Healthy Children - November 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.


The Thanksgiving meal is the largest many cooks prepare each year.  Getting it just right, especially the turkey, brings a fair amount of pressure whether or not a host is experienced with roasting one.  Follow these tips to make sure your Thanksgiving meal is both delicious and safe to serve.

Steps to follow before cooking a turkey:

  • Read labels carefully. Temperature labels show if the bird is fresh or frozen.  If you plan to serve a fresh turkey, purchase it no more than two days before Thanksgiving.
  • Purchase two thermometers: a refrigerator thermometer to ensure the turkey is stored at 40 degrees or slightly below and a food thermometer to make sure the cooked turkey reaches a safe 165 degrees F.
  • Thaw the turkey by using the microwave, the cold water method, or the refrigerator. The refrigerator method is USDA recommended.

Steps to follow when cooking a turkey:

  • Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before touching any food to prevent the spread of many types of infection and illness.
  • Do not wash the turkey. This only spreads pathogens onto kitchen surfaces.  The only way to kill bacteria that causes foodborne illness is to fully cook the turkey.
  • Keep raw turkey separated from all other foods at all times.
  • Use separate cutting boards, plates and utensils when handling raw turkey to avoid cross-contamination. Wash items that have touched raw meat with warm soap and water, or place them in a dishwasher.
  • Cook the turkey until it reaches 165 degrees F, as measured by a food thermometer. Check the turkey’s temperature by inserting the thermometer in three places, the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the thigh, and the innermost part of the wing.

Steps to follow when consuming leftover Thanksgiving food:

  • Refrigerate leftovers within two hours to prevent bacteria from growing on the food.
  • Store leftovers in shallow pans or containers to decrease cooling time. This prevents the food from spending too much time at unsafe temperatures (between 40 degrees F to 140 degrees F).
  • Do not store stuffing inside a leftover turkey. Remove the stuffing from the turkey, and refrigerate the stuffing and the meat separately.
  • Avoid consuming leftovers that have been left in the refrigerator for longer than 3 or 4 days (next Tuesday to be exact). Use the freezer to store leftovers for longer periods of time.
  • Keep leftovers in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs if the food is traveling home with a guest who lives more than two hours away.

General Information

Countdown to the Thanksgiving Holiday (USD)

Plan ahead to ease the countdown tension for your Thanksgiving meal.

10 Tips:  Make Celebrations Fun, Healthy, and Active

 Eating healthy and being physically active can be a fun part of parties and events.  Great gatherings are easy to do when tasty, healthy foods from all the food groups are offered in a fun, active environment.  Above all, focus on enjoying friends and family.

  1. Make healthy habits part of your celebrations. Food and beverages are a part of an event, but they do not have to be the center of the occasion.  Focus on activities to get people moving and enjoy being together.
  1. Make foods look festive. Add a few eye-catching fruits to a favorite dish or new recipe.  For older children, add a sprinkle of almonds or green onions to make the dish pop.  Decorate foods with nuts or seeds or use shapes for vegetables.
  1. Offer thirst quenches that please. Make fun ice cubes from 100% juice or add slices of fruit to make water more exciting.  Create a “float” by adding a scoop of low-fat sorbet to seltzer water.
  1. Savor the flavor. Take time to pay attention to the taste of each bite of food.  Make small changes in your old recipes or try dishes from another culture to liven things up.
  1. Use to include foods from the food groups for your party. Offer whole-grain crackers.  Serve a spicy bean dip and a veggie tray. Make fruit kabobs, layer yogurt and fruit to create a sweet parfait.  Use whole grains and veggies to make a savory, healthy salad.
  1. Make moving part of every event. Being physically active makes everyone feel good.  Dancing, moving, playing active games, wiggling and giggling add fun to any gathering.
  1. Try out some healthier recipes. Find ways to cut back on added sugars, salt and saturated fat as you prepare your favorite recipes.  Try out some of the recipes on the ChooseMyPlate and the What’s Cooking? Websites.
  1. Make a healthy sandwich. Choose turkey, roast beef, canned tuna or salmon, or peanut butter for sandwiches.  Many deli meats, such as regular bologna or salami, are high in fat and sodium – make them occasional treats only.
  1. Think small when it comes to meat portions. Get the flavor you crave but in a smaller portion.  Make or order a smaller turkey burger or a “petite” size steak.
  1. Check the sodium. Check the Nutrition Facts label to limit sodium.  Salt is added to many canned foods-including soups, vegetables, beans, and meats.  Many processed meats-such as ham, sausage, and hot dogs-are high in sodium.  Some fresh chicken, turkey and port are brined in a salt solution for flavor and tenderness.

*What counts as an ounce of protein foods?  1 ounce of meat, poultry, or seafood, 1 egg; ¼ cup cooked beans or peas; 1 tablespoon of peanut butter; or ½ ounce of nuts or seeds can be considered as an ounce –equivalent from the Protein Foods Group.

Revised January 2016

Chicken Alfredo With a Twist

Van Buren Middle School

Kettering, Ohio


 Our Story

Located in southwest Ohio, Van Buren Middle School is a proud member of the Kettering City School Family.  Out of the nine recipes developed for testing, two were submitted to the Recipes for Healthy Kids Competition, and the Chicken Alfredo With a Twist recipe proved to be a winner!

This recipe saves on fat and calories by using fat-free half and half, and boosts the fiber content by incorporating whole grains.  Whole-wheat rotini noodles are used to replace traditional fettuccini noodles.  These “twists” make this a healthy alternative to the classic chicken alfredo.  Pair a serving with a refreshing vegetable side dish to give your kids a meal that is sure to please!


School Team Members

School Nutrition Professional:  Louise Easterly, LD, SNS

Chef:  Rachel Tilford

Community Member:  Mary Kozarec (School Nurse)

Students:  Graham B., Jonathan A., Shawnrica W., and Savannah S.

Chicken Alfredo With a Twist



  • 2 ½ cups Rotini pasta, whole-wheat, dry (10 oz) 
  • 2 cans Low-fat, reduced-sodium cream of chicken soup (two 10 ¾ oz cans)  
  • 1 1/3 cups Fat-free half and half 
  • ¼ tsp Ground white pepper  
  • 1/8 tsp Garlic powder            
  • 1/3 cup Grated parmesan cheese                 
  • 3 cups Cooked diced chicken, ½ “pieces (12 oz)



  1. In a large pot, bring 2 quarts water to a boil. Gradually stir in pasta and return to boil. Cook uncovered for about 8-10 minutes or until tender. Do not overcook. Drain well.
  2. Mix soup, half-and-half, pepper, garlic powder, parmesan cheese and chicken in a large pot. Cook for 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring often. Heat to 165 degrees F or higher for at least 15 secounds.
  3. Combine noodles and sauce right before serving. Serve hot.
    • Note: Keep noodles and sauce separate until serving time. Sauce will thicken upon standing.
    • 1 cup provides 2 ¼ oz. equivalent meat/meat sauce and 1 ¼ oz. equivalent grains.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking Tim: 15 minutes

Makes: Six 1-cup servings

Nutrients Per Serving:  Calories 345, Protein 30 g, Carbohydrate 41 g, Dietary Fiber 3 g, Total Fat 8 g, Saturated Fat 4 g, Cholesterol 69 mg, Vitamin A 450 IU (29RAE), Vitamin C<1 mg, Iron 2 mg, Calcium 174 mg, Sodium 572 mg

Pumpkin Smoothie

Rating: 48 votes

Average: 4 stars

Your vote: 2 stars


Makes:  6 servings

This is a refreshing smoothie recipe that uses low-sodium canned pumpkin and ripe bananas.



  • 1 can low-sodium pumpkin (chilled, about 15 ounces)
  • 1 can evaporated low-fat milk (chilled, 12 ounces)
  • 1 ½ cups orange juice
  • 1 banana (small, sliced)
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar (packed, or 1/3 cup regular sugar)
  • 2 dozen ice cubes (if you like)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (if you like)



  1. Place pumpkin, evaporated milk, orange juice, banana and sugar in blender.  Cover and blend until smooth.  If using ice, pour mixture over ice.  If using cinnamon, add that too.

 Source:  Recipe provided by

 Find tips and resources for safe food handling and proper cooking temperature guidance.

Enjoy Your Food, But East Less

10 tips to enjoying your meal

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 food 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.
  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 meats 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 food more or less often. Choose more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fat-free 1% 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 Super Tracker to identify your good group targets. Compare the foods you eat to the foods you need to eat.
  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 calories.
  9. Compare foods. Check out the Food-A-Pedia 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.