Healthy Children - July 2016

ExceleRate Illinois in partnership with the Illinois Department of Human Services is providing information on healthy choices. The Healthy Children, Healthy Families Project will communicate to parents, child care practitioners, and others who visit the website, the seriousness of obesity in young children and to link them to current research on the issue.

Helpful suggestions for meal planning, recipes and healthy physical activities are presented on this site for children and the health of the entire family.

New ideas are listed every month. Each month a new column on this issue of national concern is posted. It answers questions you have regarding children and healthy lifestyles -- be sure to check it out.

For more information contact the Illinois Department of Human Services at (217) 785-9336 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You can also contact your local Illinois Child Care Resource and Referral Agency.

The consumer health information on childhood obesity provided by the Illinois Network of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies on the site or by any links to other sites is for information purposes only and should not be interpreted as a recommendation for a specific treatment plan, product or course of action. This web site generally links to other sites that are informational in nature and does not link to commercial sites that are primarily intended for the sale of products or services. Use of this site or any links to other sites does not replace medical consultations with a qualified health or medical professional to meet the health and medical needs of you or a loved one. You should promptly seek professional care if you have any concern about the health of you or a loved one and you should always consult your physician before you or a loved one starts a fitness regimen. 

This summer let's keep cool, and give our bodies healthy fuel!

Summer takes us to the park, to the pool, and outside for all kinds of great physical activity. What a wonderful time for the while family to get out and have fun together.

One thing to remember for all members of the family is to enjoy our bodies’ favorite beverage, WATER! Beverages with lots of sugar not only have extra calories we don’t need, but they don’t really quench our thirst. To make it more fun, try including colorful fruits in a pitcher of water such as citrus, berries, or grapes. Mint and cucumber can also make water a tasty treat.

Fruit is nature’s perfect snack food, giving us energy to move and play. Whole fruits give us vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber which keeps us feeling full longer. Berries, grapes, melon, cherries, kiwis, plums and apricots are all at their best during summer. When fruits are in season, they taste great, and are more affordable than at other times of the year.

There are many ways for families to enjoy these fruits:

  • Frozen Fruit Pop – Blend low-fat yogurt with your choice of fruit. Pour into a 4 ounce paper cup and insert a Popsicle stick. Freeze and enjoy!
  • Fruit Kabobs- Include all colors of the rainbow. For example, try slices of kiwi, watermelon, grapes, and bananas put together on a stick to create an appetizing snack.
  • Fruit Salsas- In addition to tomatoes, limes, and peppers, try including strawberries and mangos into your salsas
  • Fruit Smoothies- Blend frozen fruits with low-fat milk for a healthy shake

Below are recipes for your family to try. Young children can help by picking out fruit at the grocery store or farmer’s market, washing fruit, and mixing. Older school aged children can help with slicing, peeling, measuring, and reading the recipe. So get out in the sun and play together, and enjoy nature’s perfect snack fuel, FRUIT!

Mango Salsa:
Serves 8 - Serving Size: 2 tablespoons

  • 1 Mango (peeled, pitted, and diced)
  • ½ small red onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Juice of 1 lime

Instructions: Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir to mix, serve immediately or cover and refrigerate.

How to Cut a Mango: Holding the mango with one hand, stand it on its end with the stem side down. With a sharp knife in your other hand, cut from the top of the mango down one side of the pit. Then repeat with the other side. You should end up with three pieces – two halves and a middle section that includes the pit. Take a mango half and use a knife to make lengthwise and crosswise cuts in it. Try not to cut through the peel. At this point you may be able to peel the segments right off of the peel with your fingers. Or you can use a small paring knife to cut away the pieces from the peel. Lay the mango pieces with the pit flat on the cutting board. Use a paring knife to cut out the put and remove the peel.


  • Serve as an appetizer or a snack
  • Also try adding or substituting tomatoes and/or peppers.

Fruit Smoothie
Serves: 1 – Serving Size: 1 cup

  • ½ bananas
  • ½ cup berries, frozen
  • 1 container (6oz) strawberry yogurt

Instructions:  Blend all the ingredients well in blender. Pour it into your favorite glass and enjoy!

Apricot Pops

  • 1 Can (15 ounces) apricots (packed in juice or light syrup)
  • 2 cartons (6 ounces each) vanilla yogurt (low fat and sugar free)

Instructions:  Drain apricots.
Combine the drained apricots and yogurt. Blend until smooth with a blender or food processor. Pour mixture into 8 small paper cups and put in freezer. Stand a wooden stick or plastic spoon in pops after half an hour (when they start to freeze). Freeze 3-4 hours or until pops are solid. Remove from cup to serve. Place bottom of cup under hot running water for 20 seconds. Peel off paper cup.


  • No blender? Mince apricots on a cutting board.
  • Make pops with plain Greek yogurt.
  • Optional additions might be honey, sugar, or sweetener.
  • Serve like ice cream. Pour mixture into plastic container, cover and freeze 3-4 hours or until firm. Thaw 10 minutes before serving.
  • Try with other canned fruits.
  • Save leftover apricot juice and mix with other juices.

Fruit Kabobs with Yogurt Dip


  • 2 small fruits of your choice (such as apples, pears, bananas, clementine oranges, kiwi, grapes)
  • 1 can (8 ounces) chunk pineapple
  • 1 container (6 or 8 ounces) fruit yogurt
  • 1-2 tablespoons low fat whipped topping
  • 30 toothpicks

Instructions:  Wash fruit under running water. Peel bananas, clementine oranges, and kiwi. Drain pineapple juice into a bowl. Cut fruit in wedges or chunks. Dip fruit that turns dark (such as apples and bananas) in the pineapple juice. Thread fruit on toothpicks or skewers and arrange on a platter. Stir together the yogurt and whipped topping. Pour into a bowl for dipping and refrigerate any leftovers. 


  • Threading fruit onto the toothpicks is a fun activity for children

MyPlate, My Wins

Healthy Eating Solutions for Everyday Life


Focus on while fruits and select 100% fruit juice when choosing juices. Buy fruits that are dried, frozen, canned, or fresh, so that you can always have a supply on hand.

Daily Food Target * - 2 cups

1 cup counts as: 1 large banana, 1 cup mandarin oranges, ½ cup raisins, 1 cup 100% grapefruit juice


Eat a variety of vegetables and add them to mixed dishes like casseroles, sandwiches, and wraps. Fresh, frozen, and canned count, too. Look for “reduced sodium” or “no-salt-added” on the label.

Daily Food Target* - 2 ½ cups

1 cup counts as: 2 cups raw spinach, 1 large bell pepper, 1 cup baby carrots, 1 cup green peas, 1 cup mushrooms


Choose whole-grain versions of common foods such as bread pasta, and tortillas. Not sure if it’s a whole grain? Check the ingredients list for the words “whole” or “whole grain.”

Daily Food Target* - 6 ounces

1 ounce counts as: 1 slice of bread, ½ cup cooked oatmeal, 1 small tortilla, ½ cup cooked brown rice, ½ cup cooked grits

Dairy: Choose low-fat (1%) or fat-free (skim) dairy. Get the same amount of calcium and other nutrients as whole milk, but with less saturated fat and calories. Lactose intolerant? Try lactose-free milk or a fortified soy beverage.

Daily Food Target * - 3 cups

1 cup counts as: 1 cup milk, 1 cup yogurt, and 2 ounces processed cheese


Eat a variety of protein foods such as beans, soy, seafood, lean meats, poultry, and unsalted nuts and seeds. Select seafood twice a week. Choose lean cuts of meat and ground beef that is at least 93% lean.

Daily Food Group Target*- 5 ½ ounces

1 ounce counts as: 1 ounce tuna fish, ¼ cup cooked beans, 1TBSP peanut butter, 1 egg


*Daily Food Group Targets – Based on a 2,000 Calorie Plan – visit for a personal plan


Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures

Use a food thermometer to ensure that meat, poultry, seafood, and other cooked foods reach a safe minimum internal temperature. Remember, you can’t tell whether meat is safely cooked by looking at it. Any cooked, uncured red meats – including pork – can be pink, even when the meat has reached a safe internal temperature.

Why the Rest Time is important:

After you remove meat from a grill, oven, or other heat source, allow it to rest for the specified amount of time. During the rest time, its temperature remains constant or continues to rise, which destroys harmful germs.

Ground Meat and Meat Mixtures: Beef, Pork, Veal, Lamb, Turkey, Chicken – 160*-165* -- No rest time needed
Fresh Beef, Veal, Lamb: Steaks, roasts, chops – 145*-3 minute rest time needed
Poultry – Chicken and Turkey, whole 165* -, Breasts and roasts -165* -, Thighs, legs and wings – 165*
Pork and Ham: Fresh – 145*- 3 minute rest time needed, fresh ham (raw) – 145*- 3 minute rest time, precooked ham (to reheat) -140*- 3 minute rest time.
Eggs: Eggs – cook until yolk and white are firm, no rest time needed, Egg dishes -160* - no rest time needed
Leftovers & Casseroles: Both cooked to 165* with no rest time needed.
Seafood: Fin Fish – 145* or cook until flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork. Shrimp, lobster, and crabs – cook until pearly and opaque, Clams, oysters, and mussels – cook until shells open during cooking. Scallops – cook until flesh is milky white or opaque and firm.

Keeping Your Picnic Food Safe

Beautiful sunny days are perfect for enjoying an outdoor picnic or barbecue. But warm weather also increases the risk of bacteria in our favorite foods. Protect your family and friends from foodborne illness with these tips:

  • Wash your hands! If you won’t have a bathroom close by, pack a water bottle and soap for cleaning hands and cutting boards. You can also pack wet wipes or hand sanitizer and use those before and after you touch food.
  • Separate your coolers. Pack drinks in one cooler and foods in another. This helps keep food at the right temperature
  • Keep cold food cold. Use ice and frozen gel packs to keep your cooler at 40*F or below. Keep meats, chicken, fish shellfish, eggs, lunch meat and cheese in a cooler. Wrap any raw meat and seafood tightly and place them at the bottom of your cooler. When you get to your picnic spot keep your coolers in the shade if you can.
  • Clean fruits and vegetables at home. Rinse and dry all fresh produce under running tap water before adding it to the cooler. Even wash fruits and vegetables with skins that you won’t eat, such as oranges.

How to Serve Your Food:

  • Serve cold foods cold. Keep all foods that should stay cold, such as salads, cut fruits, lunch meat, cheese and yogurt, I the cooler until you are ready to eat it.
  • Place cold foods on ice. Serving plates or bowls for foods such as chicken salad and desserts should sit on top of a deep pan filled with ice.
  • Know how long your food can sit out. Both cold and hot foods should sit out for only two hours – only one hour if the temperature is over 90*F. If these foods are left out for longer than that, throw them away.
  • Separate, separate, separate! If you’re grilling, never use the same platter or utensils for both raw and cooked foods. Do not use the same cutting surface for fruits or vegetables as you did for raw meat or fish.
  • Check the temperature. Use a food thermometer to make sure your food reaches a safe temperature.

If you would like information about food safety, including safe grilling temperatures, sent to you via email or mail, contact the Family resource Center (FRC) at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. The FRC is 100-percent funded by generous donations to the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Foundation.

Let's Move . . . Warm Weather Fun!

When the weather is warm, play outside together! You do not need to spend money to fit active fun into your family life.

Try to be physically active for at least 30 minutes on most days.
Your child needs to be physically active at least 60 minutes on most, preferably all, days of the week. You will both feel good!

Get Moving OUTDOORS!

  • Create sidewalk art. Use colored chalk, or “paint” with water and brushes.
  • Chase shadows in the summer sun or the light of a full moon.
  • Play hopscotch. Draw a hopscotch game on the sidewalk. Young children can jump from square to square. Older kids- and you – can hop, stoop, and bend!
  • Create a parade! Dress up kids, adults, and pets. Decorate wagons, tricycles, bikes, and strollers.
  • Visit a farmer’s market. Walk and talk about the foods. Buy something to prepare and eat at home.
  • Run through the garden sprinkler!
  • Go fruit picking: berries, peaches, apples, whatever grows where you live
  • Splash in a pool, lake, or slow, clean stream
  • Fly a kite or blow bubbles. Safely follow, wherever they go
  • Walk to the store or library – even if it takes longer. Talk about when you see along the way.
  • Visit a petting farm. Be sure to wash your and your child’s hands after touching animals
  • Celebrate an outdoor festival. Look for activities planned for young children.
  • Play games that move: “Ring-Around-the-Rosie,” “London Bridge,” other
  • Plan a “wash day”: wagons tricycles, outdoor toys – and the family pup.
  • Go on a nature hike. Look for wild flowers, insects, bird’s nest, and rocks. Leaves, shells, butterflies, and other natural things
  • Work in a garden, maybe your own!

Play Safe Outdoors!

  • Always stay with your child for safety’s sake. You also have the fun of playing together!
  • Protect your child’s skin with sunscreen and perhaps a hat – even on a cloudy day.
  • Bring water to drink. Even when your family swims and play in the water, you sweat.
  • Check the safety and condition of tricycles and other play equipment.

Teach your child too:

  • Play with balls in a safe place, away from the street.
  • Stay safely away from swings and other moving play equipment!
  • Wear a helmet when skating or biking even on a tricycle. You, too!
  • Use tricycles and toys with wheels on the sidewalk, not in the street.

Choose MyPlate 

What foods are in the Protein Foods Group?

All Foods made from meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, processed soy products, nuts, and seeds are considered part of the Protein Foods Group. Beans and peas are also part of the Vegetable Group. 

Select a variety of protein foods to improve nutrient intake and health benefits, including at least 8 ounces of cooked seafood per week. Young children need less, Depending on their age and calories needs. The advice to consume seafood does not apply to vegetarians. Vegetarian options in the Protein Foods Group include beans and peas, processed soy products, and nuts and seeds. Meat and poultry choices should be lean or low-fat.

How much food from the Protein Foods Group is needed daily?

The amount of food from the Protein Foods Group you need to eat depends on ag, sex, and level of physical activity. Most Americans eat enough food from this group, but need to make leaner ad more varied selections of these foods. Recommended daily amounts are show at the following link,

What counts as an ounce-equivalent in the Protein Foods Group?

In general, 1 ounce of meat, poultry or fish, ¼ cup cooked beans, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or ½ ounce of nuts or seeds can be considered as 1 ounce-equivalent from the Protein Foods Group. The following link lists specific amounts that count as 1 ounce-equivalent in the Protein Foods Group towards your daily recommended intake:

Selection Tips:

  • Choose lean or low-fat meat and poultry. If higher fat choices are made, such as regular group beef (75-80% lean) or chicken with skin, the fat counts against your maximum limit for empty calories, (calories from solid fats or added sugars).
  • If solid fat is added in cooking, such as frying chicken in shortening or frying eggs in butter or stick margarine, this also counts against your maximum limit for empty calories (calories from solid fats and added sugars).
  • Select some seafood that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, trout, sardines, anchovies, herring, Pacific oysters, and Atlantic and Pacific mackerel.
  • Processed meats such as ham, sausage, frankfurters, and luncheon or deli meats have added sodium. Check the Nutrition Facts label to help limit sodium intake. Fresh chicken, turkey, and pork that have been enhanced with a salt-containing solution also have added sodium. Check the product label for statements such as “self-basting” or “contains up to __% of ___”, which mean that a sodium- containing solution has been added to the product.
  • Choose unsalted nuts and seeds to keep sodium intake low.