Healthy Children - May 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.



10 Tips Nutrition Education Series

With Protein Foods, Variety is Key - 10 tips for choosing protein

Protein foods include both animal (meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs) and plant (beans, peas, soy products, nuts, and seeds) sources. We all need protein—but most Americans eat enough, and some eat more than they need. How much is enough? Most people, ages 9 and older, should eat 5 to 7 ounces* of protein foods each day.

1. Vary your protein food choices.
Eat a variety of foods from the Protein Foods Group each week. Experiment with main dishes made with beans or peas, nuts, soy, and seafood.

2. Choose seafood twice a week.
Eat seafood in place of meat or poultry twice a week. Select a variety of seafood—include some that are higher in oils and low in mercury, such as salmon, trout, and herring.

3. Make meat and poultry lean or low fat.
Choose lean or low-fat cuts of meat like round or sirloin and ground beef that is at least 90% lean. Trim or drain fat from meat and remove poultry skin.

4. Have an egg.
One egg a day, on average, doesn’t increase risk for heart disease, so make eggs part of your weekly choices. Only the egg yolk contains cholesterol and saturated fat, so have as many egg whites as you want.

5. Eat plant protein foods more often.
Try beans and peas (kidney, pinto, black, or white beans; split peas; chickpeas; hummus), soy products (tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers), nuts, and seeds. They are naturally low in saturated fat and high in fiber.

6. Choose Nuts and seeds.
Choose unsalted nuts or seeds as a snack, on salads, or in main dishes to replace meat or poultry. Nuts and seeds are a concentrated source of calories, so eat small portions to keep calories in check.

7. Keep it tasty and healthy.
Try grilling, broiling, roasting, or baking—they don’t add extra fat. Some lean meats need slow, moist cooking to be tender—try a slow cooker for them. Avoid breading meat or poultry, which adds calories.

8. Make a healthy sandwich.
Choose turkey, roast beef, canned tuna or salmon, or peanut butter for sandwiches. Many deli meats, such as regular bologna or salami, are high in fat and sodium—make them occasional treats only.

9. Think small when it comes to meat portions.
Get the flavor you crave but in a smaller portion. Make or order a smaller burger or a “petite” size steak.

10. Check the sodium.
Check the Nutrition Facts label to limit sodium. Salt is added to many canned foods—including beans and meats. Many processed meats—such as ham, sausage, and hot dogs—are high in sodium. Some fresh chicken, turkey, and pork are brined in a salt solution for flavor and tenderness.

*What counts as an ounce of protein foods? 1 ounce lean meat, poultry, or seafood; 1 egg; 1/4 cup cooked beans or peas; 1/2 ounce nuts or seeds; or 1 tablespoon peanut butter.


Go to for more information.



Get Your Plate in Shape

Illinois Department of Human Services was proud to join the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics during March in celebrating National Nutrition Month. This year's National Nutrition Month theme was "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.



Growing a Container Garden

What You Need
Empty milk carton
Cup to water with
Old spoon to dig with
Easy Foods for Children to Grow from Seeds
Collard greens
Green beans
Steps to Grow a Container Garden
1. Cut one side off the milk carton.
2. Make a small hole in the bottom of each carton to allow water to drain.
3. Cover this hole with a flat stone to keep the dirt in.
4. Fill the carton with dirt almost to the top.
5. Dig holes for the seeds.
6. Place a seed in each hole, and gently pat the soil over each seed.
7. Water lightly to keep the dirt damp.
8. Place the container in a sunny location.
9. Once they sprout, pull out the plants so they aren’t too close. This will give the remaining plants more room to grow.
10. Remove any weeds that grow
11. Follow the directions on the package to fertilize the dirt.



October 11, 2010 was my first day as the executive director of Cheerful Home Child Care and Early Learning Center. I had so much to learn! My first goal was to learn the names of children and staff as quickly as possible.

To accomplish this goal, I spent a lot of time roaming through the building. As I did this, I began to take notice of what the children were eating. This led me to the kitchen where I examined the menus closely. Four days each week for breakfast the children were served sugary cereal, juice, and milk. On Mondays children were served a hot breakfast item. That sounded better until I saw what looked like corn dogs for breakfast. Well, they weren't corn dogs, they were flapsticks...a sausage link on a stick with a pancake-like thing wrapped around it. From freezer to oven to children—oh dear!

Chicken nuggets and french fries were served weekly for lunch as well as a ham patty on a bun. That didn't sound too bad. Then I looked more closely. Ham patties were compacted pork parts formed into a tube and sliced to make a patty shape. In investigating further, I found that mashed potatoes were flakes to which you just add water. Biscuits, sausage, gravy, and tri-tators were staples on the lunch menu. There were no fresh vegetables and very few fresh fruits included.

Name brand, individually wrapped items were served for snacks and in offering enough to meet nutritional requirements of the Child and Adult Care Food Program, the cost was nearly equal to the amount of a lunch reimbursement. Between the expense of these convenience food items and the fact that we should be serving children healthier foods, it was definitely time for a change.

Informal discussions with parents provided positive feedback. I also met formally with the finance committee and the board of directors to elicit their support. With everyone on board, I then researched the available options.

I learned there are many resources available and signed on with the Healthy Schools Campaign and Let's Move! Child Care. Our local food wholesaler had nutritionists and dieticians who met with us at no charge to discuss healthier eating choices. They helped us develop a six-week rotating lunch menu.

Kitchen staff were still a little apprehensive about the changes. They had to re-learn how to use our commercial grade meat slicer, stand mixer, and grill that had not been used for quite a while. Our head cook was still concerned about disappointing the children if she replaced their french fries with choices like steamed fresh broccoli.

In January 2011, we implemented our new menus. It took several months for everyone to adjust. Gone are the just add-water mashed potatoes and sugary cereal. We now have boneless, skinless chicken tenders on the grill instead of ham patties and we serve seasonal fresh vegetables and fruits, and whole grains regularly.

The staff is doing well with the new plan and the parents are pleased that their children have healthier food choices each day.

And, guess what? The children didn't complain once!


Healthy Schools Campaign -

Let’s Move! Child Care -



Practical Ways to Enjoy Food While Eating Less

Food is meant to be enjoyed, but eating less is the key to weight management and disease prevention, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. During National Nutrition Month, the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encouraged everyone to "Get Your Plate in Shape."

"One way to accomplish this is by eating the foods you enjoy while being mindful of portion sizes and total calories," says registered dietitian and Academy Spokesperson, Marjorie Nolan.

"Eating should be pleasurable, but it is important to be aware of how much food we eat every day. A key step to maintaining a healthy lifestyle is putting less food on your plate," Nolan says.

Simple and practical ways to eat fewer calories while savoring and enjoying your food

Be mindful of your daily calories needs
Find your personal daily calorie quota using the Dietary Guidelines. When planning your meals and snacks throughout the day, keep your calorie needs in mind. "A simple way to do this is to think about the portions on your plate, "Nolan says. "Divide your plate in four sections with one each for whole grains, lean proteins, vegetables and fruits, and a side of dairy, such as a cup of low-fat milk or yogurt or an ounce of cheese."
Avoid oversized portions by using smaller plates, bowls and glasses
"The standard 10-inch plate may be too large for you. Switch to 8-inch or appetizer-sized plates and you will automatically portion and eat less without feeling deprived," says Nolan. Pile your plate with nutrient-dense, lower-calorie foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean protein foods like beans, seafood, lean meat and poultry.
Get into the kitchen and stay in charge of what you're eating
Cooking more often at home not only allows you to balance what's on your plate, but also enables you to choose healthier fats, less sodium and increase the fiber in your diet while balancing the amount of calories you eat. "Then, when you eat out, you'll be more apt to recognize healthy portion sizes based on your experiences at home. Take the tactic of choosing lower calorie menu options when dining out by focusing on vegetables, fruits and whole grains," Nolan says.
Watch out for liquid calories
The calories in fruit juices and drinks with added sugars, sports drinks, sugar-laden coffee beverages and soft drinks can add up fast. Also, think before you drink alcoholic beverages as they have calories too. Remember to drink alcohol sensibly by capping it with one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men. (A standard drink is 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.)
Log in
"Food logging can be a great tool for keeping track of the foods you eat and ensuring you stay in your calorie limit," Nolan says. "By having awareness of everything you eat and drink, you'll be more apt to stick within your healthy calorie range. Write down what you're eating throughout the day so that its not such a big task to tackle at one time in the day, or use the USDA's Super Tracker which helps plan, analyze and track your diet and physical activity. You'll likely eat less and savor your food more."


MyPlate is part of a larger communications initiative based on 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans to help consumers make better food choices.

MyPlate is designed to remind Americans to eat healthfully; it is not intended to change consumer behavior alone. MyPlate illustrates the five food groups using a familiar mealtime visual, a place setting.

The website features practical information and tips to help Americans build healthier diets.




Replace Sodium and Empty Calories with Wholesome Foods

Grocery store shelves and restaurant menus are often crowded with foods containing solid fats, added sugars and high levels of sodium. During National Nutrition Month®, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) is helping Americans understand how to get the most nutrients they need from the foods they eat, all surrounding this year's theme: "Get Your Plate in Shape."

"When people eat foods that have added sugars and solid fats, they are consuming extra calories they don't need," says registered dietitian and Academy Spokesperson Angela Ginn. "These 'empty calories' are found in a number of foods and drinks and offer little-to-no nutritional benefits."

Foods high in solid fats (like sausage, shortening and cream) and added sugars (such as regular soda and pastries) should be considered occasional treats rather than regular options. Eating these foods on a regular basis can cause you to consume more calories than your body needs in one day.

"Replace these foods with nutritionally sound choices, like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy," Ginn says. "Eating occasional treats is okay. Just make sure to balance out those treats with healthier options and get plenty of exercise."

In addition to limiting foods high in solid fats and added sugars, consumers should also be aware of high levels of sodium in foods, especially pre-made options like frozen meals and canned soups and vegetables. Foods containing high levels of sodium are contributors to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

"The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming only 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, which is about one teaspoon of salt," Ginn says. "While meeting this recommendation may seem hard at first, choosing foods that are lower in sodium is one big step you can take towards meeting this goal.

Tips for Healthier Options

Choose foods and drinks with little or no added sugars.
"It is smart to look for foods that have no added sugars, like unsweetened apple sauce or unsweetened whole-grain cereals," Ginn says.
Drink water throughout the day. For variety, add lemons, limes or cucumbers to your water or try carbonated water.
Choose low-fat or fat-free milk or 100-percent fruit juices.
Eat fresh fruit salad for dessert.
Eat fewer foods that are high in solid fats.
"Solid fats can increase your risk for heart disease," Ginn says. "You can reduce this risk by choosing healthier oils and lean meats."
Instead of regular ground beef, opt for extra-lean ground beef. Ground turkey and chicken are also available in lean options.
Grill, broil, bake or steam your foods instead of frying.
Cook with healthy oils like olive, canola and sunflower oils in place of hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oils.
Opt for fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese.
Cut back on sodium.
"Much of the sodium we eat comes from prepared meals and foods eaten away from home. This can be significantly reduced by eating fresh foods," Ginn says.
Instead of salt, use herbs and spices to season foods, and avoid salting food before tasting it.
Do not add salt when cooking pasta, rice and vegetables.
Read the Nutrition Facts Panel to compare sodium content of foods such as soups, broths, breads and frozen dinners, and choose the healthiest option.
Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meats, poultry and fish, beans and peas, unsalted nuts, eggs and low-fat or fat-free milk and yogurt.
Ginn also recommends cooking different dishes at home. "This allows you to control what you put in your meal," she says.For more information on how to “Choose Your Plate in Shape,” visit the Academy’s National Nutrition Month website for a variety of helpful tips, fun games, promotional tools and nutrition education resources.


Additional Information from ChooseMyPlate

What are empty Calories?
Currently, many of the foods and beverages Americans eat and drink contain empty calories – calories from solid fats and/or added sugars. Solid fats and added sugars add calories to the food but few or no nutrients. For this reason, the calories from solid fats and added sugars in a food are often called empty calories. Learning more about solid fats and added sugars can help you make better food and drink choices.
Solid fats
are fats that are solid at room temperature, like butter, beef fat, and shortening. Some solid fats are found naturally in foods. They can also be added when foods are processed by food companies or when they are prepared.
Added sugars
are sugars and syrups that are added when foods or beverages are processed or prepared.

Solid fats and added sugars can make a food or beverage more appealing, but they also can add a lot of calories. The foods and beverages that provide the most empty calories for Americans are:

  • Cakes, cookies, pastries, and donuts (contain both solid fat and added sugars)
  • Sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks, and fruit drinks (contain added sugars)
  • Cheese (contains solid fat)
  • Pizza (contains solid fat)
  • Ice cream (contains both solid fat and added sugars)
  • Sausages, hot dogs, bacon, and ribs (contain solid fat)


These foods and beverages are the major sources of empty calories, but many can be found in forms with less or no solid fat or added sugars. For example, low-fat cheese and low-fat hot dogs can be purchased. You can choose water, milk, or sugar-free soda instead of drinks with sugar. Check that the calories in these products are less than in the regular product. In some foods, like most candies and sodas, all the calories are empty calories. These foods are often called "empty calorie foods." However, empty calories from solid fats and added sugars can also be found in some other foods that contain important nutrients. Some examples of foods that provide nutrients, shown in forms with and without empty calories:

Food with some empty calories

  • Sweetened applesauce (contains added sugars)
  • Regular ground beef (75% lean) (contains solid fats)
  • Fried chicken (contains solid fats from frying and skin)
  • Sugar-sweetened cereals (contain added sugars)
  • Whole milk (contains solid fats)


Food with few or no empty calories

  • Unsweetened applesauce
  • Extra lean ground beef (95% or more lean)
  • Baked chicken breast without skin
  • Unsweetened cereals
  • Fat-free milk


Making better choices, like unsweetened applesauce or extra lean ground beef, can help keep your intake of added sugars and solid fats low.

A small amount of empty calories is okay, but most people eat far more than is healthy. It is important to limit empty calories to the amount that fits your calorie and nutrient needs. You can lower your intake by eating and drinking foods and beverages containing empty calories less often or by decreasing the amount you eat or drink.

Learn More

Visit the USDA sponsored ChooseMyPlate web site for information on a healthy diet. Before you eat, think about what goes on you plate or in your cup or bowl. Learn more about getting your plate in shape, visit: