Cutting back on sugary yogurts in child care

New CACFP yogurt guidelines will reduce how much sugar kids eat per day and encourage healthy eating habits.

There are several chances to shape a child’s eating habits during the day. According to the United States Census Bureau, 61 percent of children in the United States spend some amount of time in childcare. This means that child care providers are more important than ever in building healthy habits. The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) updated Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) meal patterns require that yogurt have no more than 23 grams of sugar per 6 ounces to be reimbursed. This new guideline will encourage children to try yogurt without candies or sweet toppings and reinforce that low-fat yogurt can be part of a healthy diet. Childcare providers must start following the new meal patterns by Oct. 1, 2017, and there is a one-year transition period.

The new yogurt guideline follows recommendations to reduce added sugar in children’s diets. Both the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that children eat less than 6 teaspoons of added sugar each day. Adding sugar to foods adds extra calories without giving the foods any health benefits. Yogurt is full of nutrients that children need to grow, such as calcium, protein, potassium and Vitamin D. Added sugar in yogurt can “hide” nutrients as children eat more sugar and less protein and calcium with each spoonful of yogurt.

A child’s diet has little room for added sugar, since children eat less than adults do in the first place. Instead, a child’s diet should be centered on fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy products. The new yogurt guideline supports a healthy diet for children and encourages them to eat foods that are not sweetened. If a child does not like yogurt without added sugar, try adding fruits, like fresh blueberries or strawberries to make it more enjoyable.

The new CACFP yogurt guideline follows recommendations from the AHA and AAP to reduce how much sugar children are eating each day. It also helps children develop a preference for less sugary foods. More information about the Child and Adult Care Food Program and nutrition education for child care providers can be found on the Michigan State University Extension website.

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