Healthy Children - July 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.



Why Breakfast?

Smart Reasons to eat Breakfast...

  • Fuels the body with nutrients - Your child might not make up nutrients missed at breakfast. You might not either.
  • Provides calories (energy) for the morning’s active play.
  • Gets your child ready to learn - at home, school, or day care. Kids learn better if they eat breakfast. If you eat breakfast, you may get more done in the morning, too.
  • Helps keep a healthy body weight. Breakfast helps control the urge to nibble or eat too big a lunch. Even with breakfast young kids may need a small morning snack.
  • Helps kids feel good. Children may get morning tummy aches if they miss breakfast. These aches are usually hunger pangs.
  • Tastes good! Offer foods your child and family enjoy - even if they are not common for breakfast.


Smart Ways to Make Breakfast Successful!

Eat breakfast yourself. “Showing” teaches more than simply “telling.” Your child will follow what you do.

Manage Your Early Morning Time
  • Start making breakfast the night before. You might mix the juice, slice fruit, or make hard-cooked eggs.
  • Go to bed earlier, so you get up earlier.
  • Stock your kitchen with quick-to-fix breakfast foods.


Consider Your Child’s Needs
  • Encourage variety and help your child feel in control of breakfast; offer choices throughout the week.
  • Give your child time to wake up. Many kids aren’t hungry right away. Rushing puts pressure on breakfast eating. Wake up earlier.
  • Ask your child to help with breakfast - on a morning when you’re not rushing. It can be a nice way to start your child’s day. Yours, too!


Easy Ideas for Quick, Yummy Breakfasts!

If you do not have much time to make breakfast, try these easy ideas. Talk with your family. Add their ideas, too.

  • Dry cereal (flakes, rounds, or puffed) with lowfat or fat-free milk and fruit
  • Peanut butter on whole-wheat toast
  • Bagel with lowfat or fat-free cheese
  • Reheated rice, hard-cooked egg
  • Grits topped with lowfat or fat-free cheese
  • Oatmeal with applesauce
  • Pita bread and lowfat or fat-free yogurt
  • Toasted waffle topped with sliced fruit
  • Rice and beans, with fruit
  • Chicken noodle soup and fruit



Tips for Offering New Foods to Children

  • Let your child help plan and prepare family meals.
  • Plan meals that contain foods your child likes along with a new food.
  • Offer the new food when the child is rested and in a good mood.
  • Make mealtime fun and relaxed.
  • Set a good example by eating all foods yourself.
  • Let your child serve their own plate.
  • Let your child decide whether or not to taste a new food.
  • Be patient - you may need to offer a new food ten times before your child decides to try it.
  • Serve food in new ways so your child will want to try them.
  • Remember that children do best when they feel in control of their eating.



The Secret to Serving Size is in Your Hand

The following approximations can help you make healthy portion choices!

  • A fist or cupped hand = 1 cup - 1 serving = 1/2 cup cereal, cooked pasta or rice or 1 cup of raw, leafy green vegetables or 1/2 cup of cooked or raw, chopped vegetables or fruit
  • Palm = 3 oz. of meat - Two servings, or 6 oz., of lean meat (poultry, fish, shellfish, beef) should be a part of a daily diet. Measure the right amount with your palm. One palm size portion equals 3 oz., or one serving.
  • A thumb - 1 oz. of cheese - Consuming low-fat cheese is a good way to help you meet the required servings from the milk, yogurt and cheese group. 1 1/2 - 2 oz. of low-fat cheese counts as 1 of the 2-3 daily recommended servings.
  • Thumb tip = 1 teaspoon - Keep high-fat foods, such as peanut butter and mayonnaise, at a minimum by measuring the serving with your thumb. One teaspoon is equal to the end of your thumb, from the nuckly up. Three teaspoons equals 1 tablespoon.
  • Handful = 1-2 oz. of snack food - Snacking can add up. Remember, 1 handful equals 1 oz. of nuts and small candies. For chips and pretzels, 2 handfuls equals 1 oz.
  • 1 tennis ball = 1 serving of fruit - Healthy diets include 2-4 servings of fruit a day.



Play it Safe with Food

Know how to prepare, handle, and store food safely to keep you and your family safe:

  • Clean hands, food-contact surfaces, fruits and vegetables. To avoid spreading bacteria to other foods, meat and poultry should not be washed or rinsed.
  • Separate raw, cooked, and ready-to-eat foods while shopping, preparing, or storing.
  • Cook meat, poultry, and fish to safe internal temperatures to kill microorganisms.
  • Chill perishable foods promptly, thaw foods in the refrigerator, and heat foods to their required temperatures. Here's a few guidelines:
    • Whole poultry - Heat to 180°F
    • Poultry breasts - Heat to 170°F
    • Stuffing, ground poultry, leftovers - Heat to 165°F
    • Meats (medium), egg dishes, pork, and other ground meats - Heat to 160°F
    • Beef steaks, roasts, veal, lamb (medium rare) - Heat to 145°F
    • Hot foods - Hold at 140°F
    • Refrigerated goods - Cool to 40°F
    • Frozen goods - Cool to 0°F



Toddlers Can Choke on Food

Choking is the leading cause of death for kids 3 years old and younger. Each year, hospital emergency rooms treat thousands of children for choking incidents.

Toddlers are curious and explore with their mouths. They can easily choke on the small toys, food and objects that they put in their mouths. In fact, 60% of non-fatal choking incidents involve food.

Federal laws require choking warning labels on small toys and games with small parts. Yet, food has no warning labels. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the AMA warns parents.

Why do kids choke on food? Children younger than 7 years of age do not have all of their molars. Molars in the back of the mouth grind food. Food not crushed by teeth may stick inside the child’s narrow airway.

Every child is at risk for choking. Parents can reduce this risk.

  • Watch your children as they eat.
  • Cut foods such as grapes and other fruits, meat, cheese and raw vegetables into small pieces and shapes that will not block the child’s small airway. Some doctors suggest cutting food into pea-sized or no larger than one-half inch pieces.
  • Cut hotdogs lengthwise and widthwise.
  • Cook vegetables so they are soft and easy to chew.
  • Give only small servings of peanut butter or similar soft foods that could block the airway. Big chunks of peanut butter can change shape in a child’s mouth. It can form a plug that kids cannot cough up.
  • Do not allow small kids to eat with they run and play.
  • Offer liquids when children eat. However, do not let them eat and drink at the same time.
  • Never give young children hard candy, popcorn, nuts, sunflower seeds, watermelon with seeds or marshmallows.


Essential Safety Tips

Parents should know that it is hard to prevent all choking incidents. Be prepared. Learn infant and child CPR and choking first aid. For more information on choking log onto and



Build a Healthy Meal

10 Tips for Healthy Meals

A healthy meal starts with more vegetables and fruits and smaller portions of protein and grains. Think about how you can adjust the portions on your plate to get more of what you need without too many calories. And don’t forget dairy - make it the beverage with your meal or add fat-free or low-fat dairy products.

    1. Make half your plate veggies and fruits - Vegetables and fruits are full of nutrients and may help to promote good health. Choose red, orange, and dark-green vegetables such as tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and broccoli.
    2. Add lean protein - Choose protein foods, such as lean beef and pork, or chicken, turkey, beans, or tofu. Twice a week, make seafood the protein on your plate.
    3. Include whole grains - Aim to make at least half your grains whole grains. Look for the words “100% whole grain” or “100% whole wheat” on the food label. Whole grains provide more nutrients, like fiber, than refined grains.
    4. Don’t forget the dairy - Pair your meal with a cup of fat-free or low-fat milk. They provide the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole milk, but less fat and calories. Don’t drink milk? Try soymilk (soy beverage) as your beverage or include fat-free or low-fat yogurt in your meal.
    5. Avoid extra fat - Using heavy gravies or sauces will add fat and calories to otherwise healthy choices. For example, steamed broccoli is great, but avoid topping it with cheese sauce. Try other options, like a sprinkling of low-fat parmesan cheese or a squeeze of lemon.
    6. Take your time - Savor your food. Eat slowly, enjoy the taste and textures, and pay attention to how you fee. Be mindful. Eating very quickly may cause you to eat too much.
    7. Use a smaller plate - Use a smaller plate at meals to help with portion control. That way you can finish your entire plate and feel satisfied without overeating.
    8. Take control of your food - Eat at home more often so you know exactly what you are eating. If you eat out, check and compare the nutrition information. Choose healthier options such as baked instead of fried.
    9. Try new foods - Keep it interesting by picking out new foods you’ve never tried before, like mango, lentils, or kale. You may find a new favorite! Trade fun and tasty recipes with friends or find them online.
    10. Satisfy your sweet tooth in a healthy way - Indulge in a naturally sweet dessert dish - fruit! Serve a fresh fruit cocktail or a fruit parfait made with yogurt. For a hot dessert, bake apples and top with cinnamon.

Go to for more information.



Finding Your Way to a Healthier You

Nutrition: To know the facts...use the label

Most packaged foods have Nutrition Facts labels. For a healthier you, use this tool to make smart food choices quickly and easily. Try these tips:

      • Keep these low: saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, and sodium.
      • Get enough of these: potassium, fiber, vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron.
      • Use the % Daily Value (DV) column when possible: 5% DV or less is low, 20% DV or more is high.
      • Check servings and calories. Look at the serving size and how many servings you are actually consuming. If you double the servings you eat, you double the calories and nutrients, including the %DVs.
      • Make your calories count. Look at the calories on the label and compare them with what nutrients you are also getting to decide whether the food is worth eating. When one serving of a single food item has over 400 calories per serving, it is high in calories.
      • Don’t sugarcoat it. Since sugars contribute calories with few, if any, nutrients, look for food and beverages low in added sugars. Read the ingredients list and make sure that added sugars are not one of the first few ingredients. Some names for added sugars (caloric sweeteners) include sucrose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, maple syrup, and fructose.
      • Know your fats. Look for foods low in saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol to help reduce the risk of heart disease (5% DV or less is low, 20% DV or more is high). Most of the fats you eat should be polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Keep total fat intake between 20% and 35% of calories.
      • Reduce sodium (salt), increase potassium. Research shows that eating less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium (about 1 tsp of salt) per day may reduce the risk of high blood pressure. Most of the sodium people eat comes from processed foods, not from the saltshaker. Also look for foods high in potassium, which counteracts some of sodium’s effects on blood pressure.