The Nutritional Adequacy and Diet Quality of Vegetarian Menu Substitutions in Urban Kansas Childcare Centers

dc.contributor.authorJindrich, Caitlin
dc.contributor.authorJoyce, Jillian
dc.contributor.authorDaniels, Elizabeth
dc.contributor.authorProcter, Sandra B.
dc.contributor.authorSauer, Kevin
dc.description.abstractWhile plant-based eating has become increasingly popular, little is known of how this trend has impacted childcare center meals. The purpose of this study was to measure the nutrient content and diet quality of vegetarian alternative lunches and compare these measures to those of standard childcare lunches and nutrient benchmarks representing one-third of the Dietary Reference Intake for 3-year-olds and 4–5-year-olds. Menu data were obtained from seven urban Kansas childcare centers participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program and regularly providing a vegetarian alternative lunch. The centers provided detailed menu information for 27 days’ worth of meals. The most common vegetarian substitution was cheese, which was used to fulfill all or part of the meat/meat alternative requirement in over three-quarters of the vegetarian alternative meals (n = 22). Compared to the standard meals, the vegetarian alternative meals were higher in calories, fat, saturated fat, calcium, and sodium and lower in protein, choline, and diet quality (p = 0.05). Both lunch options met the benchmarks for vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin B12, calcium, and protein. Iron content for both (95% CI: standard 1.61–2.17 mg; vegetarian 1.37–2.7 mg) was below the benchmark. Although additional research is needed to better understand how vegetarianism has impacted childcare meals in the U.S., important differences in the nutrient contents were observed between the standard and vegetarian alternative meals. In addition, the results suggest vegetarian alternative meals that rely heavily on cheese may be of lower diet quality.
dc.rightsAttribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
dc.subjectVegetarian diet
dc.subjectChild day care centers
dc.subjectFeeding pattern
dc.subjectHealthy eating index
dc.titleThe Nutritional Adequacy and Diet Quality of Vegetarian Menu Substitutions in Urban Kansas Childcare Centers


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