Testimony to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee
Early experiences shape children for a lifetime. When children are healthy during the first years of life, they are more likely to maintain a healthy weight throughout their childhood, be successful in school, and achieve lifelong health. In Texas, about one million young kids learn, play, and grow in licensed or regulated child care programs. Families know that child care programs are key partners in reinforcing positive habits and ensuring children get the benefits of healthy foods and active play time to build their minds and muscles.
About one in four children age two to five is overweight or obese. Children who are overweight or obese as preschoolers are five times more likely to be overweight or obese as adults. Ensuring our youngest children eat nutritious foods, stay active, and develop healthy habits reduces health care costs by preventing expensive chronic conditions like heart disease, stroke, and asthma.
Parents know their children deserve the benefits of a healthy start. With the majority of Texas children under age six spending much of their day in child care, child care programs are a vital partner in helping children develop positive habits for the future. Being physically active and having a healthy diet before the age of five is associated with improved child development and cognitive outcomes. Research shows that young kids that eat a healthy diet – high in lean protein and fresh fruits and vegetables – are more likely to have a higher IQ at age eight. In contrast, dietary patterns high in processed foods and added sugars are associated with lower school achievement and nonverbal reasoning.