Healthy Children - October 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. 

Be Active Today

Eating healthier foods is important, but we also need to be physically active. Adults should try to be active most days of the week. Children should try to be active every day. Think about activities you enjoy and find ways to move throughout the day. Some physical activity is better than none at all.

  • Adults need to be physically active for at least 2 ½ hours during the week.
  • Kids need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
  • Children 2 to 5 years old should play actively throughout the day.

Find ways to be more active your way. Adults should do some type of moderate-intensity activity throughout the week. You may need more physical activity to lose or maintain a healthy weight. See 
below for ideas: 

  • Walking briskly
  • Jogging
  • Dancing
  • Bicycling
  • Gardening

Tips for Being Physically Active

Start Slow - If you are just getting started, you can start slowly by doing 10 minutes of activity at a time. Add more time and intensity as you get stronger. A local library may offer free videos or you can find videos online to get you started.
Walking works - Walk in an area that is comfortable for you like in your neighborhood, at a park, or in the mall. If your child’s school is nearby, walk with him or her to school.
Look for activities in your community - Check a local community center or place of worship for free or low-cost exercise programs, fitness classes, and activities for you or your kids.
Move throughout the day – Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk the dog instead of letting the dog outside. Do push-ups and sit-ups as you listen to your favorite song. Park farther away from the store, so you can add steps to your day.
Build stronger muscles - Yoga and lifting light weights are good ways to build your muscles. Try doing strength – building activities at least 2 days each week.
Be active at any age - Everyone benefits from physical activity. You can play with your toddler in the yard or walk with a grandparent to the bus. Play sports like soccer with other adults win your community or enjoy a game of tag with your friends.
Even if your family is busy, there are many ways to be active. Being more physically active can help you feel better about yourself and give your more energy. Look for friends, family, or members in your community who will support your efforts to move more.


Activity: Over, Under, Around, and Through

Purpose of Activity: To explore a variety of traveling skills while helping children to understand the concepts of moving over, under, around, and through objects.

Activity cues: move body slowly, under control.

Suggested Grade Level: Pre-K

Materials Needed: A variety of different objects including cones, boxes, tunnels, chairs, and empty 2-liter plastic soda bottles.

Descriptions of Idea

Scatter obstacles throughout the movement space and ask children to find and explore as many ways possible to travel around, over, under, or through the obstacles. Ask that they think about which objects are better for traveling over, under, around and through and place an emphasis on children traveling under control. Also, ask children to think of a variety of ways to travel when they are moving from one obstacle to the next (gallop, sliding, crawling, hopping, etc.)

Teaching Suggestions: obstacles should be spaced throughout the movement space so there is plenty of space between and around objects.

Variations: For those teachers who do not have tunnels, a tunnel can be made by draping a sheet or blanket over several chairs.

Assessment Ideas: As children move through space and around obstacles ask them to point out which objects are best to go under, around, over and through. Use a checklist to record children’s understanding of the concepts

Adaptations for Students with Disabilities: This activity works well for children with disabilities with few adaptations. For children in wheelchairs set up a broom stick between two chairs or poles for children to roll under. For some children who are more mobile, mats may need to be placed on the floor around the objects.

10 tips to Vary Your Protein Routine


Protein foods include both animal (meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs) and plant (beans, peas, soy products, nuts, and seeds) sources. We all need protein – but most Americans eat enough, and some eat more than they need. How much is enough? Most people, ages 9 and older, should eat 5-7 ounces* of protein foods each day depending on overall calorie needs.

  1. Vary your protein Food Choices - Eat a variety of foods from the protein foods group each week. Experiment with main dishes made with beans or peas, nuts, soy, and seafood.
  2. Choose seafood twice a week - Eat seafood in place of meat or poultry twice a week. Select a variety of seafood – include some that are higher in oils and low in mercury, such a salmon, trout, and herring.
  3. Make meat and poultry lean or low fat - Choose lean or low-fat cuts of meat like round or sirloin
  4. Have an egg - One egg a day, on average, doesn’t increase risk for heart disease, so make eggs part of your weekly choices. Only the egg yolk contains saturated fat, so have as many egg whites as you want.
  5. Eat plant protein foods more often - Try beans and peas (kidney, pinto, black, or white beans; split peas; chickpeas; hummus), soy products (tofu, tempeh, and veggie burgers), nuts, and seeds. They are naturally low in saturated fat and high in fiber.
  6. Nuts and seeds - Choose unsalted nuts or seeds as a snack, on salads, or in main dishes to replace meat or poultry. Nuts and seeds are a concentrated source of calories, so eat small portions to keep calories in check.
  7. Keep it tasty and healthy - Try grilling, broiling, roasting, or baking – they don’t add extra fat. Some lean meats need slow, moist cooking to be tender – try a slow cooker for them. Avoid breading meat or poultry, which adds calories.
  8. Make a healthy sandwich – Choose Turkey, roast beef, canned tuna or salmon, or peanut butter for sandwiches. Many deli meats, such as regular bologna or salami are high in fat and sodium – make them occasional treats only.
  9. Think small when it comes to meat portions – Get the flavor you crave but in a smaller portion. Make or order a small turkey burger or a “petite” size steak.
  10. Check the sodium – Check the Nutrition Facts label to limit sodium. Salt is added to many canned foods – including soups, vegetables, beans, and meats. Many processed meats – such as ham, sausage, and hot dogs – are high in sodium. Some fresh chicken, turkey, and pork are brined in a salt solution for flavor and tenderness.

*What counts as an ounce of protein foods? 1 ounce lean meat, poultry or seafood; 1 egg; ¼ cup cooked beans or peas; ½ ounce nuts or seeds; or 1 tablespoon peanut butter.


Go to for more information.  

Kitchen Activities

Get your preschooler to try new foods by having them help you in the kitchen. Kids feel good about doing something “grown-up.” Give them small jobs to do. Praise their efforts. Children are less likely to reject foods that they help to make. As preschoolers grow, they are able to help out with different tasks in the kitchen. While the following suggestions are typical, children may develop these skills at different ages.

Age 2: Wipes tables, hand items to adult to put away (such as after grocery shopping), place thins in trash, tear lettuce or greens, help “read” a cookbook by turning the pages, make “faces” out of pieces of fruits and vegetables, rinse vegetables or fruits, snap green beans.
Age 3: All that a two year old can do plus…. Add ingredients, talk about cooking, scoop or mash potatoes, squeeze citrus fruits, stir pancake batter, knead and shape dough, name and count foods, help assemble a pizza.
Age 4: All that a three year old can do plus… Peel eggs and some fruits such as oranges and bananas, set the table, crack eggs, help measure dry ingredients, help make sandwiches and tossed salads
Age 5: All that a four year old can do plus… Measure liquids, cut soft fruits with a dull knife, use an egg beater.

What is an entrée?

For purposes of Smart Snacks, an entrée is defined as the main course of a meal that has a combination of:

  • Meat/meat alternative + whole grain-rich food
  • Vegetable + meat/meat alternative
  • Fruit + meat/meat alternative
  • Meat/meat alternative alone, except for meat snacks (e.g., beef jerky), yogurt cheese, nuts, seeds, and Nuts or seed butters
  • A grain only, whole grain-rich entrée that is served as the main dish of the School Breakfast Program reimbursable meal.


The Power of Sugar


A chocolate chip cookie. An ice cream cone. A bag of skittles. A doughnut or slice of cake. All of these treats bring such delight to a child. It’s almost magical how quickly a troubled child becomes happy once anything loaded with sugar is given to them. You will quickly become one of the world’s greatest parents, aunties or teachers if this is your method of keeping a child happy. Have you ever asked yourself why children get so excited about such treats? Why is it that children from around the globe have the very same reaction? What is it about sugar?

Research shows that when sugar is eaten, it sends out a trigger to our brain that brings us instant pleasure. This trigger of pleasure becomes addictive to us and causes the brain to seek it over and over again. It is difficult for a child to practice self-control when presented with such an influence. It is the responsibility of the care giver to monitor and control the child’s sugar intake.

Too much sugar in the diet can lead to unhealthy weight gain. Too much sugar in the diet can also increase the risk of cavities. Both of these risks can become a financial burden for the care giver and compromises the overall health of the child.

There are other types of foods that have a more positive effect on the brain. These foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats, without the added sugar. You can even be creative when presenting these foods to the child. Since fruit is naturally sweet, the recipe below should help curb the child’s desire for sugar and also put a smile on their face. 

Apple Salad

Makes 6 (1/2 cup) servings


  • 1 cup diced apple
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ½ cup diced celery
  • ½ cup grated carrot
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup vanilla yogurt


  1. Wash apples, celery, and carrots before dicing and grating
  2. Toss apples with lemon juice
  3. Add celery, carrot and raisins.
  4. Fold yogurt into apple mixture
  5. Cover. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving
  6. Refrigerate leftovers.