Healthy Children - September 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.



Liven Up Your Meals with Vegetables and Fruits

10 tips to improve your meals with vegetables and fruits

Discover the many benefits of adding vegetables and fruits to your meals. They are low in fat and calories, while providing fiber and other key nutrients. Most Americans should eat more than 3 cups—and for some, up to 6 cups—of vegetables and fruits each day. Vegetables and fruits don’t just add nutrition to meals. They can also add color, flavor, and texture. Explore these creative ways to bring healthy foods to your table.

1. fire up the grillUse the grill to cook vegetables and fruits. Try grilling mushrooms, carrots, peppers, or potatoes on a kabob skewer. Brush with oil to keep them from drying out. Grilled fruits like peaches, pineapple, or mangos add great flavor to a cookout.2. expand the flavor of your casserolesMix vegetables such as sautéed onions, peas, pinto beans, or tomatoes into your favorite dish for that extra flavor.3. planning something Italian?Add extra vegetables to your pasta dish. Slip some peppers, spinach, red beans, onions, or cherry tomatoes into your traditional tomato sauce. Vegetables provide texture and low-calorie bulk that satisfies.4. get creative with your saladToss in shredded carrots, strawberries, spinach, watercress, orange segments, or sweet peas for a flavorful, fun salad.5. salad bars aren’t just for saladsTry eating sliced fruit from the salad bar as your dessert when dining out. This will help you avoid any baked desserts that are high in calories.6. get in on the stir-frying funTry something new! Stir-fry your veggies—like broccoli, carrots, sugar snap peas, mushrooms, or green beans—for a quick-and-easy addition to any meal.7. add them to your sandwichesWhether it is a sandwich or wrap, vegetables make great additions to both. Try sliced tomatoes, romaine lettuce, or avocado on your everyday sandwich or wrap for extra flavor.8. be creative with your baked goodsAdd apples, bananas, blueberries, or pears to your favorite muffin recipe for a treat.9. make a tasty fruit smoothieFor dessert, blend strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries with frozen bananas and 100% fruit juice for a delicious frozen fruit smoothie.10. liven up an omeletBoost the color and flavor of your morning omelet with vegetables. Simply chop, saute, and add them to the egg as it cooks. Try combining different vegetables, such as mushrooms, spinach, onions, or bell peppers.

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Choose Your Fun

Too Much TV
Preparation Time
5 min
Activity Time
15 min
The Berenstain Bears and Too Much TV by Stan & Jan Berenstain.
Preparation Prior to Class
1. Familiarize yourself with the book.
2. Practice reading The Berenstain Bears and Too Much TV while holding the book in such a manner that the children will be able to view the pictures while you read.
1. Read The Berenstain Bears and Too Much TV to the children.
2. Talk about how too much TV was not a good thing for the bears: they were not doing other things they enjoyed, they went straight to the TV with hardly a hello, they had no lively conversations around the dinner table, and they didn’t have fun playing outside.
3. Discuss activities the bears did instead of watching TV or videos: ride a bike, play outside, watch the stars come out, go on nature walk, and do a puzzle. Ask children what types of activities they can do if they live in a city (instead of the woods like the bears do).
4. Talk about what the bears did at the end of the week and how they felt about watching TV.
5. Ask the children to tell what activities they enjoy doing instead of watching TV.
Additional Discussion During the Activity
Discuss Highlights from the Lesson Plan
On average, children, like the bears in the story, spend too much time watching TV.
Watching TV won’t make children healthy but being active and having fun will.

Adapted from Fit5Kids.



Choosing Foods for Your Family
GO, SLOW, and WHOA Foods

An easy way to learn about which foods are lower in fat and calories is to think in terms of GO, SLOW, and WHOA.

GO Foods are:

  • Lowest in fat and sugar
  • Relatively low in calories
  • "Nutrient dense" (rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients important to health)
  • Great to eat anytime


Examples include:
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
  • Lean meat, poultry, and fish
  • Beans, eggs, and nuts


SLOW Foods are:

  • Higher in fat, added sugar, and calories
  • To be eaten sometimes/less often


WHOA Foods are:

  • Highest in fat and added sugar
  • "Calorie-dense" (high in calories)
  • Often low in nutrients
  • To be eaten only once in a while/on special occasions, in small portions


This downloadable GO, SLOW, and WHOA Foods chart has examples of foods in each group. You can place it on your fridge, share it with your family, and/or take it to the grocery store. Also, check out the colorful U R What U Eat for a cool version created just for the kids. And, don’t forget to look at the Calories Needed Each Day parent tip sheet too to help you determine how much of these foods to eat to maintain energy balance.

Reprinted from



Fruit and Oatmeal Bars

6 tablespoons grape seed oil, or other neutral oil, plus extra for brushing pan
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup mixed seeds, such as pumpkin, sunflower and sesame
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups mixed dried fruit, such as raisins, cherries, apricots, papaya, pineapple and cranberries (at least 3 kinds, cut into small pieces if large)
1 teaspoon ground cardamom or cinnamon.
Heat oven to 350 degrees
Line a 9-inch-square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, letting a few inches hang over side of pan. Brush with oil.
Spread oats and seeds on another baking pan and toast in oven just until golden and fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes, shaking pan once.
In a saucepan, combine oil, honey, brown sugar, maple syrup and salt. Stir over medium heat until smooth and hot. In a mixing bowl, toss together toasted oats and seeds, dried fruit and cardamom. Pour hot sugar mixture over and stir until well combined.
While mixture is warm, transfer to prepared pan, pressing into pan evenly with an offset spatula.
Bake until brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer pan to a rack and let cool completely. Using the overhanging foil or paper, lift out of pan and place on a work surface. Cut into bars, about 1 1/2 inches by 3 inches.

Reprinted from the Healthy Recipes from the White House to You
Healthier US School Challenge Celebration, The White House October 17, 2011



Healthy Snacks: Quick Tips for Parents

Snacks give kids important nutrients and help control hunger between meals.

Healthy snack ideas

  • “Ants on a log” (celery with peanut butter and raisins)
  • Fresh or canned fruit (in 100% juice, not syrup) with fat-free or low-fat vanilla yogurt
  • Whole-grain crackers with fat-free or low-fat cheese
  • Frozen grapes (rinse and freeze grapes overnight)
  • Whole-wheat bread or apple slices with peanut butter
  • Quesadillas (fat-free or low-fat cheese on a whole-wheat tortilla)
  • Unsalted pretzels or air-popped popcorn
  • Baked tortilla chips and salsa
  • Whole-wheat pita bread with hummus
  • Water or fat-free or low-fat milk


Put fresh fruit in a bowl at eye-level in the refrigerator or on the kitchen counter. It will be easier for kids to see and grab.

On the go

  • Put dried fruits and nuts, fresh veggies, or fruit in small baggies.
  • Pack fat-free or low-fat string cheese sticks.


Set the rules

  • Teach your kids to ask before they help themselves to snacks.
  • Eat snacks at the table or in the kitchen, not in front of the TV.
  • Serve snacks in a bowl. Don’t let kids eat snack foods directly out of the bag or box.
  • Drink water or fat-free or low-fat milk instead of soda or juice.


For more information on nutrition and kids, visit: