Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

Are daycares driving the obesity epidemic?


An article published in the latest issue of the Journal of Pediatrics found that children who were cared for in daycare centres, home daycares, and to a lesser extent by family outside the home, were more likely to be overweight ten years later than were children who were cared for at home. Much has been made of this in the news and the article concluded that further investigation into the level of physical activity and foods served at daycares was warranted. I think that this would be a worthwhile endeavour; we should ensure that the healthiest possible environments are being provided to children in daycare settings. However, I also think that we should be looking beyond the daycares to determine the reason for the difference in obesity rates between children cared for bytheir parent(s) and children cared for outside the home. It’s premature to blame the daycares for providing limited opportunities for physical activity and nutritionally inferior foods. We should also be looking at what’s happening with these children outside of daycare hours.

It’s more than likely that most of these children are enrolled in daycare because their parents are busy working during the daytime. Any future studies into the reasons for childcare outside the home increasing childhood obesity should look at the home lives of these children. Are they eating a nutritious breakfast before being dropped-off at the daycare? What happens after the children are picked-up from the daycare? Are they being fed nutritious home-made suppers? Are their parents playing with them or encouraging them to engage in active play?

I don’t want to sound like I’m blaming parents. Really, I think that the fault lies with our society. Our priorities are skewed. We need to focus more on allowing time for family and for raising the next generation and less on putting in hours at the office.

*I found a lot of play blocks like the ones pictured above when I was searching for an image for this post. I think that this speaks volumes about the state of our diets and the world in which children are being raised. When I was growing-up our play food was all whole foods. Now, apparently, there is a proliferation of packaged processed crap play “foods”.


Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people see food and nutrition from a different perspective and understand that nutrition and health are not necessarily a result of personal choice.

3 thoughts on “Are daycares driving the obesity epidemic?

  1. This is a topic near & dear to me, what with me running the dayhome. I don’t provide lunch, only two snacks. The snacks are always a protein and a fruit or vegetable; any carbs (like crackers) are whole wheat. Or I bake muffins with fruit and whole wheat flour.

    What the kids bring for lunch is very telling – those with two parents working long hours have pre-packaged convenience foods four to five days a week. One of my clients so far this week has had chicken covered with shake ‘n bake; hot dogs; and potatoes with packaged gravy. Not exactly nutritionally-complete.

    And daycares, I promise you, provide physical activity – for their own sanity, if nothing else. :D

    I’m not blaming the parents either; my clients drop their kids off by 8AM and don’t pick them up until 5:30PM. Most of the kids are in bed by 7PM. That leaves 90 minutes to prepare and eat dinner, give baths, read stories, and enjoy their children. I think oftentimes food is dropped down the priority list because it’s the easiest place to make shortcuts.

    (I do agree on the kids’ play food, though. You have to look for the stuff that represents real food, not just boxes & cans. They’re out there, but they are often more expensive and harder to find.)


    • Thanks so much for providing your firsthand perspective Hannah!

      It seems like we’re in agreement that the issue is much larger than any individuals or organizations.

      I too have seen lovely wooden food toys. It’s very telling that the packaged “junk” is at the top of google image search and that whole food toys are harder to come by and more expensive.


  2. One of my co workers has made carrots and other toy vegetables by crocheting (or knitting?) them, they are stuffed and soft!


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