Healthy Children - January 2015

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.

Healthy Tips for Active Play

Why is active play important?

Active play helps your child learn healthy habits. There are many health benefits of active play, such as:

  • Active children are less likely to weigh too much.
  • Keeping your child active now helps lower the chance of developing chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes.
  • Activities, like running and jumping rope, help your child learn movement skills to develop muscles and strong bones.
  • Active play can also help the mind develop. Playing “pretend” lets kids be creative.
  • Active children are more likely to be happy and feel good about themselves. Children feel proud after learning how to bounce a ball or ride a bike.

Your child loves to move!

Encourage your child to play actively several times each day. Active play for children can happen in short bursts of time and can be led by you or your child. Active play can include playing on the playground, playing tag with friends, or throwing a ball.

Do you wonder if your child is active enough?

My child plays outside several time a day or inside where he or she is free to move.
I make sure my child’s TV and screen time is less than 2 hours a day.
I make sure my child is actively moving for at least 60 minutes a day.
When actively playing, my child breathes quickly or sweats.

If you can usually answer yes to these statements, your child is probably getting enough active play.

How can you raise an active child?

  • Make active play fun for the whole family. Let your child help plan the fun.
  • Focus on fun, not performance. All children like to play. They will win when they move, have fun, and are active daily.
  • Set limits on TV and computer time. Limit TV and other screen time to less than 2 hours a day, as advised by many doctors. Try reading during inactive time rather than watching TV.
  • Be active yourself. Active parents tend to raise active children. You influence y our child’s behavior, attitudes, and future habits. Be more active and limit your own time watching TV. Set the example by using safety gear, like bike helmets.

As children grow, they may be ready for new activities.

By age 2, they can run, walk, gallop, jump and swim with adult help.

By age 3, they can hop, climb, ride a tricycle or bicycle with training wheels and a safety helmet, and catch, throw, bounce, and kick a ball.

By age 4, they can skip, swim, and complete an obstacle course.

There are many activities you can do with your child.

Here are some ideas of how to be active with your child.

Indoor play
Act out a story
Turn up the music and dance
Walk inside a shopping mall
Play games, such as duck-duck-goose, hide and seek, follow the leader, or Simon says

Outdoor play
Family walks after dinner
Play catch
Take a nature hike
Games in the yard or park
Kick a ball

Better Beverage Choices Made Easy

Now that you know how much difference a drink can make here are some ways to make smart beverage choices:

  • Choose, water, diet, or low-calorie beverages instead of sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • For a quick, easy, and inexpensive thirst-quencher, carry a water bottle and refill it throughout the day.
  • Don’t “stock the fridge” with sugar-sweetened beverages. Instead keep a jug or bottles of cold water in the fridge.
  • Serve water with meals.
  • Make water more exciting by adding slices of lemon, lime, cucumber, or watermelon, or drink sparkling water.
  • Add a splash of 100% juice to plain sparkling water for a refreshing low-calorie drink.
  • When you do opt for a sugar-sweetened beverage, go for a small size. Some companies are now selling 8 oz. cans and bottles of soda, which contain about 100 calories.
  • Be a role model for your friends and family by choosing healthy, low-calorie beverages.

Chill: Refrigerate Promptly!

Refrigerate foods quickly because cold temperatures slow the growth of harmful bacteria. Do not over-stuff the refrigerator. Cold air must circulate to help keep food safe. Keeping a constant refrigerator temperature of 40°F or below is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of food borne illness. Use an appliance thermometer to be sure the temperature is consistently 40°F or below. The freezer temperature should be 0°F or below.

  • Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs, and other perishables as soon as you get them home from the store.
  • Never let raw meat, poultry, eggs, cooked food, or cut fresh fruits or vegetables sit at room temperature more than two hours before putting them in the refrigerator or freezer (one hour when the temperature is above 90°F).
  • Never defrost food at room temperature. Food must be kept at a safe temperature during thawing. There are three safe ways to defrost food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave using the defrost setting. Food thawed in cold water or in the microwave should be cooked immediately.
  • Always marinate food in the refrigerator.
  • Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator.
  • Use or discard refrigerated food on a regular basis.


Keeping Cold Lunches Cold

Prepare cooked food, such as turkey, ham, chicken, and vegetable or pasta salads, ahead of time to allow for thorough chilling in the refrigerator. Divide large amounts of food into shallow containers for fast chilling and easier use. Keep cooked food refrigerated until time to leave home.

To keep lunches cold away from home, include a small frozen gel pack or frozen juice box. Of course, if there's a refrigerator available, store perishable items there upon arrival. Insulated, soft-sided lunch boxes or bags are best for keeping food cold, but metal or plastic lunch boxes and paper bags can also be used. If using paper lunch bags, create layers by double bagging to help insulate the food.

Some food is safe without a cold source. Items that don't require refrigeration include whole fruits and vegetables, hard cheese, unopened canned meat and fish, chips, breads, crackers, peanut butter, jelly, mustard, and pickles.


Keeping Hot Lunches Hot

Use an insulated container to keep food like soup, chili, and stew hot. Fill the container with boiling water, let stand for a few minutes, empty, and then put in the piping hot food. Keep the insulated container closed until lunchtime to keep the food hot - 140°F or above.
For more information, visit the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

Dangerous Drugs Available to Teens

Seeking popularity and friends, teens set goals to look better, do it better – be the best. Many try products and substances to help achieve their goals.

Researchers report increased teen usage of substances, drugs, and energy drinks to ;

  • Improve athletic ability,
  • Boost muscle mass,
  • Lose weight,
  • Improve concentration and
  • Lengthen “awake-time”.

Teens can easily obtain these inexpensive substances. However, no one regulates these substances. Parents should have concerns when teens buy and ingest these over-the-counter and Internet products. Many are harmful- even deadly.

Steroids and synthetic human growth hormone are two substances used to improve athletic ability. Teens also use them to improve their appearance. Synthetic human growth hormone (hGH) is an approved product only when doctors prescribe it for certain medical conditions. Yet, noon-medical dealers sell hGH and other unsafe drugs, like steroids, in products and as supplements.

Pure caffeine powder is another unregulated, risky drug. Teens use it as a pick-me-up. Some use it before working out. Others use it to help with weight loss.

Teens go online to buy pure caffeine powder. They can even buy it in bulk. It may seem harmless because caffeine is present in coffee, tea, soft drinks and energy drinks.

Pure caffeine powder is a potent drug. One teaspoon of pure caffeine equals the amount of caffeine in 25 cups of coffee. This small amount can cause overdose. It can cause death. Often, teens do not measure this powder carefully. Kitchen utensils do not provide an accurate measurement.

Popular energy drinks also contain caffeine.  Amounts of caffeine vary. Labels may not accurately reflect the amount of caffeine. Stores sell them, so teens may consider them a harmless soft drink. Some teens drink more than one drink in a short period of time, which could send them to the emergency room.

Talk to your teen. Ask questions. Is she using or thinking of using any of these harmful products? Doctors recommend a limit of 100 milligrams of caffeine (one cup of coffee a day) for teens. Using several products exceeds this safe amount of caffeine. Tell your teen to avoid these dangerous drugs.