Healthy Children - December 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. 

How to Safely Thaw a Turkey

While frozen, a turkey is safe indefinitely. As soon as it begins to thaw bacteria that may have been present before freezing will begin to grow again. There are three safe ways to defrost a turkey:

3 Way to Thaw a Turkey

Refrigerator Thawing (recommended)

The USDA recommends thawing your turkey in the refrigerator. This is the safest method because the turkey will thaw at a consistent safe temperature. This method does take some time, allow approximately 24 hours for every 4-5 lbs. of bird. If your turkey weighs 16 pounds it will take about four days to thaw. Once thawed the turkey is safe for another two days so you can start thawing it six days before thanksgiving.

Cold Water

For the cold water method, leave the turkey in its original wrapping and submerge it in a sink or container full of cold water. It is important that the water be cold so that the turkey stays at a safe temperature. You should change the water every 30 minutes. Empty out the water and replace it with fresh cold water. With this method, allow 30 minutes of defrosting time per pound. A 16 pound turkey will take 8 hours to thaw using this method (so you might need to start around 3 a.m. if you want to eat in the afternoon!).


Before you commit to thawing your turkey in the microwave, check your owner’s manual for the size turkey that will fit in your microwave oven, the minutes per pound and the power level to use when thawing a turkey. Remove all outside wrapping and place the turkey on a microwave-safe dish to catch any juices that may leak. Use the defrost function based on weight. As a general rule allow 6 minutes per pound when thawing a turkey in the microwave. Be sure to rotate it several times, and even flip it, during the thawing process. If the turkey starts to actually cook instead of just defrost, let it rest for 5 minutes or so before you resume thawing, partway through thawing you may wish to cover the tips of the wings and drumsticks to shield them from the microwaves and keep them from cooking. Once the turkey has thawed you should cook it immediately.

How NOT to thaw a turkey

In case you are wondering, here are some thawing methods that are not recommended:

  • Thawing a turkey on the counter, in the garage or on the back porch
  • Thawing a turkey in a brown paper grocery bag or plastic garbage bag
  • Using the dishwasher to thaw a turkey (with or without water)
  • Any method that is not the refrigerator, cold water, or the microwave

How to Cook a Frozen Turkey

If your turkey is still icy on Thanksgiving morning, don’t panic! It is perfectly safe to cook a turkey from the frozen state; it will just take longer to cook. A solidly frozen turkey will take at least 50 percent longer to cook than a thawed turkey. If your turkey is only partially frozen, remember that it will take a bit longer to cook. Use your food thermometer, and when your bird measures 165*F in the innermost part of the thigh, the innermost part of the wing and the thickest part of the breast, it is ready. For more information on safe thawing methods, visit

Healthy Dessert Idea: Sorbet

Sorbets are frozen desserts that are created from water sweetened with flavoring, usually fruit, puree, or fruit juice. Homemade sorbets are a great way to fill sugar cravings without overindulging. Try this super simple plum sorbet that does not use any extravagant amounts of sugar but still yields the sweetness desired!

1 ½ lbs. plums, diced
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. lemon juice

Toss plums with honey and sugar and let sit for a while. Place plums in blender and process until very smooth. If needed, add in one tbsp. apple juice to facilitate blending. Season with lemon juice and refrigerate until very cold. Pour chilled mixture into a freezer safe container with a lid and put in freezer. With intervals of 30 minutes in between, stir the sorbet until it is fully frozen. This can take up to two hours. If you have an ice cream maker, process the mixture according to manufacturer’s instructions for quicker results. Top with toasted nuts of your choice.

Enjoy your food, but eat less! 

You can enjoy your meals while making small adjustments to the amounts of food on your plate. Healthy meals start with more vegetables and fruits and smaller portions of protein and grains. And don’t forget dairy – include fat-free or low-fat dairy products on your plate, or drink milk with your meal.

  1. Get to know the foods you eat – use the super tracker to find out what kinds of foods and how much to eat and to get tips and support for making better food choices.
  2. Take your time – Be mindful to eat slowly, enjoy the taste and textures, and pay attention to how you feel. Use hunger and fullness cues to recognize when to eat and when you’ve had enough.
  3. Use a smaller plate – Use a smaller plate at meals to help with portion control. That way you can finish your entire plate and feel satisfied without overeating.
  4. If you eat out, choose healthier options – check and compare nutrition information about the foods you are eating. Preparing food at home makes it easier to control what is in your meals.
  5. Satisfy your sweet tooth in a healthy way – Indulge in a naturally sweet dessert dish – fruit! Serve a fresh fruit cocktail or a fruit parfait made with yogurt. For a hot dessert, bake apples and top with cinnamon.
  6. Choose to eat some foods more or less often – choose more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fat – free or low-fat milk and dairy products. Cut back on foods high in solid fats, added sugars, and salt.
  7. Find out what you need – Get your personalized plan by using the SuperTracker to identify your food group targets. Compare the foods you eat to the food you need to eat at
  8. Sip smarter – drink water or other calorie free beverages, 100% juice, or fat-free milk when you are thirsty. Soda and other sweet drinks contain a lot of sugar and are high in calories.
  9. Compare foods – Check out the Food-A-Pedia at to look up and compare nutrition information for more than 8,000 foods.
  10. Make treats “treats,” not everyday foods- treats are great once in a while. Just don’t make treat foods an everyday choice. Limit sweet treats to special occasions.  

Feeding your Newborn Baby on a Budget

Are you concerned about ways that you can properly nourish your newborn baby and still stay within your budget? In today’s society, there always seems to be something pulling at our pocket book. Paying bills, transportation, and unavoidable financial setbacks alone are guilty of holding many of our finances hostage. But I have good news! There is a way for you to save money, nourish your child, and even improve your overall health in the process: Breastfeeding.

A mother’s breast milk is tailored made for her baby. It contains all of the essential nutrients the baby needs for the first 6 months of life. Studies show that breastfed babies are less likely to get sick, they respond better to immunizations, and their immune system develops at a faster pace. When the baby’s immune system is in a better state there are fewer doctor visits for the baby, which means decreased health care cost for mom, which in turn keeps more money in mom’s pocket. Additionally, if your baby is breastfed, there is no need to purchase formula, bottles, or purified water.

Breastfeeding helps mom lose weight, decreases her risk of chronic disease, and allows for mom and the baby to bond. Breastfeeding is also convenient for mom. For example, when the baby needs to be fed in the middle of the night, it is more convenient to nurse the baby, than to get out of bed, make a bottle, and then make sure that the bottle is at the proper temperature. As you can see, breastfeeding is not only the perfect solution when feeding your newborn on a budget, but also for proper nourishment and the overall health of mom and baby.

Written by: Antonia Mercer, Early childhood Intervention Coordinator at UIC Chicago Partnership for Health promotion

How to Make New Friends After You Move

Moving to a new place can be both exciting and a little unsettling, so it’s understandable if you’re worried about fitting in and making new friends. We’ve all been there – it’s completely normal to feel like that. The best way to find lasting friendships with people who care about you is to just be yourself, so don’t be afraid to let your new friends get to know the real you.

One of the best ways to have good friends is to be a good friend first – it may be one of the best things you ever do. A close circle of friends can help you feel like you belong in your new place. Here are a few tips for being a good friend:

Be a good listener. Show people that you care about their interests and feelings by truly listening to them.

Be yourself. You shouldn’t have to pretend to be someone you aren’t True friends will accept you for who you are.

Let your friends be themselves, too. Acceptance is a two-way street. Being a good friend means accepting your friends for who they are and treating them with respect.

Be positive. Positive attitudes are contagious, and people like to be around people who are uplifting.

Avoid judging quickly. Get to know people before deciding whether or not you want to be their friend.

Don’t spread gossip and rumors. For teenagers, gossip can seem almost impossible to avoid. Do your best to rise above the rumors and resist taking part in hurtful conversations.

Get involved. Friendships are often built on common interests, so consider joining clubs at school or taking part in activities on your installation to meet people with similar interest.

Be patient. Building friendships takes time, but it’s worth it. You might not instantly have a whole new set of friends, and that’s OK. True friendships grow in time.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and show the people in your town what a great friend you are!