Healthy Children - June 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.


Baby's First Foods

What a baby eats in his first year of life may predict his eating habits as he get older. Babies who breastfeed for longer periods of time as an infant are healthier eaters at age 6. Babies fed healthful food between 6 and 12 months of age will also show a tendency to eat healthier at age 6.

Scientists call this pattern of influence of early eating metabolic programming. The first foods a child eats have long-lasting effects on growth and development. Parents make the food decisions for their baby. Healthy food choices and feeding patterns help develop lifelong patterns that lead to good health.

Doctors recommend exclusive breastfeeding for about the first 6 months. At around 4 to 6 months of age, babies are generally ready to start eating solid foods. Parents should introduce nonallergenic foods first. These include foods like rice cereal, oatmeal, and pureed fruits and vegetables.

In addition to solids, babies will continue breastfeeding. If a mother stops breastfeeding, the child will need formula. Milk fat develops healthy brains. It also helps strengthen bones and teeth.

When starting solid foods, offer only 1 food at a time. Introduce a new food every 3–5 days. This allows parents to notice allergic reactions.

Babies can have mild to severe allergic reactions to new foods. They include rashes, hives, eczema and vomiting. Babies may also experience wheezing and a life threatening reaction called anaphylaxis.

Doctors have issued new guidelines concerning allergenic foods like milk, eggs fish and nuts. A baby who tolerates non-allergenic foods may begin taking allergenic foods before age 1. As with non-allergenic foods, parents will offer one food at a time, every 3 – 5 days. A parent should give small amounts of the food at home and observe their baby for an allergic reaction.

Parents should tell the baby’s doctor about any family history of food allergies. Ask the doctor about healthy infant eating practices. Following these guidelines, parents can give their baby a great start to a healthy lifestyle.

Many health conscious parents ban sugar, salt and fat from their child's diet. However, doctors at the American Academy of Pediatrics tell parents and schools to concentrate more on the child's whole diet and less on individual ingredients. Small amounts of sugar, salt and oil can make healthy food taste better to children. A child's daily diet should:

  • Include fruits, vegetables, grains, low fat dairy and quality protein.
  • Avoid highly processed foods.
  • Include food portions suited to the child's age.
  • Present a wide variety of food experiences.


Build a Healthy Plate with Milk

How can I serve fat-free and low-fat milk?

  • Offer unflavored, fat-free, and low-fat milks most often. They have less added sugar and fewer calories than flavored, whole, or reduced-fat milk.
  • Offer lactose-reduced or lactose-free milk to children who are lactose-intolerant or, upon a parent’s written request, a preapproved nondairy milk (for example, soy) to children who can’t consume cow’s milk. Handle milk substitutions on a case-by-case basis and contact your State agency or sponsoring organization if additional guidance is needed.


How can I encourage children to choose fat-free and low-fat milk?

  • Make food fun. Make up a song that is associated with drinking milk, and sing it when milk is being served.
  • Do a milk taste-test. Let kids sample low-fat (1%) milk and fat-free milk and pick their favorite. Low-fat milk and fat-free milk have less calories and saturated fat than reduced-fat (2%) milk and whole milk but do not reduce calcium or other important nutrients.
  • Create your own Milk Mustache Event! Take pictures of children drinking low-fat milk and post them on a bulletin board. Blend together low-fat milk with frozen yogurt or low-fat ice cream for  the Milk Mustache activity. For more fun, include adults and parents.


Enjoy milk often. The children in your care are looking at the choices you make. Choose fat-free or low-fat milk as your beverage of choice during meal and snack times.


Picky Eating

Having your preschooler help you in the kitchen is a good way to get your child to try new foods. Kids feel good about doing something “grown-up.”  Give them small jobs to do.  Praise their efforts. Children are much less likely to reject foods that they helped make.

As preschoolers grow, they are able to help out with different tasks in the kitchen.

While the following suggestions are typical, children may develop these skills at different ages.

At 2 years:

  • Wipe tables
  • Hand items to adult to put away (such as after grocery shopping)
  • Place things in trash
  • Tear lettuce or greens
  • Help “read” a cookbook by turning the pages
  • Make “faces” out of pieces of fruits and vegetables
  • Rinse vegetables or fruits
  • Snap green beans


At 3 years:
All that a 2 year old can do, plus:

  • Add ingredients
  • Talk about cooking
  • Scoop or mash potatoes
  • Squeeze citrus fruits
  • Stir pancake batter
  • Knead and shape dough
  • Name and count foods
  • Help assemble a pizza

At 4 years:
All that a 3 year old can do, plus:

  • Peel eggs and some fruits, such as oranges and bananas
  • Set the table
  • Crack eggs
  • Help measure dry ingredients
  • Help make sandwiches and tossed salads

At 5 years:
All that a 4 year old can do, plus:

  • Measure liquids
  • Cut soft fruits with a dull knife
  • Use an egg beater


Make sure that they wash their hands before helping.


With Protein Foods, Variety is Key

10 tips for choosing protein

Protein foods include both animal (meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs) and plant (beans, peas, soy products, nuts and seeds) sources.  We all need protein – but most Americans eat enough, and sometimes eat more than they need. How much is enough?  Most people, age 9 and older, should eat 5 to 7 ounces* of protein foods each day.

1. vary your protein food choices
Eat a variety of foods from the Protein Foods Group each week. Experiment with main dishes made with beans or peas, nuts, soy, and seafood.

2. choose seafood twice a week
Eat seafood in place of meat or poultry twice a week. Select a variety of seafood-include some that are higher in oils and low in mercury, such as salmon, trout, and herring.

3. make meat and poultry lean or low fat
Choose lean or low-fat cuts of meat like round or sirloin and ground beef that is at least 90% lean. Trim or drain fat from meat and remove poultry skin.

4. have an egg
One egg a day, on average, doesn't increase risk for heart disease, so make eggs part of your weekly choices. Only the egg yolk contains cholesterol and saturated fat, so have as many egg whites as you want.

5. eat plant protein foods more often
Try beans and peas (kidney, pinto, black, or white beans; split peas; chickpeas; hummus), soy products (tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers), nuts, and seeds. They are naturally low in saturated fat and high in fiber.

6. nuts and seeds
Choose unsalted nuts or seeds as a snack, on salads, or in main dishes to replace meat or poultry. Nuts and seeds are a concentrated source of calories, so eat small portions to keep calories in check.

7. keep it tasty and healthy
Try grilling, broiling, roasting, or baking-they don't add extra fat. Some lean meats need slow, moist cooking to be tender-try  a slow cooker for them. Avoid breading meat or poultry, which adds calories.

8. make a healthy sandwich
Choose turkey, roast beef, canned tuna or salmon, or peanut butter for sandwiches. Many deli meats, such as regular bologna or salami, are high in fat and sodium-make them occasional treats only.

9. think small when it comes to meat portions
Get the flavor you crave but in a smaller portion. Make or order a smaller burger or a "petite" size steak.

10. check the sodium
Check the Nutrition Facts label to limit sodium. Salt is added to many canned foods-including beans and meats. Many processed meats-such as ham, sausage, and hot dogs-are high in sodium. Some fresh chicken, turkey, and pork are brined in a salt solution for flavor and tenderness.

*What counts as an ounce of protein foods? 1 ounce lean meat, poultry, or seafood; 1 egg; 1/4 cup cooked beans or peas; ½ ounce nuts or seeds; or 1 tablespoon peanut butter.


Tasty Healthy Recipes

Banana Blueberry Orange Smoothie

3/4 cup water
1 medium orange, peeled
1 banana, frozen1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries

Berry Blast Smoothie

2 cups spinach
1 cup strawberries
1 banana, frozen
1/2 cup blueberries

Green Fever

1 cup spinach
1 banana
1 tomato
1/2 cup water

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

1 banana
1 cup milk
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 Tbsp honey
1 cup ice cubes

Physical Activity and Screen Time Recommendations for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Physical Activity Recommendations for Toddlers and Preschoolers

  • For children 12 months to 3 years old, at least 60-90 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity is provided per 8-hour day
  • For children 3 to 6 years old, at least 90-120 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity is provided per 8-hour day
  • Activities are varied between structured play and free play
  • Active play is promoted through written policies and practices


Screen Time Recommendations for Toddlers and Preschoolers:
(Time spent using the television, videos, computers, or video games)

  • No screen time is provided for children under the age of 2
  • For children age 2 and over, only 30 minutes total screen time per week and no more than
    15-minute increments of computer use is provided while in child care.
  • For all ages, no screen time is provided during meals or snack time.
  • Screen time is only for educational or physical activity programs and has no commercials or advertising.