Healthy Children - March 2019

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. 

10 Tips: To be an Active Family

Physical activity is important for children and adults of all ages. Being active as a family can benefit everyone. Adults need 2 ½ hours a week of physical activity and children need 60 minutes a day. Follow these tips to add more activity to your family’s busy schedule.

  1. Set specific activity times: determine time slots throughout the week when the whole family is available. Devote a few of these times to physical activity. Try doing something active after dinner or begin the weekend with a Saturday morning walk.
  2. Plan ahead and track your progress: write your activity plans on a family calendar. Let the kids help in planning the activities. Allow them to check it off after completing each activity.
  3. Include work around the house: involve the kids in yard work and other active chores around the house. Have them help you with raking, weeding, planting, or vacuuming.
  4. Use what is available: plan activities that require little or no equipment or facilities. Examples include walking, jogging, jumping rope, playing tag, and dancing. Find out what programs your community recreation center offers for a free or minimal charge.
  5. Build new skills: enroll the kids in classes they might enjoy such as gymnastics, dance, or tennis. Help them practice. This will keep things fun and interesting, and introduce new skills!
  6. Plan for all weather conditions: choose some activities that do not depend on the weather conditions. Try mall walking, indoor swimming, or active video games. Enjoy outdoor activities as a bonus whenever the weather is nice.
  7. Turn off the TV: set a rule that no one can spend longer than 2 hours per day playing video games, watching TV, and using the computer (except for school work). Instead of a TV show, plan an active family game, dance to favorite music, or go for a walk.
  8. Start small: begin by introducing one new family activity and add more when you fell everyone is ready. Take the dog for a long walk, play another ball game, or go to an additional exercise class.
  9. Include other families: invite others to join your family activities. This is a great way for you and your kids to spend time with friends while being physically active. Plan parties with active games such as bowling or an obstacle course, sign up for family programs at the YMCA or join a recreational club.
  10. Treat the family with fun physical activity: when it is time to celebrate as a family, do something active as a reward. Plan a trip to the zoo, park, or lake to treat the family.

Childhood Obesity Facts from The Center for Disease Control (CDC)

Physical Education offers kids not only the opportunity to release built up energy stored up throughout the day, it teaches them teamwork, agility, and a life long appreciation for keeping their body in motion. One of our neighbors commented,

“I believe that physical education is a lifestyle which must be promoted on an everyday basis…..learning math through P.E. (distance/measurements, etc.) It’s called applied hands-on learning for those folks is SSFUSD that are the decision makers.”

The habits and lessons we teach our youth will remain with them a lifetime. By setting the example and teaching our kids that daily physical activity is necessary we help them develop a healthy lifestyle. And it needs to be understood we cannot put all of this on the backs of our schools; parents must also step up and ensure kids learn the benefits of eating fresh veggies and fruit. It is all too easy to rely on processed convenient foods that offer ‘empty calories’ with little to no health benefit. And we need to set the example ourselves since we know our little ones are mini-me’s and imitate our behavior.

Between a balanced curriculum that includes physical education and nutrition, supported and encourages at home, we can reverse this trend of childhood obesity and all the associated health risks.

Childhood Obesity Facts:

  • Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.
  • The percentage of children aged 6-11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12-19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period.
  • In 2012, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.
  • Overweight is defined as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water, or a combination of these factors. Obesity is defined as having excess body fat.
  • Overweight and obesity are the result of “caloric imbalance” – too few calories expended for the number of calories consumed – and are affected by various genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors.

Health Effects of Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity has both immediate and long-term effects on health and well-being. Immediate health effects:

  • Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, such as high cholesterol, or high blood pressure. In a population-based sample of 5-to-17-year-olds, 70% of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
  • Obese adolescents are more likely to have pre-diabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels indicate a high risk for development of diabetes.
  • Children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.

Long-term health effects:

  • Children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese as adults and are therefore more at risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, type-2-diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis. One study showed that children who became obese as early as age 2 were more likely to be obese as adults.
  • Overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk for many types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix, and prostate, as well as multiple myeloma, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.


  • Healthy lifestyle habits, including healthy eating and physical activity, can lower the risk of becoming obese and developing related diseases.
  • The dietary and physical activity behaviors of children and adolescents are influenced by many sectors of society, including families, communities, schools, child care settings, medical care providers, faith-based institutions, government agencies, the media, and the food and beverage industries and entertainment industries.
  • Schools play a particularly critical role by establishing a safe and supportive environment with policies and practices that support healthy behaviors. Schools also provide opportunities for students to learn about and practice healthy eating and physical activity behaviors.

Cooking for Your Family

You can easily prepare foods for a large family without spending a lot of money. Try these tips to save time, money, and stress when making meals for your friends or family.

  1. Keep it simple: healthy and creative meals don’t have to be complicated. A simpler menu will usually cost less money and will be easier to prepare in the end.
  2. Allow your family to help: divide jobs among family members. Remember – kids love to in the kitchen. With help, you can get more done and have more time to enjoy with your family.
  3. Stretch recipes by adding ingredients: get more servings out of your favorite recipes. Add rice to soups or stews, frozen vegetables to favorite pasta dishes, or beans to burgers to serve more meals.
  4. Options for the holidays: try having holiday brunch. Breakfast foods like eggs are less expensive and make a great protein for the main dish. Another fun idea is to have a yogurt parfait bar, where everyone can add his or her favorite toppings to yogurt.
  5. Make it a potluck: potlucks area great option for large families. If you are hosting, prepare the main dish and leave the sides to the rest of the family. It creates less work for you and allows everyone to make and sample each other’s creations.
  6. Need help making ends meet? Discover more about nutrition assistance programs by visiting the links below:
    1. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
    2. Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
    3. Children Nutrition Programs

Citrus Chicken

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour


  • 4 six ounce chicken thighs (bone-in)
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lime juice (1 lime)
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 orange, sliced


  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. To trim the chicken, lay the chicken thighs on the cutting board, skin side up. Press down on the chicken to push out the excess fat. Use a sharp knife to cute excess fat.
  3. Put the chicken, oregano, cumin, lime juice, salt, and pepper in the bowl and mix well. Proceed to the next step or cover and refrigerate up to overnight.
  4. Put the contents of the bowl in the baking pan and transfer to the oven.
  5. Bake about 1 hour until cooked throughout and well browned.
  6. Serve right away.

Dining Decisions

A healthy body needs nutrients (like vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates) for growth, development, energy and running all of our body systems. Those nutrients should come mainly from the food you eat. Just as a car needs gasoline to run, your body needs food to keep it going. But not just any food. To be your healthiest, and to look and feel for best, you need to give your body the right kinds and amounts of fuel.

Clean – Partnership for Food Safety Education

Wash Hands and Surfaces Often

Foodborne bacteria can’t be seen, tasted or smelled. These microorganisms can make you sick if ingested, and they spread through contact with cutting boards, utensils, countertops, and food – so ready, set, CLEAN!

Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds!


  • Wet your hands with warm water and apply soap.
  • Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well. Be sure the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
  • Continue rubbing hands for at least 20 seconds – about the time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean cloth or paper towel.


  • Before eating
  • Before, during and after preparing food
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • After handling uncooked eggs or raw meat, poultry or seafood
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • After touching an animal or animal waste
  • After touching garbage
  • After using the toilet

Clean Surfaces:

Keep Your Scene Clean

Bacteria that can cause illness can survive in many places around your kitchen. Keep countertops and other kitchen surface dean to prevent cross-contamination.

  • Clean Surfaces: with hot water and soap to remove dirt and debris. Do this after preparing each food item and before going on the next food item.
  • Keep your fridge clean, too: wipe spills immediately and regularly clean the inside with hot water and liquid soap. Dry with paper towels.
  • After cleaning, you may Sanitize Surfaces as an extra precaution to kill germs. Use a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented liquid chlorine bleach and 1 gallon of water. Apply to surfaces, and allow standing for several minutes. Air dry or pat dry with fresh paper towels.

Rinse Produce:

Rinse fresh fruits and veggies under running water just before eating, even if you plan to cut or peel them because bacteria can spread from the outside to the inside during cutting or peeling.

  • Firm-skinned fruits and veggies should be rubbed by hand or scrubbed with a clean brush while rinsing under running water.
  • Packaged fruits and veggies labeled “ready-to-eat” “washed” or “triple-washed” should not be washed. Doing so may increase the risk of cross-contamination.
  • Dry fruits and veggies with a clean cloth or paper towel.
  • Do not use soap or bleach to wash produce. These products are not intended for consumption.