New child care rules target childhood obesity

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The Colorado Board of Human Services voted Dec. 4 to approve the Colorado Department of Human Services’ proposed rules, which provide statewide standards for nutrition and physical activity in licensed child care facilities. Healthier Colorado, a statewide nonprofit focused on improving health in Colorado, strongly supports the rule changes, which affect 220,000 kids in Colorado’s 9,000 licensed child care facilities.

“As many of us start to ponder healthy resolutions, this vote represents an early holiday present for our children," said Jake Williams, executive director of Healthier Colorado. “These common-sense nutrition and physical activity standards will help get our children off to a healthy start and pay lifelong dividends."

Though Colorado is often ranked as one of the leanest states in the nation, nearly a third of Colorado kids ages two to four are overweight or obese. Obesity is a known risk factor for a wide range of diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. Also, obese children are more likely to become obese adults. These new rules will help promote healthy habits during a pivotal time in a child’s development. With more children in child care than ever before, this is a significant step in improving the health of Coloradans.

The new rules target three proven ways of fighting childhood obesity: improving nutrition, increasing physical activity and limiting screen time. With these changes, providers will be responsible for ensuring meals and snacks meet USDA requirements and not serving sugary drinks like soda. Other rules promote physical activity and place age-appropriate limits on screen time.

More specifically, these rules:

  • Bring state nutritional guidelines for meals and snacks in line with federal guidelines.
  • Prevent child care facilities from serving unhealthy sugary drinks to kids and limit 100 percent fruit juice to twice a week.
  • Require child care facilities to provide plenty of outdoor exercise to kids toddler-age and above, including 60 minutes for full-day programs and 30 minutes for half-day programs (weather permitting). Activity does not have to occur all at once.
  • Limit how much time kids at child care centers spend in front of TV, computer, phone and tablet screens. Television and video viewing is prohibited for children under 2. For children ages 2 and older, television and video time must be limited to 30 minutes a week.
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