Healthy Children - May 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.



How Can I Influence What My Child Eats?

Here’s Why It’s Important...
Parents have a lifelong effect on their child’s eating behaviors. Your children are influenced not just by what you do, but also by what you say. There are many things parents can do to help their children establish healthy eating habits.

  • Parents control what foods enter the house.
  • Parents decide how food is prepared and served.
  • Parents can encourage children to try new foods and role model this behavior themselves.
  • Happy, fun family mealtimes will create a positive outlook towards food and vice versa.
  • Eating as a family improves academic achievement scores and overall nutrient intake, and helps reduce behavior problems.


Quick Breakfast Ideas

  • Peanut butter toast
  • Bagels with cream cheese
  • Oatmeal with applesauce
  • Pita bread and yogurt
  • Cereal with milk and fruit
  • Toasted waffle with sliced fruit


Make Mealtimes Count!

  • Turn off the TV and computer.
  • Turn off the phone and enjoy conversation with your family.
  • Sit down together.
  • Take time to talk to each other.
  • Listen to everyone.
  • Let your children talk about things they are interested in.
  • Keep conversations positive so mealtimes are happy times!


Tips for Feeding Your Kids

  • Set a good example! Eat the foods you want your child to eat.
  • Offer healthy snacks between meals. Children often need to eat every three hours.
  • Introduce new foods with familiar favorites.
  • If your child refuses to eat, don’t make it a power struggle, instead say, “You must not be hungry. You may have something later at snack time.”
  • Gently and positively encourage your child to try a small bite of something, but don’t force your child to eat!
  • When offering a new food for the first time, talk about the food’s color, shape, size and texture and remember to stay casual. This will give your child an opportunity to try something new without pressure.
  • Be persistent! It may take ten or more exposures before a child accepts a new food.
  • Involve children at the grocery store and allow them to pick out healthy foods (fruits, vegetables); encourage them to find something new.


Division of Responsibility

Children like to be in control and often one of the only things a child may be able to control is what he/she eats. Therefore, to avoid mealtime battles and encourage healthy eating; it is helpful to give children the power of control. In doing so, keep “the division of responsibility” in mind. It is your responsibility to buy, prepare and serve healthy meals and snacks. It is the child’s job to decide if, how much, and what to eat. If this “division of responsibility” is respected, children will learn to try new foods, recognize their fullness cues, and maintain lifelong healthy eating behaviors.

  • Don’t bribe your child with food, such as “If you eat your broccoli, you can have dessert.” This places “value” on food and relates healthier foods to unpleasant experiences. This may also increase your child’s desire for sweets.
  • Encourage children to serve themselves or serve small portions for them; this will avoid overwhelming them. Also, give them control over seconds.
  • Encourage your child to help prepare meals or involve them in menu planning. This gives everyone a vote in what the family eats.
  • Avoid being a short-order cook. Prepare one meal that includes at least one item that each person will eat and don’t force the others.


For more information, please visit,, and



Play with the Colors and Smells of Food

Children love to play with the colors and smells of food. Here are some ideas you can use with your child.

Check Out the Colors!

Food comes in a rainbow of colors. Here are some ways to check out the many colors of food:

  1. Go to the fruit and vegetable section of the store. Talk about the many colors of the food.
  2. For fun, have Red Day, Yellow Day, Blue Day, Orange Day, or Green Day. On these days, eat at least one food of that color.


For example, on Red Day choose strawberries, cherries, a slice of watermelon, tomatoes, radishes, beets, or another red food. On Yellow Day choose a banana, peach, corn, or another yellow food.

Check out the Smells!

The smells of food are also very different. Here is a game that you and your child can play:

  1. Gather foods with strong smells: Banana, cinnamon, chocolate, lemon, orange, onion, peanut butter, and others.
  2. Put a little bit of each food in a separate dish.
  3. Put a blindfold on your child.
  4. Let your child smell a food and guess what it is.
  5. You take a turn with the blindfold.


While You’re Cooking:

While you cook, give your child some samples to feel and smell.

  1. Give your child some dry rice, cornmeal, flour, or rolled oats - to feel.
  2. Give your child a piece of fruit or vegetable that your child can eat raw - to taste.
  3. Talk about which foods are easy to guess by their smell. Help your child compare cooked and uncooked foods. Show your child how food changes when it is cooked. Children love the colors and smells of food!


Adapted from Tickle Your Appetite.



A Healthful Happy Meal

While fast food may be a convenient and inexpensive way to eat on the go, try choosing healthier options when making the occasional drive-thru detour.

With around one-third of U.S. children ages 4 to 19 consuming fast food every day, childhood obesity and other weight-related issues continue to increase.

“If you’re hungry and in a hurry, eating healthfully can quickly become a challenge,” says Tara Todd, registered dietitian at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “When you’re trying to choose between certain fast food franchises, it’s important to consider the menu options. While some offer a healthful menu, others may be less accommodating.”

A Fast Food Reality Check

With thousands of fast food chains around the United States, it’s likely that your child has been captivated by fast food marketing ploys. While fast food is okay in moderation, try ordering a kids’ meal with fewer than 500 calories and 25 grams of fat.

“Eating smaller portions and substituting fruit for fries and milk for soda can reduce your child’s caloric intake,” Todd says. “Never supersize value meals, and try choosing healthful options such as chicken salads, junior burgers, fruit cups or yogurt.”

Whether you’re picking up fast food due to a hectic schedule or simply because your child wants it, ensure your child understands that fast food should be an occasional treat.

“Teach your child the importance of healthful eating, but never send the message that eating food is bad,” Todd says. “There isn’t a problem with occasionally eating fast food, but make sure you have done your homework and know how to stay within a calorie budget. Most fast food restaurants have online nutrition information you can access before you head out to dinner. Remember the 500-calorie rule!”



How to Cook with Young Children

  1. Decide on the area of the kitchen where you will be cooking.
  2. Gather stools or chairs that will allow your child to stand or sit comfortably while working.
  3. Wash hands.
  4. Get out the recipe you will be using.
  5. Read the recipe with your child. Explain that you will be following the steps in the recipe to prepare the food.
  6. Set out:
    • The equipment and supplies that you will need (such as a mixer, blender, bowls, pans, measuring cups, knives, and spoons)
    • The ingredients that you will be using
  7. Have your child participate in cooking activities (such as washing fruits and vegetables, adding ingredients, mixing ingredients, and kneading dough).
  8. Clean up with your child.
  9. Eat what you have prepared.


Herbed Garden Pizza

Dive into mounds of luscious vegetables smothered over a whole wheat crust, artfully seasoned with olive oil-herb blend, including basil and garlic. Serve with a side salad and simple homemade vinaigrette.

Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4
2 tbsp. salt-free Tomato Basil Garlic Seasoning Blend
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 12-inch, whole-wheat pizza crust, thin, pre-baked
Cooking spray
4 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups crimini mushrooms, sliced
2 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
3/4 cup shredded fat-free mozzarella cheese
Side Salad Ingredients
Tomato slices
Vinaigrette made with 2 tbsp. olive oil, 1 tbsp vinegar, 1 tsp lemon juice, ½ tsp sugar, and 1 tbsp low-sodium seasoning blend.
1. Place rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 400° F
2. In a small bowl, mix Tomato Basil Garlic Seasoning Blend with olive oil
3. Place pizza crust on a pizza pan. Brush pizza dough with olive oil blend, reserve remainder
4. In a large mixing bowl, gently toss vegetables and remaining olive oil blend
5. Spread coated vegetables evenly over pizza dough, leaving about ½ inch border around the edges
6. Top vegetables with shredded cheese
7. Bake 10 minutes, until cheese is melted.


Serving Suggestion

Serve with a side salad and an 8 oz. glass of 100% grape juice.

Food Group Amounts: ½ cup dairy, 1 cup vegetables, 2 ½ oz grains
Recipe submitted by Produce for Better Health Foundation.