Healthy Children - May 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. 

Encouraging Healthy Habits through the Toddlers Years*

*Adapted from Feeding with Love and Good Sense by Ellen Satter

Our Children experience so many exciting changes from ages one to three. These changes can be stressful for parents when it comes to nutrition and feeding. Often we as adults are in the middle of doing several things at once, and some of the common developments for toddlers with their relationship with food can be frustrating. Ellen Satter points our attention to three characteristics of toddlers and offers some guidelines for developing healthy habits.

Toddlers are skeptical. Your two year old may need to get used to new foods at their own pace. The way food looks, tastes, and even the texture may not appeal to them right away. Never fear, after having a food on the table, watching others in the family enjoy that food, and several tasting bites, they may come to love that new food. A parent can set some guidelines to keep mealtimes pleasant for all the family members. Even though your toddler will need time to warm up to certain foods, do not let this limit the menu for the rest of the family. Your toddler is learning so much from observing what others in the family are eating.

Toddlers are unpredictable. Just because they liked a food yesterday does not mean they will want it today. This is also true with their appetites. Some days they will not be interested in eating much of anything, and then they will go through periods where they are hungry all the time. A parent can set an appropriate schedule for mealtimes and snacks. Parents offer healthy food at snack and mealtime to help keep up their all their energy needs. Since they have small stomachs, those snack times are very important.

Toddlers are opinionated! If your toddler does not like something, you will hear about it. Our toddlers take cues from their hunger and react to new taste/texture sensations. We as parents can offer food in forms that are easy for their small hands to manage. They may also eat in their own way, exploring the feel and taste of foods.

Satter reminds us that our responsibility is to provide a structured mealtime/snack time and healthy foods (the when and where of what is offered). Mealtimes can become a battle if parents also try to control how much a child eats, or if a child chooses to eat all the foods offered. Portions for toddlers are small, from ¼ a cup to ½ a cup. Even adults do not always know how hungry we are when we fill our plates, so it is okay if your toddler doesn’t clean their plate.

Finally, toddlers are curious! What a wonderful time as they learn to do so many new things. When adults provide healthy food options at regular mealtime and snack times, toddlers are free to learn about healthy foods as they grow. This can set the stage for healthy habits throughout their life!

Sherry Ann Ambrose
Register Dietician, Nutrition Education
University of Illinois, Chicago

Eating on a Budget

The smartest shoppers know that saving money is more that luck.  When shopping for groceries, it's about having a game plan and making smart decisions about what to put in your cart.  

Stretch your dollar with these helpful tips:

  1. Eat before you shop. Grocery shopping hungry can lead to impulse buying and unhealthy food choices.
  2. Read the sales flyer. Sales flyers are usually released mid-week and can be found at the store’s entrance, in the newspaper, or on their website.
  3. Use coupons. Only for items that you know you’ll use. If you don’t need an item right away, save the coupon and see if it goes on sale. For more couponing, check out:
  4. Look up and down for savings. Stores often stock the priciest items at eye level. You can save big by looking at the upper and lower shelves too.
  5. Check for store brands. Most stores offer their own brand of products that often cost less than name brands.
  6. Grab from the back. Stores typically stock shelves from back to front - placing the newest items behind the older ones. Reach in the back for the freshest items especially in the produce, dairy, and meat aisles.
  7. Ask for a rain check. If a sale item has run out, ask the store for a rain check. This allows you to pay the sale price after the item is restocked.
  8. Join your store’s loyalty program. Most stores offer a free loyalty program. Get special offers and discounts that non-members do not.

BBQ IQ - Get Smart. Grill Safely.  

Plan to be safe.
Risk: Food poisoning peaks in the summer months when warmer temperatures cause foodborne germs to flourish.
Tip: Check foods on recall list when planning your grill fest. When shopping, buy meat and poultry last, right before checkout. Separate raw meat and poultry from other food in your shopping cart. To guard against cross-contamination, put packages of raw meat and poultry into individual plastic bags.

Keep it clean. Stop the germs.
Risk: Dirty hands and prep surfaces can carry germs.
Tips: Wash hands, kitchen work surfaces, and utensils with soap and water immediately after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry. Also filled a spray bottle with water and on tablespoon of bleach to keep handy to wipe off surfaces and utensils.

Groom your grill and tools.
Risk: Wire bristles from grill cleaning brushes may dislodge and stick into food on the grill.
Tip: Use a moist cloth of paper towel to clean the grill surface before cooking. If you use a wire bristle brush, thoroughly inspect the grill’s surface before cooking.

Curb co-mingling.
Risk: Raw meat juices can spread germs to cooked food.
Tip: Place cooked meats on a clean plate and discard marinades and sauces that have come in contact with raw meat juices.

Cook it well. Keep it hot.
(Recommended internal temps)

145* F - whole cuts of beef, pork, lamb and veal (stand – time of 3 minutes at this temperature)
145* F- fish
160* F - hamburgers and other ground beef
165* F - all poultry and pre-cooked meats, like hot dogs
250* F -300* F Inside smoker
After Grilling:
140* F or warmer – until it’s served.

Check to be sure.
Risk: Meat and poultry may brown quickly when grilled and appear done, even when not.  
Tip: Use a meat thermometer to ensure grilled and smoked meats have reached the recommended internal temperatures to kill harmful germs.  

Treat leftovers right.  

  • Keep leftovers in an insulated (40* F or below) cooler while transporting.
  • Refrigerate leftover meat and poultry within two hours of cooking or one hour if above *90 F. Frozen leftovers should keep for about four months.
  • Divide leftovers into smaller portions. Refrigerate or freeze in covered shallow containers for faster cooling.
  • Reheat cooked leftovers to 165* F. using a food thermometer.

Kid-friendly Veggies and Fruits: 10 Tips for Making Healthy Foods Fun for Children

Encourage children to eat vegetables and fruits by making it fun. Provide healthy ingredients and let kids help with preparation, based on their age and skills. Kids may try foods they avoided in the past if they helped make them.

  1. Smoothie creations: Blend fat-free or low-fat yogurt or milk with fruit pieces and crushed ice. Use fresh, frozen, canned, and even overripe fruits. Try bananas, berries, peaches, and/or pineapple. If you freeze the fruit first, you can even skip the ice!
  2. Delicious dippers: Kids love to dip their foods. Whip up a quick dip for veggies with yogurt and seasonings such as herbs or garlic. Serve with raw vegetables like broccoli, carrots, or cauliflower. Fruit chunks go great with a yogurt and cinnamon or vanilla dip.
  3. Caterpillar kabobs: Assemble chunks of melon, apple, orange, and pear on skewers for a fruity kabob. For a raw veggie version, use vegetables like zucchini, cucumber, squash, sweet peppers, or tomatoes.
  4. Personalized pizzas: Set up a pizza-making station in the kitchen. Use whole-wheat English muffins, bagels, or pita bread as the crust. Have tomato sauce, low-fat cheese, and cup-up vegetables or fruits for toppings. Let kids choose their own favorites. Then pop the pizzas in to the oven to warm.
  5. Fruity peanut butterfly: Start with carrot sticks or celery for the body. Attach wings made of thinly sliced apples with peanut butter and decorate with halved grapes or dried fruit.
  6. Frosty fruits: Frozen treats are bound to be popular in the warm months. Just put fresh fruits such as melon chunks in the freezer (rinse first). Make “popsicles” by inserting sticks into peeled bananas and freezing.
  7. Bugs on a log: Use celery, cucumber, or carrot sticks as the log and add peanut butter. Top with dried fruit such as raisins, cranberries, or cherries, depending on what bugs you want!
  8. Homemade trail mix: Skip the pre-made trail mix and make your own. Use your favorite nuts and dried fruits, such as unsalted peanuts, cashews, walnuts, or sunflower seeds mixed with dried apples, pineapple, cherries, apricots, or raisins. Add whole-grain cereals to the mix, too.
  9. Potato person: Decorate half a baked potato. Use sliced cherry tomatoes, peas, and low-fat cheese on the potato to make a funny face.
  10. Put kids in charge: Ask your child to name a new veggie or fruit creation. Let them arrange raw veggies or fruits into a fun shape or design.