Child care centers to follow first lady guidelines

Child care centers to follow first lady guidelines

BOWIE, Md. (AP) — The nation's second-largest for-profit child care provider is adopting Michelle Obama's healthy eating and activity guidelines.

The Learning Care Group agreed Thursday to limit TV and computer time for children, serve fruits and-or vegetables at every meal, eliminate fried foods, replace sugary drinks with water or plain, low-fat milk and provide at least an hour of daily physical activity.

It also will allow mothers to provide breast milk for their kids and accommodate those who want to breast feed.

Mrs. Obama joined the Super Sprowtz, vegetable mascots who teach children about nutrition and wellness, in an exercise dance with 4- and 5-year-olds at one of the Learning Care Group's centers near Washington on Thursday. She also shared an afternoon snack of carrot and celery sticks and grape tomatoes with a younger group of kids.

The first lady told the youngsters that they, too, will grow up to be healthy and strong if they eat well and stay active.

"These are grown-up vegetables," Mrs. Obama said of the broccoli, carrot and eggplant costumed-characters she had just danced with. "They started out as little bitty vegetables just like you and because they kept eating right and exercising they grew up to be really big and strong."

The Learning Care Group says it provides early education and child care services to more than 100,000 children between the ages of 6 weeks and 13 years at its 900 centers. They operate under five brand names: Childtime Learning Centers, Tutor Time Child Care/Learning Centers, The Children's Courtyard, Montessori Unlimited and La Petite Academy. Mrs. Obama visited a La Petite Academy center in Maryland on Thursday.

The first lady this week has been marking the fourth anniversary of "Let's Move," her nationwide initiative to combat childhood obesity in the U.S. The healthy eating and activity guidelines for child care centers, which were released in 2011, are part of that program.

With the addition of the Learning Care Group, some 13,000 child care centers are now following the rules, said Sam Kass, the executive director of "Let's Move." He said getting kids off to a healthy start is "absolutely vital" because their tastes, preferences and habits are shaped in the earliest years of their lives.

More than 750,000 children are now served by facilities that have adopted the guidelines.

In October 2012, the Learning Care Group voluntarily began mirroring the steps the first lady wants child care centers to take. Formally adopting her guidelines means the rules will be institutionalized across the company. The Learning Care Group will also now answer to the Partnership for a Healthier America, a third-party organization that supports the first lady's anti-childhood obesity campaign by holding companies accountable for the commitments they make to improve the health of Americans.

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Online:

Partnership for a Healthier America: http://www.ahealthieramerica.org