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2nd largest US child care provider to adopt Michelle Obama's healthy eating and activity rules

First lady Michelle Obama high-fives children after exercising and dancing with the Super Sprowtz during a visit to La Petite Academy in Bowie, Md., Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, to show and talk about healthy environments and encouraging healthy habits at preschools as part of her Let's Move! Child Care program. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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First lady Michelle Obama high-fives children after exercising and dancing with the Super Sprowtz during a visit to La Petite Academy in Bowie, Md., Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, to show and talk about healthy environments and encouraging healthy habits at preschools as part of her Let's Move! Child Care program. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON - The nation's second-largest for-profit child care provider is adopting Michelle Obama's healthy eating and activity guidelines.

The Learning Care Group, based in Novi, Mich., says it will limit TV and computer time for children, eliminate fried foods, serve fruits and-or vegetables at every meal, replace sugary drinks with water or plain, low-fat milk, and provide at least an hour of daily physical activity.

It will also allow mothers to provide breast milk for their children and accommodate mothers who want to breast feed.

The Learning Care Group says it provides early education and child care services to more than 100,000 children between the ages of 6 weeks and 13 years at its 900 centres around the country. The centres operate under five brand names: Childtime Learning Centers, Tutor Time Child Care/Learning Centers, The Children's Courtyard, Montessori Unlimited and La Petite Academy.

Mrs. Obama planned to visit a La Petite Academy centre in the Washington suburb of Bowie, Md., on Thursday to applaud The Learning Care Group's decision.

The first lady this week has been marking the fourth anniversary of "Let's Move," the initiative to combat childhood obesity that she launched in February 2010. The healthy eating and activity guidelines for child care centres, which were released in 2011, are part of that program.

Some 13,000 child care centres nationwide are now following the rules, said Sam Kass, the executive director of "Let's Move."

Getting kids off to a healthy start is "absolutely vital" because their tastes, preferences and habits are shaped in the earliest years of their lives, he said.

In October 2012, The Learning Care Group voluntarily put in place guidelines that mirror the steps the first lady has asked child care centres to take.

Formally adopting the first lady's guidelines means the rules will be institutionalized across the company. The Learning Care Group will also now answer to the Partnership for a Healthier America, a third-party organization that supports the first lady's effort by holding companies accountable for the commitments they make to improve the health of Americans.

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Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap

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