Healthy Children - August 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. 

Handling Food Safely on the Road

V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N! Oh, how we long for that eight letter word every summer, when millions of us eagerly get away from school and work. We take to the road in cars or recreational vehicles; life on boats; relax in beach or mountain vacation homes; and camp. No matter where we go or what we do, there is a common denominator that runs through all of our summer travels and relaxation – it’s called F-O-O-D! The “road” to food safety, however, can either be a bumpy one or smooth – depending on what precautions are taken handling meals as we travel during the summer. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nationwide, toll-free Meat and Poultry Hotline reminds everyone that some simple, common-sense food safety rules can save a vacation from disaster. Following this advice could make the difference between a vacation to remember and one that is remembered because people got sick from improperly handled food. Here are some general rules for keeping food safe when traveling.

Plan Ahead…

If you are traveling with perishable food, place it in a cooler with ice or freezer packs. When carrying drinks, consider packing them in a separate cooler so the food cooler is not opened frequently. Have plenty of ice or frozen gel-packs on hand before starting to pack food. If you take perishable foods along (for example, meat, poultry, eggs, and salads) for eating on the road or to cook at your vacation spot, plan to keep everything on ice in your cooler.

Pack Safely…

Pack perishable foods directly from the refrigerator or freezer into the cooler. Meat and poultry may be packed while it is still frozen; in that way it stays colder longer. Also, a full cooler will maintain its cold temperatures longer than one that is partially filled. Be sure to keep raw meat and poultry wrapped separately from cooked foods, or foods meant to be eaten raw such as fruits. If the cooler is only partially filled, pack the remaining space with more ice. For long trips to the shore or the mountains, take along two coolers one for the day’s immediate food needs, such as lunch, drinks or snacks, and the other for perishable foods to be used later in vacation. Limit the times the cooler is opened. Open and close the lid quickly. Now, follow these food safety tips:

When Camping…

Remember to keep the cooler in a shady spot. Keep it covered with a blanket, tarp or poncho, preferably one that is light in color to reflect heat. Bring along bottled water or other canned or bottled drinks. Always assume that streams and rivers are not safe for drinking. If camping in a remote area, bring along water purification tablets or equipment. These are available at camping supply stores. Keep hands and all utensils clean when preparing food. Use disposable moist towelettes to clean hands. When planning meals, think about buying and using shelf-stable food to ensure food safety.

When Boating…

If boating on vacation, or out for the day, make sure the all-important cooler is along. Don’t let perishable food sit out while swimming or fishing. Remember, food sitting out for more than 2 hours is not safe. The time frame is reduced to just 1 hours if the outside temperature is about 90*F. Now, about that “catch” of fish – assuming the big one did not get away. For fin fish: scale, gut and clean the fish as soon as they are caught. Wrap both whole and cleaned fish in water-tight plastic and store on ice. Keep 3-4 inches of ice on the bottom of the cooler and alternate layers of fish and ice. Cook the fish in 1-2 days, or freeze. After cooking eat within 3- days. Make sure the raw fish stays separate from cooked foods. Crabs, lobsters and other shellfish must be kept alive until cooked. Store in a bushel or laundry basket under wet burlap. Crabs and lobsters are best eaten the day they are caught. Live oysters can keep 7-10 days; mussels and clams, 4-5 days. Caution: Be aware of the potential dangers of eating raw shellfish. This is especially true for persons with liver disorders or weakened immune systems. However, no one should eat raw shellfish.

When at the Beach…

Plan ahead. Take along only the amount of food that can be eaten to avoid having leftovers. If grilling, make sure local ordinances allow it. Bring the cooler! Partially bury it in the sand, cover it with blankets, and shade it with a beach umbrella. Bring along disposable moist towelettes for cleaning hands. If dining along the boardwalk, make sure the food stands frequented look clean, and that hot foods are served hot and cold foods cold. Don’t eat anything that has been sitting out in the hot sun for more than 2 hours (1 hour when the temperature is above 90*F) – a real invitation for foodborne illness and a spoiled vacation.

When in the Vacation Home or the Recreation Vehicle…

If a vacation home or recreational vehicle has not been used for a while, check leftover canned food from last year. The Meat and Poultry Hotline recommends that canned foods which may have been exposed to freezing and thawing temperatures over the winter be discarded. Also, check the refrigerator. If unplugged from last year, thoroughly clean it before using. Make sure the refrigerator, food, preparation areas, and utensils in the vacation home or in the recreational vehicle are thoroughly cleaned with hot soapy water.

Your Family's Best Summer Yet

To avoid summer bummers, such as sunburn, dehydration and bug bites, protect your family from head to toe with these seasonal safety tips.

Stopping Sunburn

Summer’s sunny, warm days are perfect for playing outside. Just make sure to take care of your child’s skin. Too much exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays and too many sunburns can raise lifetime risk of melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. The sun is strongest during the middle of the day. It’s best to keep kids indoors between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If they are going to be outside during that time, make sure they wear hats, sunglasses, and long sleeves and pants if possible. Look for clothing and swimsuits with UV protection factor (UPF). These clothes are specially designed to block UV rays. “Sun protection should be part of your family’s daily routine,” says Carrie Coughlin, MD, a Washington University pediatric dermatologist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “Kids are more likely to maintain sun-safe behaviors as they age if they are habits, not choices.”

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to prevent them, sunburns happen. Aloe Vera gel or petroleum jelly can help. Acetaminophen may also take some of the pain away. Call your child’s doctor for sunburn that blisters or one that occurs before one year of age.

Applied Science

When shopping for sunscreen, make sure the product is “broad-spectrum.” These sunscreens protected against both UVA rays, which can cause cancer, and UVB rays, which can cause sunburn as well as cancer. Select a sunscreen with at least SPF 30. Also, stick with creams, and forget sprays and gels. “Spray sunscreens can be hard to use because children move around a lot, and kids really should not breathe them in,” Dr. Coughlin says. “Plus, you have to rub the sunscreen into your child’s skin after spraying. At that point, you might as well use a lotion.”

“Gels are also hard to use.” Adds Kathryn Wade, MD, a Washington University clinical associate pediatrician at University Pediatric Associates. “You can’t see the gel on a child’s skin so you may miss patches of skin while you’re putting it on.”

Hit the Water

Make sure kids drink plenty of water whenever they are outside. Sunburns and heavy sweating cause your child’s body to lose water. That leads to a condition called dehydration. “Water is the best drink to prevent dehydration,” Dr. Wade says. “Sports drinks are OK if a child has exercise nonstop for 60 minutes. But they have extra sugar and calories. Water should be the first choice for kids of all ages to drink before, during and after sports or play.”

Did you know?

The signs of sunburn usually show up six to 12 hours after you’re in the sun. It will hurt the most for the first 24 hours. Put sunscreen on every two hours when playing outside. Always reapply after swimming or sweating. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say insect repellents with 10 to 30 percent DEET should not be used on children younger than 2 months.

Visit and search “summer safety tips” to download our Summer Safety Tips checklist.

Enjoying the Family Meal

Helping with family meals makes your child feel important in your family. You get time together, too. Your child learns even when tasks are not perfectly done. So even if you work faster alone, ask your child to help you.

  • Pick flowers for the table
  • Create paper placemats
  • Put pets in another room, if they demand family attention at mealtime.
  • Clear and wash the table. Wash his or her hands.
  • Help with table setting
  • Help with simple kitchen tasks, perhaps tearing salad greens or putting bread in a basket.
  • Pour milk, perhaps with your help.
  • Turn off the TV. Turn on fun music
  • Clear and clean table
  • Ask “What would you like to do to help me?” Jot their ideas down.

Does it seem impossible to fit family meals into your hectic schedule? Go step by step. Try to enjoy at least one family meal together each week. See what works and plan from there.

Save More at the Grocery Store

10 MyPlate tips to stretch your food dollar

  1. Find deals right under your nose- Look for coupons with your receipt, as peel-offs on items, and on signs along aisle shelves.
  2. Search for coupons –Many stores still send ads and coupons for promotion, so don’t overlook that so-called “junk mail.” You can also do a Web search for “coupons.” Go through your coupons at least once a month and toss out any expired ones.
  3. Look for savings in the newspaper- Brand name coupons are found as inserts in the paper every Sunday— except on holiday weekends. Some stores will double the value of brand name coupons on certain days.
  4. Join your store’s loyalty program- Signup is usually free and you can receive savings and electronic coupons when you provide your email address
  5. Buy when foods are on sale- Maximize your savings by using coupons on sale items. You may find huge deals such as “buy one get one free.”
  6. Find out if the store will match competitor’s coupons- Many stores will accept coupons, as long as they are for the same item. Check with the customer service desk for further details.
  7. Stay organized so coupons are easy to find- Sort your coupons either by item or in alphabetical order. Develop a system that’s easiest for you and make finding coupons quick and hassle-free. Ideas for coupon storage include 3-ring binders, accordion-style organizer, or plain envelopes.
  8. Find a coupon buddy- Swap coupons you won’t use with a friend. You can get rid of clutter and discover additional discounts.
  9. Compare brands- Store brands can be less expensive than some of the name brand foods. Compare the items to find better prices.
  10. Stick to the list- Make a shopping list for all the items you need. Keep a running list on your phone, on the refrigerator, or in a wallet. When you’re in the store, do your best to buy only the items on your list.

Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion  Go to for more information

Food Safety at Fairs and Festivals

A big part of summer for many people is attending fairs and festivals. There are always fun things to see and experience, including art work, music, games and rides. One of the biggest draws to these events is the many different types of foods and drinks available.

Foodborne illnesses increase during the summer months making it even more important to follow food safety steps. There are several reasons that foodborne illnesses increase in summer; one is that people are cooking and eating outside more often. Sometimes the usual safety controls that a kitchen provides, like, monitoring of food temperatures, refrigeration, workers trained in food safety and washing facilities, may not be available when cooking and dining at fairs and festivals.

Remember that food safety practices should be the same at fairs as they are at restaurants and at home; clean, separate, cook and chill. Learn more about these steps here and reduce the chance you’ll get a foodborne illness this summer.


What should you consider before buying food from a vendor?

  • Does the vendor have a clean/tidy workstation?
  • Does the vendor have a sink for employees to wash their hands?
  • Do the employees wear gloves or use tongs when handling food?
  • Does the vendor have refrigeration on site for raw ingredients or pre-cooked foods?
  • Has the vendor been inspected? Is a recent inspection report available? Requirements vary by state, but in general temporary and mobile vendors, like those at fairs and carnivals, should have a license to sell food and beverages in a particular state or country for a specific time period. You can check with the local health department to see if the vendors are licensed and if a food inspection has been completed.

Are there healthy food alternative to consider at fairs and festivals?

When purchasing food from a vendor, look for healthy options first. If they are not available, consider bringing your own food to save money and calories. Bringing food from home allows you to eat a healthy meal or snack as a family while still enjoying the festive atmosphere around you. Don’t forget to keep safe food storage practices in mind. Always remember to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.

If bringing food from home, what is proper food handling and storage practices?

If you bring food to a fair or festival from home, be sure to keep food handling and storage times in mind don’t let food sit out for more than two hours. On a hot day (90*F or higher) reduce this time to one hours. Be sure to put perishable items in a cooler or insulated bag.

What steps can you take to protect you and your family?

Wash hands often:

  • Find out where hand washing stations are located.
  • Always wash your hands right after petting animals, touch the animal enclosure, and exiting animal areas- even if you did not touch an animal.
  • Always wash hands after using the restroom, after playing a game or going on a ride, before eating and drinking, before preparing food or drinks, after changing diapers, and after removing soiled clothes or shoes.
  • Bring hand sanitizers or disposable wipes in case there aren’t any places to wash your hands.
  • Wash your hands with soap and clean running water for a least 20 seconds. Directions for washing hands can be found here.

Report Illness:

Anytime you think you may have gotten a foodborne illness, report it to your local health department, even if you have already recovered. The local public health department is an important part of the food safety system. Often, calls from concerned citizens are how outbreaks are first detected. If a public health official contacts you to find out more about an illness you had, your help is important. Information from healthy people can be just as important as information from sick people in public health investigations. Your help may be needed even if you are not sick.

Food Venues, Community Organizations, and Fair Organizers

Requirements differ by state, but in general temporary and mobile food vendors should apply for a food license with the fair’s state or county health department. Many community-based organizations set up booths to sell various foods at local festivals and fairs too. There are special exceptions but it is better to be safe than sorry – get a license! Contact information for local and state heath departments can be found here. Fair organizers should try to include a person trained in food safety throughout the planning process as well as have them present at the fair. It is important that food safety steps are followed so the food served doesn’t make anyone sick. Try to limit the amount of food preparation preformed off-site, a practice known as cook-serve. Also follow the four basic food safety steps: clean, separate, cook and chill

Now you’re on your way to a safe and healthy summer!

To read the full feature from CDC, visit