Healthy Children - January 2018

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.

 We Can! Help Children Maintain a Healthy Weight: How to Stay in Energy Balance for Life

Here are a few simple tips to help your family sustain energy balance, stay motivated, and handle setbacks in order to maintain a healthy weight for life.

  • Make a Commitment. You need to make a commitment to yourself and your family to eat nutritious foods and get regular physical activity.
  • Get a Support Network. It helps to have a strong network of family, friends, and colleagues who will support you in your new lifestyle habits. Families can serve low-fat meals for gatherings, your friends can limit drinks with added sugar and TV watching when youth are playing together, and colleagues can go on short power walks with you and help you make healthier choices at the cafeteria or vending machine. Let as many people as possible know what your goals are and, hopefully, they will not only support your, but join you in your efforts. Maintaining a healthy weight is good for everyone!
  • Set Realistic Goals. Effective goals are specific, attainable, and forgiving (not perfect). “Eat three servings of fruit a day” is a better goal than “Eat more fruit.”
  • Track Progress. Tracking your progress can help you feel good about your success and can show you where you may need to make some changes if you’re not meeting your goals. Continue to use the tracking tools provided to you in the WE CAN! Try Tips to Eat Well and Move More tracking sheet, the WE CAN! Fit in Physical Activity planner, and the WE CAN! Reduce Children’s Screen Time log.
  • Be Ready. Having ideas and alternatives will help your family stay in energy balance. We Can! Try Tips to Eat Well and Move More handout and the Spinning Dial of Ideas can help you be prepared. Check the We Can! Web site for more ideas to help you stay in energy balance.
  • Learn How to Handle Setbacks. Expect to have setbacks. Setbacks usually happen to those who are overconfident and say, “it won’t happen to me!” Being committed, setting realistic goals, and being prepared with alternatives will help you handle setbacks.
  • Reward Yourself. One way to help you stay motivated is to regularly reward yourself. Choose nonfood-related rewards, such as a day at the local lake or beach or go to the park to ride bicycles, roller blade, or fly a kite. You can also buy yourself a gift to help you stay physically active, such as new work-out shoes or clothes, a ball, racket, or other piece of equipment.

Feeding Practices

  • How many of you have eaten until you were stuffed? Who has eaten when you weren’t hungry?
  • This is something that we do when we’re adults, but research shows that children don’t do this without being forced.
  • Babies are born with a sense to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. Young children also have this internal regulation (signal).
  • Losing or over riding this signal can lead to overeating and weight problems.
  • It is hard not to pressure a child who isn’t eating much to eat more, but it is important to let kinds listen to their own bodies. CHILDREN WILL EAT IF THEY ARE HUNGRY!
  • It is also really important not to force children to eat or “clean their plates.”
  • Even encouraging children to make a “happy plate” or praising children who do, can teach children to override those signals of hunger and fullness, possible leading to overeating and weight problems later in life.
  • Together, we should offer children healthy foods and limit unhealthy ones. By offering only healthy foods, we are guaranteeing that the children make healthy choices in what they eat. It’s the child’s job to decide what and how much to eat!
  • Introduce picky eaters to new foods 10 times before you give up on it. Often times it only takes child a few times to see the new food before they will try it.

Healthier Snacks

  • Watch the serving size
  • Light popcorn or pretzels
  • Fruits or vegetables
  • Try jello, vanilla wafers, pudding made with skin milk or angel food cake

Many dieters give up desserts and snacks. You don’t have to give up your favorite snacks. Treat yourself to your favorites every once in a while. Just watch the serving sizes.

Instead of buying the half gallon of ice cream, go out for one cone. Then you won’t be tempted to eat more later.

Another way to watch your serving sizes is to put a handful or crackers, chips or cookies on a napkin and then put the box out of reach or out of sight and leave the kitchen. This will stop you when you’re tempted to grab more.

Try the 100 calorie packs of your favorite cookie or cracker.

If you want dessert next time you go out to eat, split it with someone.

 Cook’s Corner: Apple Cider Smoothie

Here’s a delicious, healthy snack that staff and children can make in a Head Start classroom or a home with their families.



  • 2 red apples, cored and sliced but not peeled
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon


  1. Pour the water into the blender
  2. Add the apples to the blender
  3. Blend on high for 30 seconds or until the smoothie is creamy
  4. Add the ground cinnamon and stir


Makes 2 Servings

Safety Tip: An adult should core and slice the apples.



The National Center on Early Childhood Health and Wellness welcomes your feedback on this issue, as well as your suggestions for topics for future issues. Please forward your comments to health! or call 1-866-763-6481.

Eating Out

  • Large serving sizes
  • High fat. High calorie.
  • More beverage choices.

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 eating out is a big factor in our weight gain.

Restaurant serving sizes 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 for a single meal!

Most restaurants use the cheapest ingredients that make the food taste the best. This often involves adding a lot of fat and sugar to their foods, resulting in high calories foods. We usually don’t realized how many calories we are eating when we eat out!

We tend to drink higher calorie drinks when we eat at restaurants because they use tall glasses and take advantage of free refills. As mentioned before, a 20 ounce regular soda or sweet tea contains about 250 calories!

  • Ask for half portions
  • Share with friends
  • Ask for dressing on the side
  • Order grilled or baked instead of fried
  • Ask for a to go container before you start eating

Food Safety Tips for the Holidays

Feasting with family and friends is part of many holiday celebrations. Follow these simple tips to keep safe from food poisoning, or food borne illness, during the holidays.

Everyone can practice food safety during the holidays.

  • Wash your hands. Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water before and after preparing food, after touching raw meat, raw eggs, or unwashed vegetables, and before eating or drinking.
  • Cook food thoroughly. Meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can carry germs that cause food poisoning. Use a food thermometer to ensure these foods have been cooked to the safe minimum internal temperature. Roast, chops, steaks, and fresh ham should rest for 3 minutes after removing from the oven or grill.Check out this link for more tips about food temperature!
  • Keep food out of the “danger zone.” Bacteria can grow rapidly at room temperature. After food is cooked, keep hot food hot and cold food cold. Refrigerate or freeze any perishable food within 2 hours. The temperature in your refrigerator should be set at or below 40° F and the freezer at or below 0° F. Check out this link for more tips about the "danger zone!"
    • Use pasteurized eggs for dishes containing raw eggs. Salmonella and other harmful germs can live on both the outside and inside of normal-looking eggs. Many holiday favorites contain raw eggs, including eggnog, tiramisu, hollandaise sauce, and Caesar dressing. Always use pasteurized eggs when making these and other foods made with raw eggs.
  • Do not eat dough or batter. Dough and batter made with flour and eggs can contain harmful germs, such as E Coli and Salmonella. Do not taste or eat unpasteurized dough or batter of any kinds, including those for cookies, cakes, pies, biscuits, pancakes, tortillas, pizza, or crafts. Do not let children taste raw dough or batter or play with dough at home or in restaurants. Check out this link for more tips about raw dough!
  • Keep foods separated. Thaw turkey in the refrigerator, in a sink of cold water that is changed every 30 minutes, or in a microwave. Avoid thawing foods on the counter. A turkey must thaw at a safe temperature to prevent harmful germs for growing rapidly. Check out this link for more tips about keeping foods separated! Check out this link for more tips about cooking poultry!

Food Safety Tips for our Holiday Turkey

Food handling error and inadequate cooking are the most common problems that lead to poultry-associated food borne disease outbreaks in the U.S. Follow these four food safety tips to help you safely prepare your next holiday turkey meal.

  1. Safely Thaw Your Turkey. Thaw turkeys in the refrigerator, in a sink of cold water that is changed every 30 minutes, or in a microwave. Never thaw your turkey by leaving it out on the counter. A frozen turkey is safe indefinitely, but thawing must defrost at a safe temperature. When the turkey is left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours, its temperature become unsafe as it moves into the danger zone between 40° F and 140° F, where bacteria can grow rapidly. Check out this link for more tips about cooking poultry!
  2. Safely Handle Your Turkey. Raw poultry can contaminate anything it touches wit harmful bacteria. Follow the four steps to food safety – cook, clean, chill, and separate – to prevent the spread of bacteria to your food and family.
  3. Safely Stuff Your Turkey. Cooking stuffing is a casserole dish makes it easy to make sure it is thoroughly cooked. If you put stuffing in the turkey, do so just before cooking. Use a food thermometer to make sure the stuffing’s center has not reached 165° F and may then cause food poisoning. Wait for 20 minutes after removing the bird from the oven before the stuffing from the turkey’s cavity; this allows it to cook a little more. Learn more about how to prepare stuffing safely. Check out this link for more tips about stuffing!
  4. Safely Cook Your Turkey. Set the oven temperature to at least 325° F. Place the completely thawed turkey with the breast side up in a roasting pan that is 2 to 2-1/2 inches deep. Cooking times will vary depending on the weight of the turkey. To make sure the turkey has reached a safe internal temperature of 165° F, check by inserting a food thermometer into the center of the stuffing and the thickest portions of the breast, thigh, and wing joint. Let the turkey stand 20 minutes before removing all stuffing from the cavity and carving the meat. Learn more about safe minimum cooking temperatures and how to use a food thermometer! Check out this link for more tips about food temperature! Check out this link for more tips about using a food thermometer!

Take Care of Leftovers

Clostridium Prefringens is a bacterium that grows in cooked foods left at room temperature. It is the second most common bacterial cause of food poisoning. The major symptoms are vomiting and abdominal cramps within 6 to 24 hours after eating.

Clostridium Prefringens outbreaks occur most often in November and December.

Many of these outbreaks have been linked to foods commonly served during the holidays, such as turkey and roast beef.

Refrigerate leftovers at 40° F or colder as soon as possible and within 2 hours of preparation to prevent food poisoning.

Check out his link for more information about Clostridium Perfringens!