutritional quality of the foods and beverages served, the mealtime environments, and the interactions that take place between children and their care providers. Other important and related health behaviors that may influence the development of obesity include children's physical activity, sleep, and stress within child care. Recent efforts to promote healthy eating and improve other health behaviors in ECE include national, state, and local policy changes. In addition, a number of interventions have been developed in recent years to encourage healthy eating and help prevent obesity in young children in ECE. Members of the dietetics profession, including registered dietitian nutritionists and nutrition and dietetics technicians, registered, can work in partnership with ECE providers and parents to help promote healthy eating, increase physical activity, and address other important health behaviors of children in care. Providers and parents can serve as role models to support these healthy behaviors. This Position Paper presents current evidence and recommendations for nutrition in ECE and provides guidance for registered dietitian nutritionists; nutrition and dietetics technicians, registered; and other food and nutrition practitioners working with parents and child-care providers. This Position Paper targets children ages 2 to 5 years attending ECE programs and highlights opportunities to improve and enhance children's healthy eating while in care.