Healthy Children - August 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.

Cookout Safety Tips

The summer season is here! Many of us get excited about the visits to the water park, tanning on the beach, road trips, long walks, etc. There is also an additional activity which most people part takes in during this season: A Cookout! Below are 3 safety tips that we must keep in mind when planning for your next cookout:

  1. Prepare food with clean hands. Clean hands are one of the most fundamental and effective safety precautions, in reducing diarrhea and respiratory illness, like colds. Germs from unwashed hands can get into foods and drinks while people prepare or eat/drink them. Germs can multiply in some types of foods and drinks, under certain conditions, and make people sick. The solution is to wash our hands, with soap, to help remove the germs from your hands.
  2. Keep food at its proper temperature. Cold foods should be served cold and hot foods should be served hot! Use ice packs, coolers, and thermometers to keep bacteria from multiplying.
  3. Don’t cross contaminate. Most of our cookouts involve some type of meat item. There are harmful bacteria found in uncooked, raw meat. Remember not to use the same utensils when preparing food, to avoid cross contamination. Additionally, clean surfaces thoroughly, so that bacteria from previously prepared foods aren’t left to contaminate ready-to-eat foods.

Feeding Practices

  • Gently encourage, but don’t force children to try a bite of a new food.
  • Forcing children to clean their plates can lead to overeating and weight problems.
  • Offer healthy foods to children and then let them decide if and how much to eat.
  • Make meal and snack time as stress-free as possible to provide enough time to eat.
  • Try to avoid using food to reward good behavior or make a child feel better about something!

Why is Physical Activity Important?

Regular physical activity can produce long term health benefits. People of all ages, shapes, sizes, and abilities can benefit from being physically active. The more physical activity you do, the greater the health benefits.

Being physically active can help you:

  • Increase your chances of living longer
  • Feel better about yourself
  • Decrease your chances of becoming depressed
  • Sleep well at night
  • Move around more easily
  • Have stronger muscles and bones
  • Stay at or get to a healthy weight
  • Be with your friends or meet new people
  • Enjoy yourself and have fun

When you are not physically active, you are more likely to:

  • Get heart disease
  • Get type 2 diabetes
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have high blood cholesterol
  • Have a stroke

Physical activity and nutrition work together for better health. Being active increases the amount of calories burned. As people age their metabolism slows, so maintaining energy balance requires moving more and eating less.

Some types of physical activity are especially beneficial:

  • Aerobic activities make you breathe harder and make your heart beat faster. Aerobic activities can be moderate or vigorous in their intensity. Vigorous activities take more effort than moderate ones. For moderate activities, you can talk while you do them, but you can’t sing. For vigorous activities, you can only say a few words without stopping to catch your breath.
  • Muscle-strengthening activities make your muscles stronger. These include activities like push-ups and lifting weights. It is important to work all the different parts of the body – your legs, hips, back, chest, stomach, shoulders, and arms.
  • Bone-strengthening activities make your bones stronger. Bone strengthening activities, like jumping, are especially important for children and adolescents. These activities produce a force on the bones that promote bone growth and strength.
  • Balance and stretching activities enhance physical stability and flexibility, which reduces risk of injuries. Examples are gentle stretching, dancing, yoga, martial arts, and t’ai chi.

Let’s Talk Trash

The USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) has developed a new infographic – Let’s Talk Trash – to inform American consumers about food loss and waste. CNPP is raising awareness about how individuals and families can reduce food loss and waste, in support of larger USDA efforts. This latest addition to includes consumer-friendly resources to help audiences think about the amount of food wasted at home.

Why are food loss and waste important?

There is a growing concern about food loss and waste throughout the United States. Consider that about 90 billion pounds of edible food goes uneaten each year. This costs most people about $370 each year.

As the world population continues to grow, there is a greater need to set goals and develop initiatives to reduce the amount of food wasted. Less food loss and waste can help save money, improve food access, and protect natural resources. The impacts of food loss and waste include:

  • Food waste is the single largest component going into municipal landfills.
  • Wholesome food is sent to landfills instead of feeding people in need.
  • Producing, processing, transporting, preparing, storing, and disposing of discarded food uses inputs such as land, water, labor, and energy that could be available for other purposes.

What can you do?

Being mindful about planning, purchasing, protecting, preserving, storing, re-purposing, donating and recycling food can help you save money and reduce the amount of food thrown away. Visit the Eating Healthy on a Budget section of to find ways to eat healthy and manage food resources at home. Click on the links below to find way to help make small changes.

Foods Offered Outside of Regular Meals and Snacks

  • Ask parents to help celebrate birthdays and holidays with healthier options than candy, cake and ice cream. Healthier sweets like fruit popsicles, and low-fate muffins and great alternatives.
  • If your facility has fundraisers, consider companies that involve healthier foods or non-food items. This sends a message that your care about good health.

Supporting Healthy Eating

  • Serve meals family-style where teachers join the children at the table.
  • Teachers can show that healthy eating is fun by modeling healthy choices and helping to create a pleasant social environment around the table.
  • Soda machines in your facility send the message that soda is OK, and make it harder for staff and children to choose healthier options.

Seasonal Resources: Summer

Summer is upon us! While kids enjoy a school break, MyPlate has fun activities to help busy parents make the most of summer days. Check out our tips for making celebrations fun, healthy, and active to help make summer memorable and healthy! Watch these videos to get inspired:

  • Enjoy time in the kitchen and outdoors as a family
  • Prepare meals using fresh summer produce

More Summer Resources:

  • This summer let MyPlate, My Wins guide up with the following tips:
    • Prep for Potlucks and Parties
    • Hacking Your Snacks
    • Enjoying Local Foods
    • An Active Lifestyle
  • Enjoy some fun in the sun by trying something new outdoors:
  • Use MyPlate, MyState and find local and regional foods at a farmers market!
  • Be active as a family and explore a national park!
  • Check food group knowledge and put heathy eating and physical activity to the test:
    • Food Group Quizzes
    • Cook-Off Craze Activity Sheet
    • MyPlate Crossword Puzzle
  • Help kids get the nutrition they need to learn more about USDA Summer Food Service Programs:
    • Summer Food Service Program
    • Summer Meals Webinars
    • Summer Meal Site Finder
  • Make half your plate fruits and veggies with these tips:
    • Focus on Fruits
    • Add More Vegetables to Your Day
    • Smart Shopping for Veggies and Fruit
    • Kid-Friendly Veggies and Fruit