Researchers Push for Healthier Water Drinking Requirements in Schools

First Posted: Mar 07, 2013 09:09 AM EST

Researchers are helping push for new policies in day care and education centers across the country to implement better water drinking requirements based on the findings of a recent study.

Published in the this months 2013 issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, the study is the first to document the availability and accessibility of water in compliance with state and federal policy and accreditation standards in child care centers.

According to the United States Department of Education, nearly 60 percent of 3- to 5-year-olds attend licensed childcare centers. Previous research published in the journal Future Child and the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior shows that the availability of water, culture of the child care center, and how the staff promotes and models water consumption can have a significant impact on development of health habits and future health.

As reports show that one-third of U.S. children are considered overweight or obese, the act expands access to drinking water in schools, particularly during meal times.

Researchers reviewed national, state, and child care center water regulations and observed water availability and teacher behaviors during lunch and physical activity in 40 child care centers in Connecticut, and found that many centers were in violation of water-promoting policies. While water was available in most classrooms (84 percent), it had to be requested from an adult in over half of those classrooms.

Researchers also found that water was available during only one-third of physical activity periods observed and verbal prompts from staff for children to drink water were few.

"The lack of water availability during a meal diminishes its importance as a viable beverage choice for young children and highlights a missed opportunity for centers to normalize consumption of noncaloric beverage," says Kathryn E. Henderson, PhD, Director of School and Community Initiatives at the Rudd Center.

"With child care settings' strong influence on mealtime behaviors, policy guidelines should continue to explicitly mention that water may be served with meals. This is a cost-neutral policy suggestion that reinforces low-calorie hydration to children as they form their dietary habits, but it does not encroach on milk consumption."

Researchers note that this change could help assist with better care in childcare centers and practices across the country and is needed to help centers meet existing water policies and new water requirements included in the 2010 Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act.

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