Researchers work on healthy eating guidelines for childcare services

Professor Tony Oakley and his team conducted research on healthy eating and physical activity guidelines for children. Credit: University of Wollongong

In 2017, the University of Wollongong (UOW) received an Early Start Award of US$1.25 million in funding from the Department of Health’s Health Prevention Research Support Program (PRSP). This grant allowed Early Start researchers, led by Professor Anthony Oakley of the College of Health and Society, to initiate a collaborative research program aimed at understanding and promoting healthy eating and physical activity among children in two age groups: newborns through 5 years of age. (the first 2,000 days of a child’s life) and school-age children. This year, PRSP funding has been extended for another four years.

Working in collaboration with Illawarra Shoalhaven Health Promotion Services, Southwest Sydney Local Health Districts and the Population Health Centre, the subject of Food and Movement Research from the early on has been involved in the development, implementation and evaluation of several projects in early childhood education and care services, including family day care and outside care settings outside school hours.

“Our overarching goal has always been to better understand and promote healthy eating and physical activity in the areas where children live, play and learn. As researchers, we don’t want to work only on papers; we want to make an impact,” Professor Well said.

“Early onset, we were analyzing healthy eating and movement habits, both at home, in family day care and out-of-school environments, and then, along with our research partners, formulated guidelines for parents and educators to implement them more effectively.”

There is no doubt that early childhood educators – whether in family day care or center care – have a significant impact on healthy habits during the first 2,000 days of a child’s life. Georgie Tran, Early Start Researcher and Ph.D. Candidate in the College of Health and Society, along with another recent Ph.D. Student Dr. Erin Kerr co-created the Family Day Care (FDC) research project, exploring the quality of healthy eating and physical activity environments and policies.

“At the FDC, we found that most children do not get their vegetable intake and only half of children engage in physical activity sufficient for their age. For example, the average two-year-old should have been physically active for at least three hours,” said Ms. Tran. .

Nationwide, the bad news is that nearly one-third of young children’s nutritional intake comes from discretionary foods, such as sweet and savory pretzels, chips, crackers, processed meats, etc.

The eating habits of Australian children are no different from other parts of the world. Similar patterns have been identified in other countries, such as the United States, Mexico, and Switzerland.

However, Early Start researchers are optimistic, as many good patterns have been discovered as well.

“In family day care services, we noticed that 99% of the children were provided with fruit, which is really encouraging! We also found that mixed dishes, such as dhal and spaghetti bolognese, were more likely to include larger food groups than they did,” Dr. Kerr said.

Another important area of ​​early start research has focused on school-age children in the out-of-hours care (OSHC) sector. OSHC centers are vital to promoting healthy behaviours, with 32% of NSW children attending these after-school services, and these numbers are only set to increase.

Collaborative Research Led by UOW Ph.D. Candidates Dr. Ruth Crowe and Andrew Woods have found significant room for improvement in the provision of healthy foods in OSHC settings. The research discovered that although after-school services offer fruit almost every day, discretionary foods are served more often than healthy snacks in the form of vegetables, lean meats, milk, yogurt, and cheese.

The research is now underway by another Ph.D. Candidate Linda Patel to develop a smartphone app for teachers working in the health insurance sector for international students. The app, which features healthy recipes, menu planning and policy templates, has received positive feedback from educators so far. It is scheduled to be launched and tested on 15 services next month, in July 2022.

More exercise, fewer screens: New Australian guidelines for children at OSHC

more information:
Ruth K. Crowe et al, Food and beverages provided in out-of-hours care services: an observational study, Public Health BMC (2022). DOI: 10.1186 / s12889-022-12652-9

Erin M. Kerr et al, Foods given to children in family day care: an observational study, public health nutrition (2021). DOI: 10.1017/S1368980021001506

Provided by University of Wollongong

the quote: Researchers Working on Childcare Services Healthy Eating Guidelines (2022, July 6), Retrieved July 6, 2022 from

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