Healthy Children - October 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. 

Kitchen Timesavers

Try these kitchen timesavers to cute back on time and make less work for you. By taking the stress and hassle out of cooking, you’ll have more time to enjoy it and to spend with your loved ones.

  1. Organize your kitchen. Keep frequently used items such as cooking oils/sprays, spatulas, cutting boards, and spices within easy reach. This will save you from having to search for them later.
  2. Clear the clutter. Before you start cooking, clear off your counters. This allows more room for prep space.
  3. Chop extra. When chopping up veggies for a meal, chop more than you need. Take the extra, place in a reusable container and freeze. Then next time you need it, you can skip a step.
  4. Have everything in place. Grab all ingredients needed for your meal – chopped vegetables, measured spices, and thawed meats. It will be easier to spot missing items and avoid skipping steps.
  5. Double your recipe. For your next casserole or stew, try doubling the recipe and freezing the extra. You’ll save time and make cooking next week’s dinner a snap!
  6. Clean as you go. Fill up the sink with soapy water and wash the dishes as you cook. It’ll make clean up go much smoother.
  7. Save some for later. Freeze leftover soups, sauces, or gravies in small reusable containers. 

Child Care: What Will My Child Eat?

Did you know that our child care site participates in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)? Meals and snacks served through the CACFP help give preschoolers the nutrients they need to learn, grow, and be healthy. We provide a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean protein foods. We also offer water throughout the day.

What’s for Lunch?

  • ¾ cup low-fat (1%) milk
  • ¼ cup fruits**
  • ¼ cup vegetables
  • ½ serving of grains (such as a ½ slice of bread or ¼ cup of pasta or rice)
  • 1½ ounce equivalent of meat or meat alternate (such as cheese, yogurt, or beans)

**Portions for children ages 3 to 5.

** Additional vegetables may be served in the place of fruits.

What’s for a Snack?

Snacks can vary. Here are some examples:

Example 1:

  • ½ ounce equivalent of meat or meat alternate
  • ½ cup fruit

Example 2

  • ½ cup vegetables
  • ½ serving of grains

Example 3

  • ½ cup of milk
  • ½ serving of grains

Example 4

  • ½ cup vegetables
  • ½ ounce equivalent of meat or meat alternative

*Portions for children ages 3 to 5.

Healthy Foods + Healthy Environments = Healthy Kids

At child care, we encourage healthy choices in ways that go beyond our menu:

  1. Look around. See how our site displays pictures of healthy foods. Ask your child to point out his or her favorite picture.
  2. Read about it. Our bookshelf includes stories about trying new foods. Ask if you can borrow a book to read to your child. 
  3. Try fun activities. We do a number of activities involving growing and tasting new foods. Ask your child his or her favorite activity and try it at home. 


What are they?

Fruits come fresh, frozen, canned, or dried. There are many types of fruits including berries, melons, and citrus fruits like grapefruit.

How much?

You should eat 1½ cups of fruit each day. One cup is a small apple, a large banana, around 30 grapes, an 8-ounce juice box, or sliced fruit that’s about the size of a computer mouse.

What else do I need to know?

If you’re drinking juice, look for the kind that says 100% fruit juice. Try to pick fruit over fruit juice. Try to eat a variety of fruits. And if you’re eating canned fruit, look for the kind packed in juice and not in syrup. 

Healthy Eating-Out Tips

When you’re eating out, you want food that tastes good and doesn’t cost a lot. But also try to look for food that’s good for you and doesn’t cost you your health! Here are some tips that can help if you’re trying to keep your calories in a healthy range.

  • Watch out for “portion distortion.”
    • Restaurants often serve very large amounts, and we get used to thinking that it’s okay to eat that much. For example, one serving of pasta is half a cup. But restaurants may pile your plate with eight times as much. Try to take home leftovers or share your meal with a friend.
  • “Super” isn’t always better.
    • A combo ore jumbo meal may seem like a good deal. Often, though, you will eat less if you just pick the specific items you want from the menu.
  • Be smart about the buffet.
    • “All-you-can-eat” isn’t a good idea. If you are eating from a buffet, pick salads and vegetables first. Also, use the smallest plate possible.
  • Cut the fat.
    • Ask for low-fat dressings, and ask for dressings on the side. Choose mustard or ketchup instead of mayonnaise. Get grilled, steamed, or broiled foods instead of fried. Try not to add extra butter to your meal. And try to skip the gravy and creamy sauces.
  • Vote for veggies.
    • Try to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. When choosing pizza toppings, ask for peppers, onions, spinach, mushrooms, and other vegetables. For a lighter pizza, you can also ask for half the usual amount of cheese.
  • Get the whole grain.
    • When you order a sandwich, ask for whole wheat bread. Order brown rice instead of white. You’ll get an extra dose of fiber, which is healthy and fills you up.
  • Sip smart.
    • Order water, fat-free or low-fat milk, unsweetened tea, or other low-calorie drinks.

10 Tips: Eat Seafood Twice a Week

Twice a week, make seafood – fish, and shellfish – the main protein food on your plate.* Seafood contains a range of nutrients, including healthy omega-3 fats. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines of Americans, eating about 8 ounces per week (less for young children) of a variety of seafood can help prevent heart disease.

  1. Eat a variety of seafood. Include some that are higher in omega-3s and lower in mercury, such as salmon, trout, oysters, Atlantic and Pacific mackerel, herring, and sardines.
  2. Keep it lean and flavorful. Try grilling, broiling, roasting, or baking – they don’t add extra fat. Avoid breading or frying seafood and creamy sauces, which add calories and fat. Using spices or herbs, such as dill, chili powder, paprika, or cumin, lemon, or lime juice, can add flavor without adding salt.
  3. Shellfish counts too! Oysters, mussels, clams, and calamari (squid) all supply healthy omega-3s. Try mussels’ marinara, oyster stew, steamed clams, or pasta with calamari.
  4. Keep seafood on hand. Canned seafood, such as canned salmon, tuna, or sardines, is quick and easy to use. Canned white tuna is higher in omega-3s, but canned “light” tuna is lower in mercury.
  5. Cook it safely. Check oysters, mussels, and clams before cooking. If shells don’t clamp shut when you tap them, throw them away. After cooking, also toss any that didn’t open. This means that they may not be safe to eat. Cook shrimp, lobster, and scallops until they are opaque (milky white). Cook fish to 145 F, until it flakes with a fork.
  6. Get creative with seafood. Think beyond the fish fillet. Try salmon patties, a shrimp stir-fry, grilled fish tacos, or clams with whole-wheat pasta. Add a variety by trying a new fish such as grilled Atlantic or Pacific mackerel, herring on a salad, or oven-backed Pollock.
  7. Put it on a salad or in a sandwich. Top a salad with grilled scallops, shrimp, or crab in place of steak or chicken. Use canned tuna or salmon for sandwiches in place of deli meats, which are often higher in sodium.
  8. Shop smart. Eating more seafood does not have to be expensive. Whiting, tilapia, sardines, canned tuna, and some frozen seafood are usually lower cost options. Check the local newspaper, online, and at the store for sales, coupons, and specials to help save money on seafood.
  9. Grow up healthy with seafood. Omega-3 fats from seafood can help improve nervous system development in infants and children. Serve seafood to children twice a week in portions appropriate for their age and appetite. A variety of seafood lower in mercury should also be part of a healthy diet for woman who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  10. Know your seafood portions. To get 8 ounces of seafood a week, use these guides: A drained can of tuna is about 3 to 4 ounces, a salmon steak ranges from 4 to 6 ounces, and 1 small trout is about 3 ounces.

    *This recommendation does not apply to vegetarians. 

Tips for a "Choosy" Eater

“Choosy” eating is common among preschoolers. Your child may eat only certain types of foods. He or she may play at the table and not want to eat. Don’t worry. As long as your child has energy and is growing, he or she is most likely eating enough.

How to Cope with a “Choosy” Eater

  1. Consider what your child eats over several days. Most children eat more variety throughout the week than in 1 day.
  2. Trust your child’s appetite. Don’t force him or her to eat everything on the plate. Making a child eat when he or she is not hungry may encourage overeating.
  3. Set reasonable time limits for the start and end of a meal. Remove the plate quietly. What is reasonable depends on your child.
  4. Stay positive. Avoid calling your child a “picky eater.” Children believe what you say. 
  5. Offer healthy choices for your child to choose from. For example, “ Would you like broccoli or carrots for dinner?”

Ways to Encourage Your Child to Try New Foods

  1. Offer one new food at a time. Start small. Let your child try small portions of new foods.
  2. Offer new foods first. Your child is most hungry at the start of a meal.
  3. Cook and garden together. These activities make new fruits and vegetables, fun.
  4. Be a good role model. Try new foods yourself. Describe the taste, texture, and smell. 
  5. Be patient, new foods take time. It may take 10 or more tries for a child to accept a new food.