Healthy Children - December 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. 

Nutrients and Health Benefits

Why is it important to make lean or low-fat choices from the Protein Foods Group?

Foods in the meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, and seed group provide nutrients that are vital for health and maintenance of your body. However, choosing foods from this group that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol may have health implications.

The chart below lists specific amounts that count as 1 ounce equivalent in the Protein Foods Group towards your daily-recommended intake:


The amount that counts as 1 ounce equivalent in the Protein Foods Group

Common portions and ounce equivalents


-1 ounce cooked lean beef
-1 ounce cooked lean pork or ham

-1 small steak (filet) = 3/12 to 4 ounce equivalents

-1 small lean hamburger = 2 to 3-ounce equivalents


-1 ounce cooked chicken or turkey, without skin

-1 sandwich slice of turkey

-1 small chicken breast = 3-ounce equivalent


-1 ounce cooked fish or shellfish

-1 can of tuna, drained = 3 to 4 ounces
-1 salmon steak = 4 to 6 ounces
-1 small trout = 3 ounces


-1 egg

-3 egg whites = 2 ounces
-3 egg yolks = 1 ounce

Nuts & Seeds

-½ ounce of nuts (12 almonds, 24 pistachios, 7 walnut halves)
-½ ounce of seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, or squash seeds, hulled, roasted)
-1 tablespoon of peanut butter or almond butter

-1 ounce of nuts or seeds = 2-ounce equivalents

Beans & Peas

-¼ cup of cooked beans (black, kidney, pinto, or white beans)
-¼ cup of cooked peas (chickpeas, cowpeas, lentils, or split peas)
-¼ cup of baked beans, refried beans
-¼ cup of tofu
-1 ox. Tempeh, cooked
-¼ cup roasted soybeans, 1 falafel patty (4oz)
-2 tablespoons hummus

-1 cup split pea soup = 2 ounces
-1 cup lentil soup = 2 ounces
-1 cup bean soup = 2 ounces
-1 soy or bean burger patty = 2 ounces


  • Diets that are high in saturated fats raise “bad” cholesterol levels in the blood. The “bad” cholesterol is called LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. High LDL cholesterol, in turn, increases the risk of coronary heart disease. Some food choices in this group are high in saturated fat. These include fatty cuts or beef, pork, and lamb; regular (75% to 85% lean) ground beef; regular sausages; hot dogs, and bacon; some luncheon meats such as regular bologna and salami; and some poultry such as duck. To keep blood cholesterol levels healthy, limit the amount of these foods you eat.
  • Diets that are high in cholesterol can raise LDL cholesterol levels in the blood. Cholesterol is only found in foods from animal sources. Some foods from this group are high in cholesterol. These include egg yolks (egg whites are cholesterol-free) and organ meats such as liver and giblets. To help keep blood cholesterol levels healthy, limit the amount of these foods you eat.
  • A high intake of fats makes it difficult to avoid consuming more calories than are needed.

Why is it important to eat 8 ounces of seafood per week?

  • Seafood contains a range of nutrients, notably omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. Eating about 8 ounces per week of a variety of seafood contributes to the prevention of heart disease. Smaller amounts of seafood are recommended for young children.
  • Seafood varieties that are commonly consumed in the United States that are higher in EPA and DHA and lower in mercury include salmon, anchovies, herring, sardines, Pacific oysters, trout, and Atlantic and Pacific mackerel. The health benefits from consuming seafood outweigh the health risk associated with mercury, a heavy metal found in seafood in varying levels.

Health Benefits

  • Meat, poultry, fish, dry beans and peas, eggs, nuts, and seeds supply many nutrients. These include protein B vitamins (niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, and B6), vitamin E, iron, zinc, and magnesium.
  • Proteins function as building blocks for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. They are also building blocks for enzymes, hormones, and vitamins. Proteins are one of three nutrients that provide calories (the others are fat and carbohydrates.)
  • B vitamins found in this food group serve a variety of functions in the body. They help the body release energy, play a vital role in the function of the nervous system, aid in the formation of red blood cells, and help build tissues.
  • Iron is used to carry oxygen in the blood. Many teenage girls and women in their childbearing years have iron-deficiency anemia. They should eat foods high in heme-iron (meats) or eat other non-heme iron containing foods along with a food rich in vitamin C, which can improve absorption of non-heme iron.
  • Magnesium is used in building bones and in releasing energy from muscles.
  • Zinc is necessary for biochemical reactions and helps the immune system function properly. EPA and DHA are omega-3 fatty acids found in varying amounts in seafood. Eating 8 ounces per week of seafood may help reduce the risk of heart disease.

What are the benefits of eating nuts and seeds?

  • Eating peanuts and certain tree nuts (walnuts, almonds, pistachios) may reduce the risk of heart disease when consumed as part of a diet that is nutritionally adequate and within calorie needs. Because nuts and seeds are high in calories, eat them in small portions and use them to replace other protein foods, like some meat or poultry, rather than adding them to what you already eat. In addition, choose unsalted nuts and seeds to help reduce sodium intakes.

10 Tips for Making Great Tasting Snacks

  1. Create a yogurt sundae!
    1. Top plain, low-fat or fat-free yogurt with fresh, frozen, or canned fruit, like bananas, strawberries, or peaches. Sprinkle whole-grain cereal on top for crunch.
  2. Make Pita Pockets
    1. Stuff a small whole-wheat pita with sliced bell peppers, salsa, and a slice of low-fat cheese. Melt in the microwave for 15-20 seconds.
  3. Jazz up your favorite cereal
    1. Make a trail mix! Stir ¼ cup of unsalted nuts, ¼ cup of dried raisins or cranberries, and ¼ cup of whole-grain cereal together.
  4. Make a fruit sandwich
    1. Cut an apple into thin slices. Spread peanut butter or almond butter between two slices to create “apple sandwiches.”
  5. Dip your veggies
    1. Create veggie treats dipping slices of cucumbers, peppers, and carrots in a low-fat salad dressing or hummus.
  6. Pack an afterschool snack
    1. For a healthy afterschool snack, keep a fruit cup packed in 100% juice or water in your bag. Some fresh fruit, like bananas and oranges, are also easy to pack and eat any time.
  7. Try a piece of cheesy toast
    1. Toast a slice of whole-wheat bread and top with a slice of your favorite low-fat cheese.
  8. Freeze your fruit
    1. For a frozen treat on hot days, try freezing grapes or bananas! Don’t forget to peel bananas and pull grapes from the stem before freezing.
  9. Power up with ‘roll-ups’
    1. Roll a slice a low-salt deli turkey or ham around an apple wedge or around a slice of low-fat cheese.
  10. Build a fruit salad
    1. Mix your favorite sliced fruits such as pineapple, grapes, and melon.

Recipes from Feeding America

Apple Stuffing Muffins


  • 6 cups bread cubes
  • 1 cup diced apple
  • 1/3 cup finely diced onion
  • ½ tsp. minced sage
  • ½ tsp. fresh thyme
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • ¼ cup apple juice
  • 1 ¼ cup chicken broth
  • Maple syrup


Sauté onions in a frying pan then transfer to a bowl. Add in apple, sage, and cinnamon. Mix all ingredients and then spray muffin tin with olive oil. Press gently into muffin tins. Drizzle lightly with maple syrup, and then they’re ready to put into the oven.

Bake at 350º for approximately 30 minutes.

Turkey Pizza


  • 1 cup celery, sliced
  • 1 tsp. sage
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups turkey gravy
  • 1 pound turkey sausage, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 cups turkey breast, cooked and shredded
  • 24 inches thin pizza crust
  • 2 cups part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded


  1. Preheat oven to 425º degrees
  2. Spread half of the gravy over top of each pizza, and then arrange half of your prepared sausage, turkey and celery over each pizza. Sprinkle half a tsp. of each spice over each pizza, then evenly spread one cup of cheese over each pizza.

Bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted

10 Tips for being Active Every Day

  1. Tie up your laces and walk
    1. Go for a walk around your neighborhood or walk to your friend’s house instead of taking the bus or asking for a ride. Forget the elevator and take the stairs every chance you get. Remember to be safe by using sidewalks and crosswalks.
  2. Turn up the music
    1. Shake, rattle, and roll to your favorite songs. Turn on some hip-hop, country salsa, or pop music and move your body. Dancing is a great way to get some physical activity.
  3. Ride a bike
    1. Grab your helmet and safety gear and go for a bike ride. Ride your bike to school or grab your friends and enjoy a ride in the neighborhood.
  4. Join a team
    1. Show your team spirit and join a sport at your school or community center. There are tons of fun teams such as basketball, baseball, gymnastics, dancing, soccer, swimming, and tennis. Choose an activity that you like and have fun!
  5. Go out and play
    1. Ditch the TV and go outside with friends, family, and even your pets. Walk your dog. Make a snowman. Fly a kite. Have a hula-hoop contest. Play basketball with friends. Try jumping rope. Or simply play a game of tag.
  6. Dive right in
    1. Go to your local indoor or outdoor pool and swim. Swim laps, play water games with friends or have diving contests for fun.
  7. Get paid to be fit
    1. Earn extra cash by mowing lawns, washing cars, shoveling snow, or walking dogs for your family or for your neighbors. Listen to music while you work to keep you going.
  8. Try skating or skateboarding
    1. Grab your friends and go to a local park or indoor skating rink. It’s easy to learn and a great way to be active while still having fun. Remember to wear your helmet and safety pads.
  9. Plant a garden
    1. Plan and grow flowers, fruits, and vegetables with your family, or even with your friends! Creating a garden is tough work and a good way to keep fit. Be sure to check on your plants and water them every day.
  10. Stuck inside?
    1. Play a game of hide-and-seek or plan a scavenger hunt in your house with friends and family. Another great way to stay active indoors is by doing crunches and jumping-jacks – see how many you can complete!