Healthy Children - February 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. 

Fresh Start

The holidays are over and the New Year has arrived. The trees and decorations have been put back into storage and now it’s time for a fresh start! Why not start off the year with fresh fruits, fresh veggies, and a new found goal of starting and reviving healthy habits? Not only do you have the opportunity for a fresh start, but you can also do it with little, to no cost!

When fresh fruits and vegetables are in season, they taste the best and cost less.  A few of the fruits and vegetables that are in season for the winter months include: apples, oranges, pears, grapefruit, yams, and tangerines. Make a New Year’s resolution on behalf of your family that you are going to start this year off fresh! Below are some cooking and shopping tips that you may want to keep in mind to help you during your fresh start.

Always steam vegetables in small amounts of water to keep the vitamins from being washed out in the cooking water.
Add low fat or reduced calorie dressing with some herbs and spices to flavor your vegetables instead of butter, sauces, cheese or frying.
Cut vegetables into smaller pieces of the same size for even cooking.
Buy only enough fresh produce to be used in 3-4 days to prevent spoilage and waste.
When fruits & vegetables are on sale, buy more so they can be frozen for use later.

Antonia Mercer, MS
Early Childhood Intervention Coordinator
UIC Chicago Partnership for Health Promotion
Office of Community Engagement and Neighborhood
Health Partnership


Trying New Foods

Your child may not want to try new foods. It is normal for children to reject foods they have never tried before. Here are some tips to get your child to try new foods:

  • Small portions, big benefits - Let your kids try small portions of new foods that you enjoy. Give them a small taste at first and be patient with them. When they develop a taste for more types of foods, it’s easier to plan family meals.
  • Offer only one new food at a time - Serve something that you know your child likes along with the new food. Offering more new foods all at once could be too much for your child.
  • Be a good role model - Try new foods yourself. Describe their taste, texture, and smell to your child.
  • Offer new foods first - Your child is most hungry at the start of a meal.
  • Sometimes, new foods take time- Kids don’t always take to new foods right away. Offer new foods many times. It may take up to a dozen tries for a child to accept a new food.
  • Make food fun!  Help your child develop healthy eating habits by getting him or her involved and making food fun! Get creative in the kitchen with these cool ideas.
  • Cut a food into fun and easy shapes with cookie cutters.
  • Encourage your child to invent and help prepare new snacks. Create new tastes by pairing low-fat dressings or dips with vegetables. Try hummus or salsa as a dip for veggies.
  • Make a list of recipes and dishes your child can help to make. Allow your child to add their own twist to the recipe.

A Different Dinnertime Safety Concern

High chair injuries have been increasing. Is your little one safe? According to a recent study of emergency room visits, high chair – related injuries have increased roughly 22 percent over the past decade.  Shobha Bhaskar MD. A Washington University pediatric hospitalist at St. Louis children’s Hospital and one of the “Mom Doc” contributors to the St. Louis Children’s Hospital ChildrensMD  blog, says finding a safe high chair can help prevent accidents.

High Seating, High Standards
Your high chair should have a wide, sturdy base that cannot be tipped over easily. It should also have at least a three-point – and preferably a five-point – harness. Dr. Bhaskar discourages parents from using vintage high chairs, as they lack newer safety features and may be decorated with lead-based paint. Always check before using a hand-me-down or older-model high chair.

When using a high chair, following these safety steps:

  • Don’t depend on the attachable tray to restrain your child. Small children can slip underneath it.
  • Place the high chair away from tables and counters. Kids can kick against these surfaces and tip over.
  • Don’t let children play or climb on the high chair.
  • When dining out, make sure the restaurant’s high chairs have a sufficient, working harness.

Failing to use a high chair’s restraint system is one of the most common mistakes parents make, “Dr. Bhaskar says. “Most high chair accidents can be avoided when children are properly strapped in a supervised.” For more advice from our “Mom Doc,” visit

10 Tips Nutrition Education Series - Eating Foods Away from Home

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:

  • Consider your drink - Choose water, fat-free or low-fat milk, unsweetened tea, and other drinks without added sugars to complement your meal.
  • 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.
  • Share a main dish – Divide a main entrée between family and friends. Ask for small plates for everyone at the tables.
  • 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 smaller amounts.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website:
  • 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 fried in oil or cooked in butter.
  • Get your whole grains – Request 100% whole-wheat breads, rolls, and pasta when choosing sandwiches, burgers, or main dishes.
  • 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.

Applesauce Oatmeal Muffins

12 Muffins

  • 1 ½ cups oats
  • 1 ¼ cups flour
  • 1tsp. baking powder
  • ¾ tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ½ cup skim milk
  • ½ cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • 1 egg white
  • ¼ cup oats
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. melted margarine
  • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon


  1. Mix 1 ½ cups oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda and ¾ tsp. cinnamon in a bowl.
  2. Press half of a crumb mixture into bottom. Add applesauce, milk, ½ cup brown sugar, oil and egg white. Mix just until moistened.
  3. Fill greased 12 muffin cups almost full.
  4. Combine ¼ cup oats, 1 tsp. brown sugar, margarine and 1/8 tsp. cinnamon in small bowl. Mix well.
  5. Sprinkle over each muffin. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes.