Healthy Children - November 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.



Every Day... Play Outside

Since children are naturally active, if you take them outside they will play. Find a safe place for them and keep an eye on them, or better yet, play with them.

Explore the different seasons. Stomp in puddles, splash through sprinklers, jump into piles of autumn leaves, build a snow fort. In cold weather it will be easier if you keep everyone’s outdoor clothes organized. During summer it’s helpful to keep sunscreen, hats and water handy.

Try These Ideas

  • Put a plastic mat or piece of cardboard on the floor near the door for wet or snowy boots.
  • Put up some hooks for jackets and snow pants.
  • Give each child a box, bin or basket for their hats, scarves, heavy socks and mittens. (Your child can have fun decorating her box.)
  • Get a plastic water bottle for each member of the family and write their names on them.


Now you’re dressed and ready to go out to play, snow or shine!

Cold Weather Activities

Dress warmly and go outside!

  • Go dashing through the snow
  • Build a snow family
  • Make snow angels
  • Sled, snowshoe or ski around the yard
  • Catch snowflakes
  • Collect leaves, acorns or pinecones
  • Hunt for frozen animal tracks
  • Walk though the bare woods


Warm Weather Activities

Put on sun screen and go outside!

  • Walk to the playground
  • Ride a tricycle or bike
  • Play ball
  • Build sandcastles
  • Make mudpies
  • Splash in a wading pool
  • Hike up a hill
  • Do cartwheels and somersaults in the yard



How Can You Eat More Fruits & Vegetables?

  • Serve fruit or fruit juice with meals or as a snack.
  • Top yogurt with sliced fruit.
  • Top pancakes, French toast or waffles with fruit or fruit sauces, such as applesauce.
  • In a glass, layer sliced or chopped fruit, non-fat yogurt, and whole grain cereal for snack or dessert.
  • Add dried fruit (raisins) or fresh fruit to oatmeal.
  • Add fresh or canned fruit to gelatin or fresh green salads.
  • Have pre-cut vegetables (carrots, celery, etc.) in the refrigerator for easy snacking.
  • Add chopped peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, onions and mushrooms to scrambled eggs.
  • Top baked potatoes with chopped vegetables of choice, sprinkle with low fat cheese and microwave until cheese melts.
  • Add frozen or canned vegetables to rice or pasta dishes during the last 5 to 10 minutes of cooking time.
  • For a quick soup, combine tomato juice, with chopped potatoes, celery, beans, corn, and peas. Heat in microwave until vegetables are cooked.
  • Top sandwiches or burgers with lettuce and tomato.
  • Add chopped vegetables to your salad.


University of Illinois Extension, Family Nutrition Program
Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program



Reading Suggestions for Quiet Times

Look for these children’s books at your local library.

Growing Food

Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert
This Year’s Garden by Cynthia Rylert
Pumpkin Pumpkin by Jeanne Titherington
Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots by Sharon Lovejoy
Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban
How a Seed Grows by Helene J. Jordan
Native American Gardening by Michael J Caduto and Joseph Bruchac
Oliver’s Vegetables by Vivian French
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
One Child, One Seed by Kathryn Care
Dinner from Dirt by Emily Scott
Shaina’s Garden by Denise Patrick


This Is the Bread I Baked for Ned by Crescent Dragonwagon
Bread, Bread, Bread by Ann Morris
Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola
My First Kitchen Gadget (series of six) by Joanne Barkan
Feast for 10 by Cathryn Falwell
Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall
The Popcorn Book by Tomie dePaola
Chop, Simmer, Season by Alexa Brandenburg

Food Folklore and Cultural Stories
Corn is Maize: The Gift of the Indians by Aliki
Johnny Appleseed by Steven Kellogg
Stone Soup by John W. Stewig
Fiesta U.S.A. by George Ancona
Let’s Eat: What Children Eat Around the World by Beatrice Hollyer
Thanksgiving Day by Anne Rockwell
Big Cheese for the White House by Candace Fleming
Love as Strong as Ginger by Lenore Look
Mama Provi and the Pot of Rice by Sylvia Rosa-Casanova
Stega Nona by Tomie dePaola
The Runaway Tortilla by Eric Kimmel
The Runaway Rice Cake by Ying Chang Compestine
Carlos and the Squash Plant by Jan Romero Stevens
Carolina Shout! by Alen Schroeder
Brave Potatoes by Toby Speed



Healthy or Not? How to Read Labels Like a Dietitian.

Making sure your child has a well-balanced diet can be an ongoing struggle. From snack time to mealtime, it’s a challenge to find healthy foods that kids like to eat. And according to St. Louis Children’s Hospital dietitian Tara Todd, not all self-proclaimed healthy snacks or convenience foods are actually good for you. So what’s a parent to do?

“It’s important to know how to read the fine print on a label to recognize nutritional pitfalls such as artificial sweeteners or deceptive phrases like 'all natural,'” says Todd. “Parents have to think like a dietitian before purchasing a new packaged snack from the grocery store.”

Reading Labels like a Dietitian

So how do you decide whether to buy that “all natural” cookie or cereal at the store? Todd shares her insider tips for reading labels like a dietitian:

  • Watch out for packaged foods that promote themselves as “all natural.” Most people assume that natural means minimally processed without any hormones, antibiotics, sweeteners, food colors or flavorings. If you think about it, all the food we eat comes from the natural products of plants and animals. Therefore, the word “natural” on a label is meaningless. Just because a certain breakfast pastry or sandwich cookie is labeled “all natural” does not automatically mean it is healthy.
  • Beware of fake fibers on the ingredient list—inulin, maltodextrin, polydextrose. Fake fibers are ingredients that manufacturers often add to packaged foods to boost the total fiber content per serving. These fibers are injected into all sorts of products—even yogurt or juice. It is unclear whether these isolated fibers have the same healthy benefits and micronutrients found in whole grains or fruit. So, steer clear of the fake stuff and give your kids fiber in the form of a fresh apple or juicy orange.
  • Be careful with non-fat ingredients and sugar substitutes. When manufacturers reduce fat in a product, they typically increase the sugar content to compensate for taste. The product may become lower in fat, but will typically have more calories than the original product. In some cases, manufacturers will add artificial sweeteners such as aspartame or sucralose to these non-fat foods. Pay close attention to the ingredient list when buying yogurt and canned fruit. Research on artificial sweeteners is unclear, so a good rule of thumb is to minimize the amount children eat.
  • Note the first two or three ingredients on labels—these are listed in the order of greatest to least by weight. If the first ingredient on the label is sugar, you know that sugar makes up the greatest percentage of the ingredients.
  • Double check portion sizes. What appears to be a single-serving snack may actually be two or three servings.


“Be sure to read labels carefully before putting anything into your grocery cart,” says Todd. “Don’t let convenience foods take over your family’s diet. The bulk of your meals should be comprised of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats. As far as pre-packaged snacks and treats go, moderation is the key.”

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I Walk Because

This poster is posted courtesy of Journeyworks Publishing,
If you would like to purchase single or multiple copies of this poster, visit Prices start at $3.95 each for single copies and go as low as .90 cents each when purchased in bulk quantities.
The copyrighted content in the poster has been licensed from Journeyworks Publishing for online viewing by visitors to, a program of Illinois Department of Human Services, and may not be downloaded, stored, reproduced or transmitted for other uses without prior written consent of the copyright owner.”



Take It With You

Show your child how to make healthy choices when you are on the run. Put oranges, bananas, or other fruits in your bag for quick snacks. Let your child see that you like to munch on vegetables when you're on the go.

This is just one of the many helpful tips on the nutrition information site. Children learn by example. Parents and grandparents are the first role models. You have the power to shape positive attitudes, behaviors and experiences that set the stage for your child as she grows into a future gold medal winner, artist, teacher or even a future president.

Pack healthy snacks for you and your children to have during trips to the park or shopping or other activities. Look for nutritious items that can fit easily into your purse, diaper bag or backpack. Items that do not need refrigeration – fresh fruit or vegetables, shelf stable juice box or milk, crackers – packed in small individual reusable containers. Wash and prepare the fruit and vegetables so they are ready to eat. Remember to include a spoon, napkin and wet wipe. It will take a few more minutes to prepare and additional containers, but if you pack the serving size for each child, when you pass out the snack you will eliminate that never ending battle of someone getting more. If you would like to consider a “green” approach to wiping your child’s hands and face before and after they eat, try a damp wash cloth sealed in a plastic container or bag. It can be washed at home after each use and ready for the next trip.



Thanksgiving Food Safety

By Spry Contributor

Fixing food for the whole family? Avoid salmonella with these simple tips.

For the most part you can rest easy, considering that the likelihood of picking up salmonella, one of the most common food-borne bacteria, is 3 in 10 million—and that number doesn't increase around Thanksgiving. The average single guy has a better chance of dating a supermodel (but don't get your hopes up—not that much better). But the slim chances don't mean you should let basic food safety rules fly the coop. Follow these simple dos and don'ts.


  1. Make sure that everyone handling food washes his or her hands.
  2. Separate raw meat and poultry from other foods in the refrigerator.
  3. Cook poultry to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F (160 degrees F for other meat).
  4. Rinse off all raw fruits and vegetables before eating them.


  1. Wash the uncooked bird— it's unnecessary and can spread germs to the sink, cutting board or counter top.
  2. Leave food out of the refrigerator for longer than two hours.

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