Healthy Children - November 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. 

Fall is Here! Celebrate with Pumpkin, 5 Different Ways

Pumpkins aren’t just for Halloween! These versatile vegetables are an excellent source of vitamin A and dietary fiber. To demonstrate different ways you can incorporate this seasonal superstar, MyPlate is showcasing five easy recipes with pumpkin as the main ingredient.

MyPlate encourages you to make half your plate fruits and vegetables. People who eat more vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet are likely to have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases. Fruits and vegetables provide nutrients vital for the health and maintenance of your body. Pumpkins are full of color and are a great way to eat your veggies!

Try these recipes featuring pumpkin five different ways to add more vitamin A and dietary fiber to your menus:

The Grab and Go Breakfast: Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins – Bake up these muffins the night before and enjoy them with a glass of low-fat or fat-free milk for a delicious start to your day!

The Refreshing Beverage: Pumpkin Smoothie – Drink up the MyPlate way! One serving of this smoothie gives you ¼ cup from the Vegetable Group, ¼ cup from the Fruit Group, and ½ cup from the Dairy Group!

The Simple Weeknight Dinner: Pumpkin and White Bean Soup – Mashed beans plus pumpkin make this soup unique. Cook up a quick batch to enjoy on a busy weeknight!

The Sweet Treat: Pumpkin Pudding – Looking for a new dessert? Serve this pudding in small, festive cups for a great party treat.

The fun Family Breakfast: Perfect Pumpkin Pancakes – Fall weekends are full of activities and events. Start out your day together with a delicious breakfast! Kids can help to measure and mix the ingredients in this simple recipe.

For more healthy recipes, check out, and learn more about the Vegetable Group at

Fall Vegetables Bring Colorful Nutrients to the Table!

With the weather turning colder, it is a great time to enjoy seasonal fall vegetables. Buying vegetables in season is more cost effective and means you get the best quality produce. Four fall favorites in Illinois are broccoli, kale and collards, sweet potatoes and winter squash. These green and dark orange vegetables are packed with vitamins and nutrients such as vitamin A and vitamin C. These vitamins play a central role in supporting our immune system, making them a great choice as we had into the cold and flu season. Squash and sweet potatoes are also a good source of fiber which supports heart health.

Below are some tips and idea of how to prepare these nutritious colorful veggies for your family.

Make sure to clean and use broccoli in 4-5 days for best results. After removing crowns from the stem, leave it in larger chunks, or for younger family members, you can separate the florets into small pieces. It can be enjoyed raw with dip or can be added to soups, stews, and pasta dishes. Try roasting broccoli for a warm savory treat. Heat oven to 400 degrees and toss broccoli with small olive oil and your favorite herbs, and cook for 20 minutes. Be sure to place broccoli in a single layer on baking sheet to get nice crispy edges.

Kale and Collard Greens:
Make sure to refrigerate greens as soon as you get them home. They can be stored 5 days for best results, and you can wait to wash and clean them until you are ready to cook with them. Some are packaged pre-washed or ready to eat, so the following steps aren’t necessary. When preparing greens, pull off any outer leaves that are yellow or bruised. Place leaves in a bowl of water and rinse well, making sure to swish water around. Drain and repeat rinse again. Once water is clear, pat dry or you can even use a salad spinner. You can chop greens to add to stir-fry, soups, or even pasta sauce. You can even add a few leaves to your morning smoothie!

Sweet Potatoes:
These can be stored at room temperature for 5 to 7 days, but in a cool dark area will keep for about a month. Sweet potatoes can be roasted in a variety of ways. They can be roasted whole by placing them in the oven at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour, or can be prepared in the microwave by piercing the skin and cooking for 5-8 minutes. Sweet potato fries are a great way for younger family members to enjoy them. Wash and cut sweet potatoes into matchsticks. Toss with olive oil and arrange on baking dish. Cook for 30 minutes at 425 degrees.

Winter Squash:
These can be stored in a cool dark place for a month, but once you cut into them, they should be eaten within 3 to 4 days for best results. Like sweet potatoes, you can roast these in the oven or microwave. Microwave: Pierce the outside of the skin and microwave 6 to 8 minutes before turning. This will soften it, but allow time for it to cool off before cutting it in half. After scooping out seeds, place halves face down in a baking dish with about an inch of water. Cook until flesh is soft and can be pulled away easily with a fork. Oven: remove peel and chop into one inch cubes. Combine with carrots, onions, and sweet potatoes. Sprinkle with olive oil and herbs and lay flat in one layer on baking sheet. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes at 425 degrees.

Please see links below for additional fall vegetable recipe ideas:
Sweet Potato Casserole
Roasted Root Vegetables:
Pumpkin Peanut Butter Dip:
Baked Acorn Squash:
Fall Vegetable Soup:

Sherri Ambrose
University of Illinois Extension
Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) Educator

Roasted Pumpkin Seed Snack Mix

Makes: 8 Servings
Total Cost: $2.56
Serving Cost: $0.32

2 cups crispy rice or wheat cereal squares
½ cup roasted whole pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup slivered almonds
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup raisins

Mix all ingredients together and serve.


Move, Play and Learn at Home

Color Find

Get Ready:
This can be played all over the house. No equipment is required but it may be helpful to have a visual of the different colors.

Get Set:
Start anywhere in the house where there are a variety of colors. Decide what movement to use (e.g. walking, running, sliding, hopping, etc.).


  • Point to a color and ask your child to name it
  • Then hold up a certain number of fingers and ask him/her to count them.
  • His/Her job is to use the designated movement to move to and touch that number of the identified color of objects (e.g., gallop to 5 different purple objects or run and touch 4 orange objects).
  • You can also play this outdoors, either in a yard or park. Explore the colorful natural manmade elements in your area.

Give Me a Ride

Get Ready:
You will need a laundry basket or a box and a favorite toy or stuffed animal to put in the box/basket. This game requires using a floor that will allow the basket/box to slide when pushed or pulled.

Get Set:
Put the toy in the basket.

Give the toy a ride around the house. First push it all over the space and then try pulling it. End with a ride for the child.

Carbohydrates Portion Chart

Breads, Grains and Cereals:
1 Ounce bread product (1 slice bread, ¼ large bagel, 6” tortilla)
1/3 cup cooked rice or pasta
1 cup coup
¾ ounce unsweetened cold cereal (serving sizes vary, check label)
½ cup cooked cereal
3 cups air-popped popcorn

Milk and Yogurt:
1 cup milk
1 cup low-fat or skim milk, or 6 ounces low-fat or fat-free plain or Greek yogurt
6 ounces flavored yogurt made with low-calorie sweetener (these vary, check label)

1 Small piece fresh fruit
½ medium fruit (apple, banana)
½ cup canned fruit in own juice
1 cup honeydew or cantaloupe
1 ¼ cup honeydew or cantaloupe
1 ¼ cup watermelon
½ cup fruit juice
2 TBSP dried fruit
1 cup raspberries
1 ¼ cup strawberries
1 cup blackberries
¾ cup blueberries

Vegetables and Beans:
½ cup potato, sweet potato, peas, corn
½ cup cooked beans, legumes (garbanzo, kidney, black beans)
1 cup winter squash
1/3 cup cooked cassava, yam, and taro
1/3 plantain (green or yellow)
1 ½ cups cooked vegetables (small portions of non-starchy vegetables are free)

Sweets and Snack Foods:
¾ ounce snack food (pretzels, 4-6 crackers)
8 baked chips, potato, pita
13 regular chips, tortilla, potato
1 ounce sweet snack (2 small sandwich cookies, 5 vanilla wafers)
1 TBSP sugar or honey
½ cup regular ice cream

The lists above provide a basic idea of the carb count in common foods. Each portion is one carbohydrate choice (15 grams of carbohydrate). Foods with fewer than 20 calories and fewer than 5 grams of carbohydrate are considered “free.” These include sugar-free beverages, sugar substitutes, spices and seasonings.

Carbohydrate choices for common serving sizes:
1 regular sandwich = 2 carbohydrate choices or about 360 grams of carbohydrates
1 6” sub sandwich = 3 carbohydrate choices or about 45 grams of carbohydrates
1 cup cooked rice or pasta = 3 carbohydrate choices or about 45 grams of carbohydrates
1 medium (average) apple or banana = 2 carbohydrate choices or about 30 grams of carbohydrates
Better carbohydrate choices- Carbohydrate counting is important, but the type of carbohydrate also is important for both blood glucose and overall health. All carbohydrates are not the same. Choose better carbohydrate choices, such as whole grains and less-processed foods.
Opt for beans and other legumes.
Select whole grain bread, whole grain pasta and brown rice over white (refined) varieties.
Experiment with many types of whole grains, including barley, oatmeal, quinoa and bulgur.
Go for whole fruits instead of fruit juice or sugary foods.
Select a variety of vegetables such as cauliflower, tomato, carrots and spinach (most vegetables are great choices).

MyPlate 10 Tips for Eating Out

Restaurants, convenience and grocery stores, or fast-food places offer a variety of options when eating out. But larger portions can make it easy to eat or drink too many calories. Larger helpings can also increase your intake of saturated fat, sodium and added sugars. Think about ways to make healthier choices when eating food away from home.

  1. Consider your drink – Choose water, fat-free or law-fat milk, unsweetened tea, and other drinks without add sugars to complement your meal.
  2. Savor a salad – Start your meal with a salad packed with vegetables to help you feel satisfied sooner. Ask for dressing on the side and use a small amount of it.
  3. Share a main dish – Divide a main entrée between family and friends. Ask for small plates for everyone at the table.
  4. Select from the sides – Order a side dish or an appetizer-sized portion instead of a regular entrée. They’re usually served on smaller plates and in small amounts.
  5. Pack your snack – Pack fruit, sliced vegetables, low-fat string cheese, or unsalted nuts to eat during road trips or long commutes. No need to stop for other food when these snacks are ready-to-eat.
  6. Fill your plate with vegetables and fruit – Stir-fries, kabobs, or vegetarian menu items usually have more vegetables. Select fruits as a side dish or dessert.
  7. Compare the calories, fat and sodium – Many menus now include nutrition information. Look for items that are lower in calories, saturated fat, and sodium. Check with your server if you don’t see them on the menu. For more information, check
  8. Pass on the buffet – Have an item from the menu and avoid the “all-you-can-eat” buffet. Steamed, grilled, or broiled dishes have fewer calories than foods that are friend in oil or cooked in butter.
  9. Get your whole grains- Request 100% whole-wheat breads, rolls, and pasta when choosing sandwiches, burgers, or main dishes.
  10. Quit the “clean your plate club” – Decide to save some for another meal. Take leftovers home in a container and chill in the refrigerator right away.

Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion      Go to for more information.