Feds target fried food, juice at day cares

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is proposing strict new dietary guidelines for day cares that would prohibit them from frying food that is served to children.

Child care providers would also be formally required to provide children with water upon request, though they would face restrictions on how much apple juice and orange juice they serve.

The proposed nutrition standards are intended to promote the "health and wellness of children" at day cares that participate in government-funded meal programs, the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service said Wednesday.

One of the more notable provisions would restrict day cares from frying food on site and discourage them from serving pre-packaged fried food, such as chicken fingers, from the grocery store.

"While facilities would not be permitted under this proposed rule to prepare foods on site by frying them," the USDA wrote in the Federal Register, "store-bought, catered, or pre-fried foods can still contribute large amounts of calories and saturated fat to a meal. Therefore, facilities are encouraged to limit all fried and pre-fried foods to no more than once per week."

Another provision of the rules spells out that day cares must supply drinking water for children.

"Daycare homes must make drinking water available to children, as nutritionally appropriate, throughout the day, including at meal times," the USDA wrote.

The USDA's meal standards also include other proposed changes, such as allowing tofu as a meat alternative.

The public has 90 days to comment.