Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 108, Issue 4, pp 342–347 | Cite as

Lunch is ready& but not healthy: An analysis of lunches served in childcare centres in two Canadian provinces

  • Stéphanie WardEmail author
  • Mathieu Bélanger
  • Denise Donovan
  • Hassan Vatanparast
  • Rachel Engler-Stringer
  • Anne Leis
  • Natalie Carrier
Quantitative Research


OBJECTIVES: Childcare centres (CCs) typically offer one meal and snacks daily. This study compared what is served in CCs with what the nutritional recommendations are; described and compared the nutritional composition of lunches served in CCs in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan; and examined differences between French and English, and urban and rural centres.

METHODS: The study involved 61 randomly selected CCs in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan, Canada. Lunch content was measured on two consecutive days by weighing each food item served to children and by visually documenting the food items using digital photography. Food items were categorized into food groups according to Health Canada’s Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide, and nutrients were analyzed using a nutritional analysis software. One- sample t tests compared lunch content with nutritional recommendations. Independent t tests compared the nutrient and food group content of lunches in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan, French and English, and urban and rural CCs.

RESULTS: On average, CCs did not meet provincial recommendations. Lunches in both provinces were low in calories (<517 kcal) and fibre (<7 g). Overall, Saskatchewan centres served greater amounts of food than New Brunswick centres (p < 0.05). French-speaking centres provided less fat (p = 0.047), less saturated fat (p = 0.01), and fewer servings of meat and alternatives (p = 0.02), and more trans fat (p = 0.03) than English-speaking centres. There were no differences between rural and urban centres.

CONCLUSIONS: Few CC lunches met nutritional recommendations. Interventions are required to improve the quality of foods offered in CCs. Reviewing or developing comprehensive nutrition guidelines is warranted.

Key Words: Child day care centers; food quality; lunch; nutritional value

Key Words

Child day care centers food quality lunch nutritional value 

Mots Clés

garderies d’enfants qualité alimentaire déjeuner valeur nutritionnelle 


OBJECTIFS : Les centres de la petite enfance (CPE) offrent généralement un repas par jour et des collations. Dans cette étude, nous avons: comparé ce qui est servi dans les CPE aux recommandations nutritionnelles; décrit et comparé la composition nutritionnelle des déjeuners servis dans les CPE au Nouveau-Brunswick et en Saskatchewan; et examiné les différences entre les centres francophones et anglophones, urbains et ruraux.

MÉTHODE : Ont participé à l’étude 61 CPE sélectionnés au hasard au Nouveau-Brunswick et en Saskatchewan, au Canada. Le contenu des déjeuners a été mesuré deux jours de suite en pesant chaque produit alimentaire servi aux enfants et en consignant visuellement les produits alimentaires à l’aide de photographies numériques. Les produits alimentaires ont été classés en groupes d’aliments conformément au document Bien manger avec le Guide alimentaire canadien de Santé Canada, et les nutriments ont été analysés à l’aide d’un logiciel d’analyse nutritionnelle. Des tests t à échantillon unique ont permis de comparer le contenu des déjeuners aux recommandations nutritionnelles. Des tests t indépendants ont permis de comparer le contenu nutritionnel et les groupes d’aliments des déjeuners servis dans les CPE francophones et anglophones, urbains et ruraux du Nouveau-Brunswick et de la Saskatchewan.

RÉSULTATS : En moyenne, les CPE ne respectaient pas les recommandations provinciales. Dans les deux provinces, les déjeuners étaient faibles en calories (<517 kcal) et en fibres (<7 g). Dans l’ensemble, les centres de la Saskatchewan servaient de plus grandes quantités de nourriture que ceux du Nouveau-Brunswick (p < 0,05). Les centres francophones offraient moins de matières grasses (p = 0,047), moins de graisses saturées (p = 0,01), moins de portions de viandes et substituts (p = 0,02) et plus de gras trans (p = 0,03) que les centres anglophones. Il n’y avait aucun écart entre les centres ruraux et urbains.

CONCLUSIONS : Peu de déjeuners offerts dans les CPE respectaient les recommandations nutritionnelles. Il faudrait intervenir pour améliorer la qualité des aliments offerts dans les CPE. La révision ou l’élaboration de directives nutritionnelles complètes s’impose.

Mots Clés : garderies d’enfants; qualité alimentaire; déjeuner; valeur nutritionnelle


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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stéphanie Ward
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Mathieu Bélanger
    • 2
    • 3
  • Denise Donovan
    • 2
    • 4
  • Hassan Vatanparast
    • 5
  • Rachel Engler-Stringer
    • 6
  • Anne Leis
    • 6
  • Natalie Carrier
    • 7
  1. 1.Faculty of Medicine and Health SciencesUniversité de SherbrookeSherbrookeCanada
  2. 2.Centre de formation médicale du Nouveau-BrunswickPavillon J.-Raymond-FrenetteMonctonCanada
  3. 3.Department of Family MedicineUniversité de SherbrookeSherbrookeCanada
  4. 4.Department of Community Health SciencesUniversité de SherbrookeSherbrookeCanada
  5. 5.School of Public HealthUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada
  6. 6.Department of Community Health and EpidemiologyUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada
  7. 7.École des sciences des aliments, de nutrition et d’études familialesUniversité de MonctonMonctonCanada

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