Healthy Children - April 2012

INCCRRA in partnership with the Illinois Department of Human Services is providing information on childhood obesity through its website. The intent is to communicate to child care practitioners, parents 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 not just for overweight children but 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 heavy 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.



Kids a Cookin’
Where Cooking is Fun

Baked Potato with Cheesy Vegetables
Creamy cheese sauce – yum!

2 cups chopped broccoli
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped carrots
2 tablespoons margarine
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups low fat milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
8 baked potatoes
Remember to wash your hands!
1. Cook broccoli, onion and carrots in a small amount of water until tender. Drain and set aside.
2. In a saucepan, melt margarine and stir in flour.
3. Slowly add milk while stirring.
4. Continue stirring and cook until sauce thickens.
5. Add cheese and stir until melted.
6. Add vegetables.
7. Serve over hot baked potatoes.
Helpful Hint
Cheddar cheese is called for in this recipe, but other varieties will work fine. Maybe you have processed cheese on hand? It makes a smooth sauce. Or, perhaps you have a package of Swiss cheese slices. They will also make a tasty sauce. When it comes to veggies, cheese is considered by most kids to be a very good thing. Just don’t expect this sauce to look like that bright, neon orange stuff that comes out of a box!
Safety Tip
Baked potatoes are quick and easy to cook in a microwave oven. Be sure to poke the skin of the potato after washing to prevent it from exploding while it bakes. Leftover baked potatoes need to be refrigerated to keep them safe to eat. For quick cooling, cut potatoes into quarters before refrigerating. If you bake potatoes in foil in a regular oven, be sure to remove the foil before refrigerating leftover potatoes.



Building Good Food Habits

It seems everyone is talking about food and over eating or eating the wrong kinds of foods. We forget that many people are doing a great job feeding their families. Then next time you hear all the negative information, take a look at all the positive things you are doing or have learned to do for your family. Great parents make mistakes, learn from them and do better the next time. Here are a few suggestions you may already be doing and can give yourself a “Pat on the Back” for your positive efforts.

  • If you are using a bottle to feed your baby, always hold your baby.
  • Offer nutritious foods at home. Set a good example by preparing (and eating) a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains every day
  • Offer new foods prepared the same way several times. Children do not always like new foods the first times they are offered, it may take several times before they are even interested in taking a bite, and several more before they like it.
  • Ask grandparents and other family members to follow your example when offering new foods, helping your child fill their plate or order at a restaurant. (Remember you are the parent, and in charge!)
  • Include children in age appropriate shopping and cooking activities. Children are more likely to try new foods if they have participated in the preparation.
  • Check with your child’s day care or teacher to see how their special day might be celebrated. Consider suggesting fresh fruit, a book about nutrition, good manners or playing together; maybe a music or other CD for activity time. Think of other things that might make their day special and also be special for the class.


Cheryl A. Metheny, MS, RD, CDE, LDN
Illinois Department of Human Services
1107 W Deyoung
Marion, IL 62959
Fax: 618-998-9145
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Choose a Food Group

MyPlate illustrates the five food groups that are the building blocks for a healthy diet using a familiar image—a place setting for a meal. Before you eat, think about what goes on your plate or in your cup or bowl. To learn more about building a healthy plate, select a food group below.

Focus on fruits.
Vary your veggies.
Make at least half your grains whole.
Protein Foods
Go lean with protein.
Get your calcium-rich foods.



Get Your Plate in Shape

March is National Nutrition Month

Illinois Department of Human Services is proud to join the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics during March in celebrating National Nutrition Month. This year's National Nutrition Month theme is "Get Your Plate in Shape" and encourages employees and consumers to remember to include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and dairy on their plates every day. The month-long campaign highlights the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.

Simple Tips

Here are a few ways to "Get Your Plate in Shape" from the food and nutrition experts at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables
Eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark-green, red and orange varieties. Add fresh, dried, frozen or canned fruits to meals and snacks.
Make at least half your grains whole
Choose 100 percent wholegrain breads, cereals, crackers, pasta and brown rice. Check the ingredients list on food packages to find whole-grain foods.
Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk
Fat-free and low-fat milk have the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole milk, but less fat and calories. For those who are lactose intolerant, try lactose-free milk or a calcium-fortified soy beverage.
Vary your protein choices
Eat a variety of foods from the protein food group each week, such as seafood, nuts and beans, as well as lean meat, poultry and eggs. Keep meat and poultry portions small and lean. And be sure to choose seafood as the protein at least twice a week.
Cut back on sodium and empty calories from solid fats and added sugars
Compare sodium in foods and choose those with lower numbers, and season your foods with herbs and spices instead of salt. Switch from solid fats to healthy oils like olive and canola oil. Replace sugary drinks with water and choose fruit for dessert.
Enjoy your foods but eat less
Avoid oversized portions. Use a smaller plate, bowl and glass. Cook more often at home where you are in control of what's in your food. When eating out, choose lower calorie menu options.
Be physically active your way
Adults need at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of physical activity every week. Choose activities that you enjoy, and start by doing as much as you can.


Campaign Information

Initiated in 1973 as a week-long event, "National Nutrition Week" became a month-long observance in 1980 in response to growing public interest in nutrition. Additionally, to commemorate the dedication of RDs as advocates for advancing the nutritional status of Americans and people around the world, the second Wednesday of March has been designated "Registered Dietitian Day."

As part of this public education campaign, the Academy's National Nutrition Month website includes a variety of helpful tips, fun games, promotional tools and nutrition education resources, all designed to spread the message of good nutrition around the "Get Your Plate in Shape" theme.

Visit the Academy's National Nutrition website.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) is the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving the nation's health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy.

Visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Additional Information

Interested in additional resources to Get Your Plate in Shape? Visit the USDA sponsored website for information on a healthy diet using a familiar image - a place setting for a meal. Before you eat, think about what goes on your plate or in your cup or bowl. Learn more about getting your plate in shape.



Healthy Eating Tips

Tips for Eating Healthy When Eating out

  • As a beverage choice, ask for water or order fat-free or low-fat milk, unsweetened tea, or other drinks without added sugars.
  • Ask for whole-wheat bread for sandwiches.
  • In a restaurant, start your meal with a salad packed with veggies, to help control hunger and feel satisfied sooner.
  • Ask for salad dressing to be served on the side. Then use only as much as you want.
  • Choose main dishes that include vegetables, such as stir fries, kebobs, or pasta with a tomato sauce.
  • Order steamed, grilled, or broiled dishes instead of those that are fried or sautéed.
  • Choose a small" or "medium" portion. This includes main dishes, side dishes, and beverages.
  • Order an item from the menu instead heading for the "all-you-can-eat" buffet.
  • If main portions at a restaurant are larger than you want, try one of these strategies to keep from overeating:
    • Order an appetizer-sized portion or a side dish instead of an entrée.
    • Share a main dish with a friend.
    • If you can chill the extra food right away, take leftovers home in a "doggy bag."
    • When your food is delivered, set aside or pack half of it to go immediately.
    • Resign from the "clean your plate club" - when you've eaten enough, leave the rest.
  • To keep your meal moderate in calories, fat, and sugars:
    • Ask for salad dressing to be served "on the side" so you can add only as much as you want.
    • Order foods that do not have creamy sauces or gravies
    • Add little or no butter to your food.
    • Choose fruits for dessert most often.
  • On long commutes or shopping trips, pack some fresh fruit, cut-up vegetables, low-fat string cheese sticks, or a handful of unsalted nuts to help you avoid stopping for sweet or fatty snacks.



Tips for Increasing Physical Activity

Make physical activity a regular part of the day.

Choose activities that you enjoy and can do regularly. Fitting activity into a daily routine can be easy - such as taking a brisk 10 minute walk to and from the parking lot, bus stop, or subway station. Or, join an exercise class. Keep it interesting by trying something different on alternate days. Every little bit adds up and doing something is better than doing nothing.

Make sure to do at least 10 minutes of activity at a time, shorter bursts of activity will not have the same health benefits. For example, walking the dog for 10 minutes before and after work or adding a 10 minute walk at lunchtime can add to your weekly goal. Mix it up. Swim, take a yoga class, garden or lift weights. To be ready anytime, keep some comfortable clothes and a pair of walking or running shoes in the car and at the office.

More Ways to increase physical activity

At home:
  • Join a walking group in the neighborhood or at the local shopping mall. Recruit a partner for support and encouragement.
  • Push the baby in a stroller.
  • Get the whole family involved - enjoy an afternoon bike ride with your kids.
  • Walk up and down the soccer or softball field sidelines while watching the kids play.
  • Walk the dog - don't just watch the dog walk.
  • Clean the house or wash the car.
  • Walk, skate, or cycle more, and drive less.
  • Do stretches, exercises, or pedal a stationary bike while watching television.
  • Mow the lawn with a push mower.
  • Plant and care for a vegetable or flower garden.
  • Play with the kids - tumble in the leaves, build a snowman, splash in a puddle, or dance to favorite music.
  • Exercise to a workout video.
At work:
  • Get off the bus or subway one stop early and walk or skate the rest of the way.
  • Replace a coffee break with a brisk 10-minute walk. Ask a friend to go with you.
  • Take part in an exercise program at work or a nearby gym.
  • Join the office softball team or walking group.
At play:
  • Walk, jog, skate, or cycle.
  • Swim or do water aerobics.
  • Take a class in martial arts, dance, or yoga.
  • Golf (pull cart or carry clubs).
  • Canoe, row, or kayak.
  • Play racket ball, tennis, or squash.
  • Ski cross-country or downhill.
  • Play basketball, softball, or soccer.
  • Hand cycle or play wheelchair sports.
  • Take a nature walk.
  • Most important - have fun while being active!


Resources for Nutrition & Health

  • Food Groups
    • Fruits
    • Vegetables
    • Grains
    • Protein Foods
    • Dairy
    • Oils
    • Empty Calories
  • Audiences
    • Dieters
    • Pregnant & Breastfeeding Women
    • Children (6 - 11 Years)
    • Preschoolers (2 - 5 Years)
    • Educators/Teachers