Healthy Children - March 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.

4 Ways to Feed your Family on a Budget

Feeding your family healthy, whole foods can help give children a good start in life and it doesn’t have to break the bank.

It may be tempting to turn to packaged food or the drive-thru when life gets busy. Not only are those foods low in nutrients and high in sodium, unhealthy trans fats and added sugars, but they can also cost more than healthy, whole foods.

If you want to save money and keep your family on a healthy meal plan, take the following steps:

  1. Make a plan. “If you want to put a healthy meal on the table and save money doing it, you’re doing to have to plan,” says Tara Todd, RD, LD, a dietitian with St. Louis Children’s Hospital and mother of two. “Sit down, look at the calendar and work out meals ahead of time.”
  2. Keep it whole. A 2012 study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that, per serving, vegetables, fruits, grains and dairy products cost less than meats and packaged or pre-made foods. “It’s a common misconception that it’s more expensive to eat healthy foods than it is to eat unhealthy foods,” says Christian Miller, executive chef at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and father of three. “If you’re smart about it, you can find really good deals at small markets – it just takes a little more time and effort.” Buy fruits and vegetables in season when they cost less or buy frozen versions, which lasts longer and require less time to prepare.
  3. Limit the Meat. Plan a few meatless meals per week, and use your savings to buy organic or pastured meats, which are higher in healthy omega-3 fatty acids and certain vitamins. You can find them at your local farmer’s market or at most major grocery stores.
  4. Get Creative. Introduce healthier options into meals, such as mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes or dark leafy greens instead of iceberg lettuce. Rather than spending a lot on sugar fruit juices, buy whole fruits instead, and stick with drinking water – after all, it’s virtually free.

For more help with healthy eating, download “Nutrition and Healthy Habits.”

Keeping Screen Time in Check

  • 1-2 hours a day maximum recommended
  • Most TV commercials targeting children advertise soft drinks, candy, sugar, cereals, or fast food: this makes shopping harder!
  • On average, American children spend 900 hours a year in school and 1,023 hours a year watching TV.
  • Kids who watch less do better in school
  • Kids who watch more, read less and do less homework
  • TV does not help children develop reading or social skills
  • TV is thought to promote ADD in children.

Did you know?

  • TV viewing equals higher percent body fat
  • In 2005 the Kaiser Family Foundation found that children ages 2-7 are exposed to over 4,427 food ads per year – which is about 29 hours and 31 minutes per year
  • 43% of 4-6 year olds have a TV in their bedroom and spend more time watching TV then children without a TV in their bedroom

Make a list of activities you could do instead:

  • Put together a puzzle
  • Go for a walk or bike ride
  • Play “I Spy”
  • Do an art project
  • Play a board game
  • Talk together about your day
  • Play hid and seek
  • Read a book
  • Go to the park
  • Play with your pet
  • Play with toys

Key Messages:

  • No more than 1-2 hours of TOTAL screen time per day.
  • Set and keep limits on TV watching and other screen time activities
  • Be informed about what your children are watching
  • No TVs in bedrooms

Celebrating Healthy

Parties and celebrations don’t have to be centered around food.

Plan parties around activities such as:

  • Ice skating
  • Kickball
  • Swimming
  • Slip ‘n slide
  • Basketball
  • Rollerblading
  • Sledding

Healthy Foods

  • Offer fruits, cut up vegetables and other healthy options along with less healthy treats
  • Always include water in addition to other drinks, consider replacing sugar drinks with 100% juice
  • Present healthy foods in fun, creative ways.

Key Messages:

  • Think outside the box for holidays and birthday celebrations. Move beyond cake and ice cream and plan an activity.
  • Include healthy options such as fruit and vegetables and water instead of juice and soda at parties.

How much Physical Activity is needed?

Adults (18-64 years)

Adults should do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes each week of aerobic physical activity at a moderate level or 1 hour and 15 minutes each week or aerobic physical activity at a vigorous level. Being active 5 or more hours each week can provide even more healthy benefits. Spreading aerobic activity should be done or at least 10 minutes at a time. Adults should also do strengthening activities, like push-ups, sit-ups and lifting weights, at least 2 days a week.

Children and Adolescents (6-17 years)

Children and adolescents should do 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day. Most of the 60 minutes should be either moderate – or vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity, and should include vigorous-intensity physical activity at least 3 days a week. As part of their 60 or more minutes of daily physical activity, children and adolescents should include muscle-strengthening activities, like climbing, at least 3 days a week and bone-strengthening activities, like jumping, at least 3 days a week. Children and adolescents are often active in short burst of time rather than for sustained periods of time, and these short burst can add up to meet physical activity needs. Physical activities for children and adolescents should be developmentally appropriate, fun, and offer variety.

Young Children (2-5 years)

There is not a specific recommendation for the number of minutes young children should be active each day. Children ages 2-5 years should play actively several times each day. Their activity may happen in short burst of time and not be all at once. Physical activities for young children should be developmentally appropriate, fun, and offer variety.

Physical activity is generally safe for everyone. The health benefits you gain from being active are far greater than the chances of getting hurt. Here are some things you can do to stay safe while you are active:

  • If you haven’t been active in a while, start slow and build up.
  • Learn about the types and amounts of activity that are right for you.
  • Choose activities that are appropriate for your fitness level.
  • Build up the time you spend before switching to activities that take more effort.
  • Choose a safe place to do your activity.
  • See a health care provider if you have a health problem.

Physical Activity Basics

Being physically actie can improve your healthy – today, tomorrow, and in the future. However, most people do not do enough physical activity. People of all types, shapes, sizes, and abilities can benefit from being physically active. The more you do, the greater the health benefits and better you’ll feel.

  • What is physical activity?
  • Why is physical activity important?
  • How much physical activity is needed?
  • How many calories does physical activity use (burn)?
  • Tips for increasing physical activity

Physical Activity Guidelines Midcourse Report – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, in partnership with the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, has released the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Midcourse Report: Strategies to Increase Physical Activity among Youth.

The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, describe the types and amounts of physical activity that offer substantial health benefits. These guidelines, as well as other health-related information, can be found at Information about physical activity and health is also available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) physical activity page.

Tips for a Safe and Fun Winter

The dreary winter weather can bring on a serious case of cabin fever for kinds. So outdoor activities—especially in the snow—are a welcome dose of fun. But be prepared, because they also can be dangerous. 

Bo Kennedy, MD, an emergency medicine physician at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, is a dad with kids who love the snow. St. Louis Forest Park’s famous Art Hill is their favorite destination for sledding. Dr. Kennedy stresses that parents should use common sense, and supervise kids when they’re outside in the snow. You can’t swaddle your kids in bubble wrap to protect them, but you can take some practical precautions so they can still have fun outside—safely. Here are some areas to watch for:


  • Find hills away from streets, trees or stationary objects. Sometimes objects, such as big rocks or bushes aren’t obvious if they’re covered in snow.
  • Make sure there are separate paths to go up and down a hill to avoid running over people.
  • Protect your children with helmets while sledding, “Although arm and wrist injuries are common, we worry most about head injuries,” Dr. Kennedy says. “Having your child sled feet first may help with this problem.”
  • When snow start to melt and then refreezes, or there’s a layer of ice with the snow, remind children to take extra care when sledding. “The biggest problem with icy surfaces is that they tend to make sledder’s lose control—they can’t steer,” Dr. Kennedy says.

Snow Forts

To build a safer snow fort, keep it away from the street and only build sides with snow. Dr. Kennedy recommends using plywood as a roof or not putting a roof on at all.

“People underestimate the weight of snow,” Dr. Kennedy says. “If a snow roof collapses on kids, it can cause suffocation like an avalanche would.”

Ice Skating

The worst ice skating injury coming from falling on ice, and even experienced skaters may get knocked over.

“It’s important to wear a helmet when ice skating,” Dr. Kennedy says. “You can buy special helmets, but bike helmets are fine for routine skating.”

He also advises against skating on ponds or lakes in the St. Louis area.

“Around here, we have such temperature fluctuations that it’s too dangerous,” he says. “The pond can have soft spots and thin ice.”

Playing in the Cold

Frostbite is a concern when kids are playing outside in the winter—or even if they’re waiting at the bus stop.

“Parents should listen to their kids, especially if they say they’re hurting from the cold,” Dr. Kennedy says.

He advises dressing children in layers of synthetic material, such as long underwear made with polypropylene and keeping exposed parts to a minimum. Take off wet clothes as soon as possible, and use waterproof clothes, boots and gloves. Make sure there’s wiggle room in boots for circulation.

The first sign of frostbite is burning pain. As frostbite progresses, the area affected will feel numb. The key is to warm the area as soon as possible.

“When warming the area, don’t add a burn injury by using water that is too hot,” Dr. Kennedy cautions. “Put warm water in a bowl and test the temperature. And don’t rub the area. It’s a myth that you should rub the area with snow. That will further damage the skin.”

If normal skin color does not return in one hour, call your doctor or go to the ER.