Healthy Children - January 2017

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. 

5 Things to Know about Kids and Diabetes

Diabetes occurs when a child’s body can’t process sugar from food very well. Here’s what parents need to know about this disease.

  1. There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is not as common as Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes usually shows up in children, but Type 2 diabetes is more likely to appear in adults than kids. If you have Type 1 diabetes, your body does not make enough insulin, a hormone that helps process sugar from food. If you have Type 2 diabetes, your body does not respond to insulin the way it should.
  2. More kids are getting Type 2 diabetes. “Being overweight can lead to Type 2 diabetes in children,” says John Galgani, MD, a community pediatrician at Esse Health, board-certified pediatric endocrinologist and president-elect of the medical staff at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “Kids who have a family history of diabetes are also at risk.”
  3. You can prevent Type 2 diabetes. “Getting lots of exercise and physical activity helps keep kids from gaining too much weight and lowers their chances of getting Type 2 diabetes.” Dr. Galgani says, “Children should also eat a healthy diet. As least half their plates should be filled with fruits and vegetables. Avoid sugary sodas and fruit drinks.”
  4. Both types can cause similar symptoms. Going to the bathroom a lot and drinking a lot of water are signs of both types of diabetes. Losing weight and suddenly having problems with wetting the bed are also common in children with diabetes.
  5. Controlling diabetes is important for kids. “Both types of diabetes put kids at risk for serious problems that can take years to develop,” says Paul Hruz, MD, PhD, at Washington University pediatric endocrinologist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “Vision problems, eye disease, kidney problems, heart disease and amputations can affect kids when they get older. A child who is diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at age 10 will have the disease longer than an adult diagnosed at age 30 or 40. She’ll also have more chances to get problems if the disease isn’t controlled.”

Treating Diabetes

Whether kids have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, keeping blood sugar levels under control is important. A healthy diet and regular exercise are good for children with either type. “Diabetes is also treated with medicine,” says Dr. Hruz. “All kids with Type 1 diabetes need medicine, but not all kids with Type 2 diabetes do. Depending on their family history and lifestyle, these kids may be able to manage with diet and exercise alone.”

To learn more about caring for diabetes call 314-454.KIDS (5437) or 800.678.KIDS (5437).


Reading a Nutrition Facts Label 

Almost all foods that come in packages have a nutrition facts label. Those labels tell you just about everything you need to know to make healthy food choices. So it’s a good idea to learn to read them. Here’s how. . .

Start with Serving Size: What you eat is important. But so is how much you eat. So start by looking at the nutrition label. The label tells you the amount of nutrients and calories you would get for every ½ cup eaten. If there are 3.5 servings in a container and you didn’t know that and ate the whole can, you’d be getting 3.5 times the calories, fat and everything else shown on the label! Talk with your diabetes care team about how much of each nutrient on the label you need every day.

Calories: If you’re trying to lose weight or even keep your weight the same, the number of calories you eat counts. To lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than your body burns. Talk with your diabetes care team about how many calories you need each day. Then use this line to see if the food fits into your plan. You can read the Nutrition Fact labels to compare calorie counts of similar foods to find the lowest – calorie option.

Total Fat: This line tells you how much fat is in a serving of this food. It includes fats that are good for you, such as mono- and polyunsaturated fats. It also includes fats that are not good for you, such as Saturated fats and Trans fats. Eating lower-fat foods more often may help with calorie control and keeping a healthy body weight. A low-fat food contains 3 grams or less of fat per serving.

Sodium: Sodium does not affect your blood sugar. But many people eat more sodium than they need. Intake of no more than 2.3 grams (1tsp) a day is recommended. Sodium comes in many forms. When we think of sodium sources, we often think first of table salt. But the fact is that many of the foods we eat contain sodium. Reading the label can help you compare the amount of sodium in different foods so that you can choose lower sodium options.

Total Carbohydrate: If you are counting carbs, this is a very important place to look. “Total carbohydrate” includes sugar, starches, and fiber.
Fiber: Fiber is the part of plant foods that the body does not digest. Adults should aim to eat 25-30 grams of fiber a day.
Sugars: Sugars raise blood sugar quickly. So it’s important to be aware of foods with a lot of sugar. Choose foods with less than 5 grams of sugar in 1 serving size.

Protein: Protein is needed by the body. And it does not raise your blood sugar very much unless you eat or drink large portions. One protein serving is no bigger than the size of a deck of cards.

% Daily Value: 5% daily value or less means that the food is low in that nutrient. 20% daily value or more means that the food is high in that nutrient

Try these tips when using the Nutrition Facts label to choose your foods:

  • Keep these low:  saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol and Sodium
  • Get the daily recommended dosage of potassium, fiber, iron, and vitamins A, D and C.

Enjoy Foods from Many Cultures

10 Tips to Wisely Celebrate Healthier Foods and Customs 

  1. Cook with others: Learn about cooking different traditional or regional foods from others who use authentic recipes and ingredients and explore ways to improve the nutrition of some of your own family favorites. Cooking dishes at home allows you to add variety to meals. If needed, adapt recipes by cutting back on gravies, creams, and sauces; adding more vegetables; or baking instead of frying.
  2. Blend cultures: Many popular foods and beverages in America blend the cuisines of many cultures. Celebrate our nations’ diversity and be inspired by dishes that include more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seafood, lean meats, and low-fat dairy.
  3. Add a touch of spice: Combinations of herbs and spices often remind us of dishes from our own heritage or our favorite ethnic food. Add flavor to meals with herbs and spices, such as chili, garlic, ginger, basil, oregano, curry, or cilantro, which can replace salt and saturated fat.
  4. Use familiar foods to create exotic dishes: Use foods you know and prepare new recipes, such as adding curry to chick peas, cilantro to brown rice, or mango to your salad or smoothie. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  5. Find the salt and sodium and go with lower numbers: All packages foods are labeled to show amounts of sodium. Use “low-sodium” soy sauce, or broth or canned beans labeled “no salt added.” Check nutrition labels and use products that are lower in sodium or are salt-free.
  6. Think about beverages: Many cultures offer tasty beverages, such as fruit drinks, alcoholic drinks, rich coffees, and sweet teas. Consider using frozen fruits to create a great tasting smoothie, or adding spices, low-fat dairy and small amounts of sugar to make beverages. When buying prepared beverages, be sure to choose items with less sugar and fat. To manage calories, drink water or other unsweetened beverages instead of sugary drinks.
  7. Delight in cultural gatherings: Celebrate traditions, especially those that help you stay physically active. Have fun with traditional dances sports, and games that make you move. Balance what you eat with regular physical activity.
  8. Show children what’s important: Children learn to cook from their elders. Show kids how meals and dishes from various traditions are prepared. Let them taste foods they made, as you share related stories and customs from your own heritage or expose them to other cultures, but consider ways to cut back on high-calorie foods and ingredients.
  9. Make smart choices when dining out: Eating out offers tempting new dishes that make it easy to overeat. Choose lower calorie dishes, such as stir fries, kabobs, or whole-wheat pastas with tomato sauce. Split a dish or ask for a take-home container at the start of a meal to save part of what’s served on your plate.
  10. Remember, all types of foods fit on MyPlate: MyPlate is designed to remind Americans to eat healthfully, using foods from the food groups. The MyPlate website provides practical information, tips, tools, and recipes that will help you build a healthier diet. Go to

Apple Pistachio Crisp 

Servings: 4
Fruit based desserts can contribute to making half your plate fruits and veggies. True to their name, Honeycrisp apples are sweet and crunchy, perfectly delicious raw, but also ideal in baking. And their sweetness lends potential to reducing added sugar, as we did with this apple crisp.


3 apples (such as Honeycrisp, cored and cut into 1” chunks and unpeeled)
½ cup raisins
½ lemon (juiced)
½ cup old fashion oats
¼ cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 tablespoons brown sugar
¼ cup pistachios (unsalted, chopped)
2 tablespoons margarine or butter (melted)


  1. Place rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350* F.
  2. Place sliced apples, raisins, and lemon juice in 8” x 8” pan or baking dish; toss.
  3. In a bowl, mix remaining ingredients except melted margarine.
  4. Add melted margarine and mix until texture is consistent. Sprinkle over apple-raisin mixture.
  5. Bake uncovered 45-50 minutes or until apples are tender.

Food Safety 101 

Clean: Wash Hands and Surfaces Often

Bacteria can be spread throughout the kitchen and get onto hands, cutting board, utensils, counter tops, and food.

  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food and after using the bathroom or changing diapers
  • Wash your hands after playing with pets or visiting petting zoos.
  • Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next food.
  • Consider using paper towels to clean up kitchen surfaces. If you use cloth towels wash them often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.
  • Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten.
  • Rub firm-skinned fruits and vegetables under running tap water or scrub with a clean vegetable brush while rinsing with running tap water.
  • Keep books, backpacks, or shopping bags off the kitchen table or counters where food is prepared or served.

Separate: Don’t Cross Contaminate

Cross Contamination is how bacteria can be spread. When handling raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs, keep these foods and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods. Always start with clean scene-wash hands with warm water and soap. Wash cutting boards, dishes, countertops, and utensils with hot soapy water.

  • Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from other foods in your grocery shopping cart, grocery bags, and in your refrigerator.
  • Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
  • Use a thermometer, which measures the internal temperature of cooked meat, poultry, and egg dishes, to make sure that the food is cooked to a safe internal temperature.
  • Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs.

Cook to Proper Temperatures:

Food is safely cooked when it reaches a high enough internal temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness. Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of cooked foods.

  • Use a food thermometer, which measures the internal temperature of cooked meat, poultry, and egg dishes, to make sure that the food is cooked to a safe internal temperature.
  • Cook beef roasts and steaks to a safe minimum internal temperature of 145*F and cook pork to a minimum of 145*F. All poultry should reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165*F. All poultry should reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165*F throughout the bird, as measured with a food thermometer.
  • Cook all ground meat to 160*F. Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) links eating undercooked ground beef with a higher risk of illness. Remember, color is not a reliable indicator of doneness. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of your burgers.
  • Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm, not runny. Don’t use recipes in which eggs remain raw or only partially cooked. Casseroles and other dishes containing eggs should be cooked to 160*F.
  • Fish should be cooked to 145*F or until the flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork.
  • Make sure there are no cold spots in food (where bacteria can survive) when cooking in a microwave oven. For best results, cover food, stir and rotate for even cooking. If there is no turntable, rotate the dish by hand once or twice during cooking.
  • Bring sauces, soups and gravy to a boil when reheating. Heat other leftovers thoroughly to 165*F.
  • Use microwave-safe cookware and plastic wrap when cooking foods in a microwave oven.

Chill: Refrigerate Promptly

Refrigerate foods quickly because cold temperatures slow the growth of harmful bacteria. Do not over-stuff the refrigerator. Cold air must circulate to help keep food safe. Keeping a constant refrigerator temperature of 40*F or below is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Use an appliance thermometer to be sure the temperature is consistently 40*F or below. The freezer temperature should be 0*F or below.

  • Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs, and other perishables as soon as you get them home from the store.
  • Never let raw meat, poultry, eggs, cooked food, or cut fresh fruits or vegetables sit at room temperature more than two hours before putting them in the refrigerator or freezer (one hour when the temperature is above 90*F)
  • Never defrost food at room temperature. Food must be kept at a safe temperature during thawing. There are three safe ways to defrost food; in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave using the defrost setting. Food thawed in cold water or in the microwave should be cooked immediately.
  • Always marinate foo in the refrigerator.
  • Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooking in the refrigerator.
  • Use or discard refrigerated food on a regular basis.

Keeping Cold Lunches Cold:
Prepare cooked food, such as turkey, ham, chicken, and vegetable or pasta salads, ahead of tie to allow for thorough chilling in the refrigerator. Divide large amounts of food into shallow containers for fast chilling and easier use. Keep cooked food refrigerated until time to leave home.

To keep lunches cold away from home, include a small frozen gel pack or frozen juice box.

Of course, if there’s a refrigerator available, store perishable items there upon arrival. Insulated, soft-sided lunch boxes or bags are best for keeping food cold, in metal or plastic lunch boxes and paper bags can also be used. If using paper lunch bags, create layers by double bagging to help insulate the food.

Some food is safe without a cold source. Items that don’t require refrigeration include whole fruits and vegetables, hard cheese, unopened canned meat and fish, chips, breads, crackers, peanut butter, jelly, mustard, and pickles.

Keeping Hot Lunches Hot:
Use an insulated container to keep food like soup, chili, and stew hot. Fill the container with boiling water, let stand for a few minutes, empty, and then put in the piping hot food. Keep the insulated container closed until lunchtime to keep the food hot – 140*F or above.

For more information, visit the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)