Child, Youth, and Family Studies, Department of



Dipti A. Dev

Date of this Version



Published in Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (2017); doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2017.07.001


Copyright © 2017 by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Published by Elsevier B.V. Used by permission.


Background — National childhood obesity prevention policies recommend that childcare providers educate young children about nutrition to improve their nutrition knowledge and eating habits. Yet, the provision of nutrition education (NE) to children in child-care settings is limited.

Objective — Using the 2011 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics benchmarks for NE in child care as a guiding framework, researchers assessed child-care providers’ perspectives regarding delivery of NE through books, posters, mealtime conversations, handson learning, and sensory exploration of foods to young children (aged 2 to 5 years).

Design — Using a qualitative design (realist method), individual, semistructured interviews were conducted until saturation was reached.

Participants/setting — The study was conducted during 2012-2013 and used purposive sampling to select providers. Final sample included 18 providers employed full-time in Head Start or state-licensed center-based child-care programs in Central Illinois.

Main outcome measure — Child-care providers’ perspectives regarding implementation of NE.

Statistical analyses performed — Thematic analysis to derive themes using NVivo software.

Results — Three overarching themes emerged, including providers’ motivators, barriers, and facilitators for delivering NE to children. Motivators for delivering NE included that NE encourages children to try new foods, NE improves children’s knowledge of healthy and unhealthy foods, and NE is consistent with children’s tendency for exploration. Barriers for delivering NE included that limited funding and resources for hands-on experiences and restrictive policies. Facilitators for delivering NE included providers obtain access to feasible, low-cost resources and community partners, providers work around restrictive policies to accommodate NE, and mealtime conversations are a feasible avenue to deliver NE. Providers integrated mealtime conversations with NE concepts such as food-based sensory exploration and health benefits of foods.

Conclusions — Present study findings offer insights regarding providers’ perspectives on implementing NE in child care. Drawing from these perspectives, registered dietitian nutritionists can train providers about the importance of NE for encouraging healthy eating in children, integrating NE with mealtime conversations, and practicing low-cost, hands-on NE activities that meet the food safety standards for state licensing. Such strategies may improve providers’ ability to deliver NE in child-care settings.