Healthy Children - January 2013

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.



A Dozen Ways to Get Kids to Try New Foods

Research indicates that children as young as four and five years old are beginning to develop food habits that will last into their adult years. Willingness to taste new foods at these early ages is key to building a healthy diet for the “here and now,” as well as for their future.

Trouble getting your picky eaters to try new foods? You are not alone. It’s a very common problem in young children, so don’t despair. Try these tips* below to increase your success rate.

One step at a time
Offer just one new food at a time. Let the child know in advance if it is sweet, salty or sour.
A taste is just a taste
Let your child decide the amount to try. A “taste” can be as small as 1/2 teaspoon
What goes in may come out...and that’s okay!
Recent studies indicate young children are more likely to try a new food if they have the option of not swallowing it. Show children how to carefully spit the food into a napkin if they decide they don’t want to swallow it.
If at first you don’t succeed...try, try again
Many young children must be offered a food 8 to 10 times before they will try it, according to recent research. Continue to offer a new food...don’t give up. Eventually they are likely to give it a try.
Be a role model
Imitation is a powerful force in learning. If you want children to drink milk, for example, make sure they see you drinking milk as well.
Capitalize on “food tasting” peers
To encourage a reluctant taster, have him or her sit with friends or siblings that are good tasters when you introduce new food.
Serve an unfamiliar food with familiar ones
It increases the likelihood that a child will taste the new food. For example, use pudding as a dip for trying pineapple spears or kiwi slices.
Color and texture make a difference
Children prefer bright colors and interesting textures. Crunchy fruits and smooth pudding make a nice contrast. The bright color of red and yellow bell peppers may entice them to taste.
Involve children in the preparation
Children are more likely to try a food they have helped prepare. Even young children can help stir, mash, pour and measure
You can lead them to a new food...but you can’t make them eat
Never force a child to try a food. Offer it. If it is not eaten, simply take the food away and present it again at a different time.
Present the Pyramid
Offer new foods from all five groups of the Food Guide Pyramid. Include 1) Milk, cheese and yogurt, 2) Meat, poultry, fish, beans and eggs, 3) Fruits, 4) Vegetables, 5) Bread, Cereal and Pasta. All food groups are important for good health.
Lessons from literature
Read stories about food to your children. They may be more likely to try a food that has been introduced in a story.

Midwest Dairy Council®, 2000 May be reproduced for educational purposes. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

*Tips adapted from Chef Combo’s Fantastic Adventures in Tasting and Nutrition, a nutrition education program for preschool and kindergarten classrooms from National Dairy Council.



I am Moving, I am Learning
Nutritional Nugget

An important healthy eating message to teach young children is to Let Nature Nourish You. Help children to learn early to select and enjoy whole fresh foods. These are the best source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Parents can make fruits and vegetables fun. Try dressing up sandwiches with faces and smiles made from fruits and vegetables. Offer new fruits and vegetables in combination with old favorites to show your child a variety of smells, textures, and colors. Mix your favorite nuts with dried fruit such as cranberries or raisins for a homemade trail mix.

Healthy Recipe: Carrot Cake Cookies

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup applesauce or fruit puree
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cups finely grated carrots (about 3 large)
1 coup whole-wheat flour
1 cup raisins or golden raisins
1 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix sugars, oil, applesauce, eggs and vanilla thoroughly.
Stir dry ingredients together.
Blend dry ingredients into wet mixture. Stir in raisins and carrots.
Drop by teaspoonfuls on greased cookie sheet.
Bake 12-15 minutes until golden brown.
Store in airtight container.


Source: Oregon State Extension Service Duplicated with permission from Head Start Body Start



Move Play & Learn
Choo! Choo!

Three to four months +
Sitting together on the floor
Put on some fun upbeat music in the background, then sit on the floor with the baby sitting between your legs and leaning up against your tummy as you hold onto the baby’s arms/elbows. Move the baby’s arms in a circular motion like the wheels on a train. Begin making slow motions as you say “Choo Choo!” slowly, matching the speed/tempo of the motions. Gradually go faster and faster. Throw in a “Woo woo!” as you lift the baby’s arm to pull the train whistle.
Once the child can sit without support and maintain his/her posture, this game can be played with the child sitting on a t-shirt on a wooden or linoleum floor. The child says the “choo choo” chant with the adult and does the choo choo motion with his/her own arms while the adult gently and slowly pulls the child across the space. Make sure you move slowly, so the child is able to maintain balance.
Learning Outcomes
Large Motor Skills - Child begins to gain voluntary control of her or his entire body.
Social Emotional Development - Child displays pleasure interacting with familiar adults, engaging in social games through playful, back and forth interactions.
Did You Know?
Landmarks or turning points in an individual’s motor development are called motor milestones. Although the sequence or order in which infants develop these milestones is consistent, the timing of when each milestone is achieved differs among individuals. This means that although most infants will crawl before they walk, the actual time or age when they crawl or walk is individual-specific.
Movement Milestone
Walking is not just something that automatically occurs, but instead is the result of a series of smaller milestones. This sequence of milestones begins with pulling to standing and standing by furniture, progresses to making individual stepping motions and walking with help, and finally progresses to standing and then walking alone. This sequence of events typically begins between five to 12 months, but progresses at an individual rate, with most infants walking by 17 months.



For a Kid-Friendly Lunch, Think Inside the Box

If you’re looking for a great way to stimulate your child’s creativity and encourage him or her to try new, healthy foods at lunchtime, consider buying or making a Bento box.

Bento boxes are compartmentalized lunch boxes that originated in Japan. The containers are designed to hold small portions of a variety of foods, often arranged in whimsical designs or patterns. The compartments’ sizes make them kid-friendly and easy to remove and clean, and Bento boxes are a favorite of moms who want to get their kids hooked on healthy eating.

“Making a Bento box lunch is a great way to involve your child in meal preparation, which increases the likelihood that he or she will try a new food,” says Marsha Flowers, MHS, RD, LD, clinical nutrition manager at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “The boxes are an easy way to ensure kids eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains, especially if they’re arranged in creative patterns or formed into shapes, such as star-shaped sandwiches, which can be made using cookie cutters.”

Bento boxes can be ordered from a variety of Web sites or found at many stores or markets. To make your own Bento box out of a regular plastic container, use baby carrots, celery or other vegetables as dividers to form compartments.

Try It at Home

“Putting together a healthy Bento box lunch that looks unique is simple, and kids like simplicity,” says Aaron Dudzik, executive chef at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “Presentation is also important to kids, so colorful foods, such as cherry tomatoes or diced red bell peppers, are a staple of Bento box lunches.”

According to Chef Dudzik, a typical Bento box lunch could include:

  • celery sticks
  • fruit sushi (crust-less bread or tortillas rolled up with low-fat cream cheese and banana or pineapple)
  • grapes
  • protein sources like turkey, chicken or cheese
  • strawberries
  • whole-wheat crackers or pasta



Nutrition Building Blocks
Key Concepts, Ah-has and IMILisms

  • Children are overfed, undernourished, and dehydrated: adults are too.
  • Nourish children, don’t just feed them. Nourish yourself, don’t just feed yourself.
  • Children must be nourished to be ready to learn.
  • Promote healthy food choices everyday wherever children navigate in the program and at home.
  • Avoid labeling foods as good or bad, which causes conflict between school and home. Instead refer to the foods as “healthy” and “not so healthy.”


Nutritional Awareness: Build Food and Drink Skills by

  • Following picture charts
  • Observing changes (heating/cooling)
  • Comparing quantities
  • Juicing oranges, lemons, and limes
  • Peeling fruits and vegetables (bananas and even onions)
  • Mashing soft fruit and vegetables
  • Scrubbing vegetables (carrots, potatoes, mushrooms)
  • Cutting soft foods with a dull knife (mushrooms, hardboiled eggs)
  • Pressing and kneading dough
  • Measuring dry ingredients
  • Cracking open/breaking eggs
  • Beating eggs with an egg beater
  • Setting the table
  • Wiping up after cooking
  • Clearing the table after a meal
  • Grating cheese or carrots
  • Stirring batter or soup


Children Learn From Food Preparation and Nutrition Experiences:

  • Fine and gross motor
  • Following directions
  • Sequence and matching
  • Social Skills
  • Observing, sorting, classifying skills
  • All learning domains integrated in a planned nutrition experience


Nutrition Is Directly Associated With School Readiness:

  • Iron-poor diets are associated with weak math skills
  • More frequent family meals are associated with fewer risk-taking behaviors in adolescence.
  • Low-income children have fewer emotional problems and behavior concerns when fed healthy food.
  • Research in school concludes that children have improved math and reading test scores and few absences when they receive a healthy breakfast.


Accepting the Division of Responsibility:

“Our job is to expose children to a variety of healthy foods, colorful choices, textures, tastes, and drink choices. The parent or caregiver is responsible for what, when, and where; the child is responsible for how much and whether.”

   --Ellyn Satter, M.S., RD (from her book How to Get Your Kid to Eat…But Not Too Much)

Be choosy, Be Nourished Messages:

  • Eat more foods found around the sides of the store like fresh dairy, fresh produce, fresh meat, fish, and whole grain breads.
  • Eat an apple instead of apple juice—the fiber in a whole apple is more nutritious and provides a feeling of satiety. “Satiety” is the feeling of fullness.
  • Drinking more water is the single most effective change to make in your lifestyle. Allow access to fresh drinking water at all times for children.
  • It takes at least 10 to 15 exposures to new food for children to try it. Keep trying.
  • Three-year-old children self-regulate their food intake, but 4- to 5-year old children are learning to clean their plates because they want to please adults, so they often eat more than they should.
  • Rigid control backfires.
  • Do everything in moderation
  • We need to help parents learn to CHOOSE healthy foods.
  • Diets improve the more the mother knows about nutrition.
  • Powerful parenting includes being a healthy role model. Children say what parents/adults say and do what they see parents/adults do.
  • Positive emotions and conversations aid in digestion.
  • Families that eat together, eat healthier.
  • Breakfast is the most important meal of the day: Students who eat breakfast have high achievement scores, lower rates of absence and tardiness, and increased concentration in the classroom.
  • Avoid mindless snacking by selecting and planning snacks ahead of snack time.
  • Children are more likely to select healthy foods if they participate in preparation and eat creatively designed snacks.
  • Make healthy snacks readily available and within easy reach.
  • Use hunger as a motivator—A picky eater who chooses to go hungry one meal will be more willing to eat at the next.
  • If you try new foods and choose nutritious foods and meals and snacks, children will too.
  • Create a Courtesy Bite or “thank you bite” in the program and at home. Make it a new family rule—everyone tries one bite of each food offered at a meal. Make a game of it!
  • Growing food in gardens builds a connection between children and healthy foods. Children are more likely to eat healthy good if they feel a connection with the food.



Turkey Chili with Vegetables

1 medium onion
2 medium carrots
3 cloves garlic
1 large green bell pepper
1 (15½-ounce) can red or white kidney beans, no salt added
1 tablespoon oil
1 pound ground turkey
2 (14½-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, no salt added
1 cup water
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
¾ teaspoon salt
Optional Ingredients
1 medium lime
2/3 cup low-fat plain yogurt
1. Rinse and peel onion and carrots. Peel garlic.
2. Rinse bell pepper. Remove core and seeds.
3. Dice onion, carrots, and bell pepper. Mince garlic.
4. If using lime, rinse now. Cut into wedges.
5. In a colander, drain and rinse beans.
6. In a large pot over medium-high heat, heat oil. Add turkey and brown.
7. Add onion, carrots, bell pepper, and garlic to pot. Cook until onions are soft and carrots are somewhat tender, about 5 minutes.
8. Add beans, tomatoes, water, chili powder, and cumin to pot. Season with salt.
9. Lower heat to medium. Cook until all flavors have blended, about 15 minutes.
10. If using lime and yogurt, squeeze juice from lime wedges on top of chili or serve on the side. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon yogurt.

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