Healthy Children - December 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.

Menus and Variety

  • Variety may be the spice of life, but children don’t always agree.
  • If you let them, some children will eat the same foods every day. On the other hand, they can’t learn to eat new foods unless they have the opportunity. You’d be surprised how children will suddenly try something after refusing it in the past. Keep trying!
  • Sometimes kids are more willing to try new foods if it comes from another culture and is presented as something new and exciting.
  • What is the variety of meals and snacks like at your center? Are there any easy ways to offer unique or new foods?

Tuscan Smoked Turkey and Bean Soup

Rating: 25 votes

Average: 4 stars

Your Vote: 2 stars


Makes: 6 servings

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 50 minutes

This hearty soup will surely tantalize taste buds with tender smoked turkey chunks, Navy beans, and a colorful array of veggies, all simmered in a deliciously season broth.



  • 1/3 cup Fresh onions, peeled, diced ½”
  • 1/3 cup Fresh celery, diced
  • 1/3 cup Fresh carrots, peeled, diced
  • 1 ½ cup Fresh kale, no stems, chopped
  • 2- ¼ teaspoons Canned low-sodium tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Fresh garlic, minced
  • 4 ¼ cups Low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 ¾ cups Canned low-sodium Navy beans, drained, rinsed
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 dashes ground black pepper
  • 5 ounces smoked turkey breast, ¼” pieces (5oz)
  • 2 teaspoons Fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2/3 tablespoon Fresh basil, chopped
  • 2/3 tablespoon Fresh parsley, chopped



  1. Place onions, celery, carrots, kale, tomato paste, and garlic in a large pot coated with nonstick cooking spray. Cook over medium-high heat. Stir-frequently! Cook until vegetables are softened and onions are translucent.
  2. Add chicken stock, beans, salt, and pepper.
  3. Reduce temperature to low heat. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  4. Add turkey, thyme, basil, and parsley. Stir well. Simmer a minimum of 10 minutes. Serve hot.

Reading a Food Label

  1. The first place to start when you look at the Nutrition Facts label is the serving size and the number of servings in the package. Serving sizes are standardized to make it easier to compare similar foods.
  2. Calories provide a measure of how much energy you get from a serving of this food. General Guide to Calories:
    • 40 calories is to low
    • 100 calories is moderate
    • 400 calories or more is high
  3. The nutrients listed first are the ones Americans generally eat in adequate amounts, or even too much. Eating too much fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, or sodium may increase your risk of certain chronic diseases, like heart disease, some cancers or high blood pressure.
  4. Most Americans don’t get enough dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron in their diets. For example, getting enough calcium may reduce the risk of osteoporosis, a condition that results in brittle bones as one ages.
  5. Not the * used after the heading “%Daily Value” on the Nutrition Facts label. It refers to the Footnote in the lower part of the nutrition label, which tells you “%DV are based on a 2,000 calorie diet”.
  6. The % Daily Values (%DVs) are based on a Daily Value recommendations for key nutrients but only for a 2,000 calorie daily diet.


Activity, How to Read a Food Label

  • Divided up in groups of 2 or 3
  • Distribute the food label activity kit
  • Ask the participants to use the information they just learned regarding the food labels.
  • Provide 15-20 minutes for the activity
  • Once the participants are done, ask then what they learned from reading the label and if any of their lifestyles will change because of it.

Eating Away from Home Contributes to Portion Distortion

More and more we are eating outside of the house. It’s quick and convenient. How many times do you eat out during the week? Where do you typically eat out?

Many health professionals believe that the increase in our eating out is big factor in our weight gain.

  • Restaurant serving sized tend to be much larger than we would eat at home. Sometimes they can be 3-4 times the amount of food that is recommended.
  • Over the past 20 years there has been a major change in portion sizes when eating out. For example, French fries use to come in a one size, now there are multiple sizes and all are bigger. Talk about calorie difference.
  • Most restaurants use the cheapest ingredients that make the food taste the best. This is often involves adding a lot of fat and sugar to their foods. This results in high calorie foods. We probably don’t realized how many calories we are eating when we eat out!
  • We tend to drink higher calorie drinks when we eat a restaurants because they use tall glasses and there are often free refills. A 20 ounce regular soda or sweet tea contains about 250 calories!

Meats and Alternatives

  • Grill, bake, or broil
  • Chicken and fish
  • Beans
  • Lean cut of meat

We are eating more meat than ever before. Meat is a great source of protein, but some types are very high in unhealthy fats. Also, the ways we prepare our meat can add a lot of fat to our diet.

Whenever possible, eat grilled, baked, or broiled meats. These are less fattening that fried.

Skinless chicken and fish are lower in fat as well. Also, the fat in many fish is “heart healthy”. Good fish choices include salmon, tuna, and any white fish.

Beans are a great substitute for meat. They also contain fiber and a lot of vitamins and minerals that are important to our health. Try eating meatless meals that contain beans, such as pinto, black eyed peas or black beans, at least once a week.

If you do choose to eat read meat or pork, try to eat the leaner cuts of meat. Look for cuts with the words “loin” or round” in the name – i.e. top round, tenderloin, etc.

Adding an egg white to a very lean hamburger meat gives the hamburger similar moisture and flavor as higher fat cuts.

Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins

Rating: 69 votes

Average: 4 stars

Your vote: 3 stars


Makes: 12 servings

Enjoy these delicious muffins for breakfast anytime of the year using canned pumpkin and frozen cranberries.



  • 2 cups of flour
  • ¾ cup of sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon allspice
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, large
  • ¾ cup pumpkin (canned)
  • 2 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen, chopped)


Serve with a glass of low-fate milk for a healthy snack.