Healthy Children - August 2014

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.


Life together in the kitchen

What begins as cooking with kids becomes much more

When my son unexpectedly brought home a school friend for video games, homework and supper one afternoon years ago, I baked an easy cake recipe, topped it with fresh, sweet whipped cream and served it for dessert. “Where’s the box?” the friend asked. “And the can?” We just smiled at each other.

From his early days, my son and I spent happy hours together in the small kitchen of our 1930s bungalow. As a toddler, he had his own drawer of pots, tubs and long-handled spoons to use for projects and noisemakers. We danced to lively music on the radio. He ran miniature cars and trucks through cornmeal on his high chair tray while I cooked. He made messy mixtures that became snack foods and art projects. And then, as a preschooler, standing on a chair to reach the counter, he began to cook.

We took our time. It was slow cooking meets slow parenting. And it was the start of a love of cooking together that’s still a favorite part of our visits all these years later. Here’s how to step out of the world of boxes, cans and carryout and into a world of kitchen and cooking memories.

• Grocery shop together. From the grocery cart seat, young children can practice colors and counting in the produce section. A little later, they can learn to select fresh, delicious fruits and vegetables. Readers can examine ingredients on packages and use a calculator to total purchases. It takes a little longer, and it’s worth it.

• At home, start with good kitchen hygiene. Clean hands, clean surfaces, clean foods.

• Arrange ingredients and tools before beginning.

• Find parts of the process even youngsters can do alone or side by side with you. Certain cutting activities, mixing and arranging all are within a child’s capability. Let them breathe in the rich fragrances of herbs and spices and add them by the pinch or spoon. Leave the sharp-knife and hot-stove work for the adults.

• Select ingredients that work well together and allow for invention. Quesadillas. Fruity punches. French toast and toppings. Serve and celebrate these new creations. Let your child start his or her own personal cookbook, handwritten, complete with invented spellings. Write dates on the entries. This will be a treasure.

• Cooking is full of teachable math moments. Teach fractions the easy way, even to preschoolers.

• Children's cookbooks can be fun, but aren't nes.

• Children’s cookbooks can be fun, but aren’t necessary. Far too many instructions begin “Ask an adult to …”

• If time is short, make time later.

Rushing takes the fun out of learning and patience runs thin.

• The freedom to be tactile keeps food handling fun, but it takes practice to master mixing speeds and techniques. Create cooking spaces where spills and splashes are easy to clean up.

• Substitute freely. Many meats and meat substitutes are interchangeable without adjustment, as are many starches and much dairy.

• If you’re going to use a can of something, make it count. Homemade cherry pie is economical, festive and easy to make, but it isn’t always time smart to use fresh cherries. Use canned tart cherries (not cherry pie filling!) for the recipe below.

Laugh at the mistakes. Sometimes it’s the recipe, sometimes it’s the cook. They can become some of the best stories.



Parent Help Line

One-year-old babies have an increased risk for burns and scalds.

The main causes of these burns are hot drinks and hair irons. Kids burn themselves when they reach up and pull down a cup that contains a hot drink. The spill causes burns on the face, arms and torso. Kids who reach up and touch hot hair irons suffer burns on their hands. Keep hot drinks and hair irons and cords away from the edge of tables and counters.

American teens eat too much salt.

They ingest as much as 2 times more than doctors say is healthy. Salt intake puts them at a higher risk for obesity. Set a good example.

  • Buy foods low in salt.
  • Eat fewer processes foods.
  • Use less salt when cooking.
  • Serve more fruits and vegetables.


Dad’s Support – Critical to Breastfeeding Success

Breastfeeding is a woman’s decision. However, a husband or partner plays a vital role in her:

  • Decision to breastfeed, and
  • Ability to continue to breastfeed despite early struggles.

Women are more likely to continue to breastfeed when their partner offers support and encourages her. In fact, it may be the single most important factor that predicts breastfeeding success.

How can you support mom?

  • Learn breastfeeding facts and tips. Attend a class with her.
    Search reputable Internet sites:
    • The International Lactation Consultant Association,
    • The La Leche League, and
    • The American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Provide care for the older children.
  • Perform chores. Cool and clean. Do laundry.
  • Help her relax and get comfy as she breastfeeds.
    • Place pillows around her for support.
    • Get her something to drink.
    • Help the baby latch on, especially during the first few feedings.
    • Offer to keep her company as she breastfeeds.
  • Be her emotional support.
    • Defend her decision to breastfeed.
  • Help her find answers when she has trouble.
    • Call a lactation specialist.
    • Remind her why she chose to breastfeed.
  • Change the baby’s diaper before breastfeeding.
    • Hold, burp and cuddle the baby after he nurses.
    • Encourage mom to take a rest.
  • Help her pump.
    • Bag the milk for freezing.
    • Label bags and bottles.
    • Wash pump parts.
  • After 3-4 weeks, give an occasional bottle of pumped breast milk.



Tips to Help You Eat Fruits

In General:

  • Keep a bowl of whole fruit on the table, counter, or in the refrigerator.
  • Refrigerate cut-up fruit to store for later.
  • Buy fresh fruits in season when they may be less expensive and at their peak flavor.
  • Buy fruits that are dried, frozen, and canned (in water or 100% juice) as well as fresh, so that you always have a supply on hand.
  • Consider convenience when shopping. Try pre-cut packages of fruit (such as melon or pineapple chunks) for a healthy snack in seconds. Choose packaged fruits that do not have added sugars.

For the Best Nutritional Value:

  • Make most of your choices whole or cut-up fruit rather than juice, for the benefits dietary fiber provides.
  • Select fruits with more potassium often, such as bananas, prunes and prune juice, dried peaches and apricots, and orange juice.
  • When choosing canned fruits, select fruit canned in 100% fruit juice or water rather than syrup.
  • Vary your fruit choices. Fruits differ in nutrient content.

At Meals:

  • At breakfast, top your cereal with bananas or peaches; add blueberries to pancakes; drink 100% orange or grapefruit juice. Or, mix fresh fruit with plain fat-free or low-fat yogurt.
  • At lunch, pack a tangerine, banana, or grapes to eat, or choose fruits from a salad bar. Individual containers of fruits like peaches or applesauce are easy and convenient.
  • At dinner, add crushed pineapple to coleslaw, or include orange sections or grapes in a tossed salad.
  • Make a Waldorf salad, with apples, celery, walnuts, and a low-calorie salad dressing.
  • Try meat dishes that incorporate fruit, such as chicken with apricots or mangoes.
  • Add fruit like pineapple or peaches to kabobs as part of a barbecue meal.
  • For dessert, have baked apples, pears, or a fruit salad.

As Snacks:

  • Cut-up fruit makes a great snack. Either cut them yourself, or buy pre-cut packages of fruit pieces like pineapples or melons. Or, try whole fresh berries or grapes.
  • Dried fruits also make a great snack. They are easy to carry and store well. Because they are dried, ¼ cup is equivalent to ½ cup of other fruits.
  • Keep a package of dried fruit in your desk or bag. Some fruits that are available dried include apricots, apples, pineapple, bananas, cherries, figs, dates, cranberries, blueberries, prunes (dried plums), and raisins (dried grapes).
  • As a snack, spread peanut butter on apple slices or top plain fat-free or low-fat yogurt with berries or slices of kiwi fruit.
  • Frozen juice bars (100% juice) make healthy alternatives to high-fat snacks.

Make Fruit More Appealing:

  • Many fruits taste great with a dip or dressing. Try fat-free or low-fat yogurt as a dip for fruits like strawberries or melons.
  • Make a fruit smoothie by blending fat-free or low-fat milk or yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit. Try bananas, peaches, strawberries, or other berries.
  • Try unsweetened applesauce as a lower calorie substitute for some of the oil when baking cakes.
  • Try different textures of fruits. For example, apples are crunchy, bananas are smooth and creamy, and oranges are juicy.
  • For fresh fruit salads, mix apples, bananas, or pears with acidic fruits like oranges, pineapple, or lemon juice to keep them from turning brown.

Fruit Tips for Children:

  • Set a good example for children by eating fruit every day with meals or as snacks.
  • Offer children a choice of fruits for lunch.
  • Depending on their age, children can help shop for, clean, peel, or cut up fruits.
  • While shopping, allow children to pick out a new fruit to try later at home.
  • Decorate plates or serving dishes with fruit slices.
  • Top off a bowl of cereal with some berries. Or, make a smiley face with sliced bananas for eyes, raisins for a nose, and an orange slice for a mouth.
  • Offer raisins or other dried fruits instead of candy.
  • Make fruit kabobs using pineapple chunks, bananas, grapes, and berries.
  • Pack a juice box (100% juice) in children’s lunches instead of soda or other sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Look for and choose fruit options, such as sliced apples, mixed fruit cup, or 100% fruit juice in fast food restaurants.
  • Offer fruit pieces and 100% fruit juice to children. There is often little fruit in “fruit-flavored” beverages or chewy fruit snacks.

Keep It Safe:

  • Rinse fruits before preparing or eating them. Under clean, running water, rub fruits briskly with your hands to remove dirt and surface microorganisms. Dry with a clean cloth towel or
    paper towel after rinsing.
  • Keep fruits separate from raw meat, poultry and seafood while shopping, preparing, or storing.



Snack Tips for Parents

10 tips for healthy snacking

Snacks can help children get the nutrients needed to grow and maintain a healthy weight. Prepare single-serving snacks for younger children to help them get just enough to satisfy their hunger. Let older kids make their own snacks by keeping healthy foods in the kitchen. Visit to help you and your kids select a satisfying snack.

save time by slicing veggies
Store sliced vegetables in the refrigerator and serve with dips like hummus or low-fat dressing. Top half a whole-wheat English muffin with spaghetti sauce, chopped vegetables, and low-fat shredded mozzarella and melt in the microwave.

mix it up
For older school-age kids, mix dried fruit, unsalted nuts, and popcorn in a snack-size
bag for a quick trail mix. Blend plain fat-free or low-fat yogurt with 100% fruit juice and frozen peaches for a tasty smoothie.

grab a glass of milk
A cup of low-fat or fat-free milk or milk alternative (soy milk) is an easy way to drink a healthy snack.

go for great whole grains
Offer whole-wheat breads, popcorn, and whole-oat cereals that are high in fiber
and low in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium. Limit refined-grain products such as snack bars, cakes, and sweetened cereals.

nibble on lean protein
Choose lean protein foods such as low-sodium deli meats, unsalted nuts, or eggs. Wrap sliced, low-sodium deli turkey or ham around an apple wedge. Store unsalted nuts in the pantry or peeled, hard-cooked (boiled) eggs in the refrigerator for kids to enjoy any time.

keep an eye on the size
Snacks shouldn’t replace a meal, so look for ways to help your kids understand how much is enough. Store snack-size bags in the cupboard and use them to control serving sizes.

fruits are quick and easy
Fresh, frozen, dried, or canned fruits can be easy “grab-and-go” options that
need little preparation. Offer whole fruit and limit the amount of 100% juice served.

consider convenience
A single-serving container of low-fat or fat-free yogurt or individually wrapped
string cheese can be just enough for an after-school snack.

swap out the sugar
Keep healthier foods handy so kids avoid cookies, pastries, or candies between meals. Add seltzer water to a ½ cup of 100% fruit juice instead of offering soda.

prepare homemade goodies
For homemade sweets, add dried fruits like apricots or raisins and reduce the amount of sugar. Adjust recipes that include fats like butter or shortening by using unsweetened applesauce or prune puree for half the amount of fat.

Go to for more information.


I am moving I am learning

Move, Play & Learn at Home

Learning Outcomes

1.    Recognize that young children are intermittent movers, and need movement opportunities dispersed throughout their entire day – including their time spent at home.
2.    Recognize that young children learn in an integrated fashion, and identify various strategies for combining movement with other at-home learning tasks.
3.    Recognize that physical activity for young children is not the same as it is for adults; it must be playful, simple, creative and success-oriented.
4.    Identify and experience a variety of developmentally appropriate, simple activities that can be utilized with young children at home.
5.    Identify materials around the home that have potential to enrich movement experiences.