Healthy Children - July 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.


IDHS Announces Increase in WIC Benefits to Purchase More Fruits and Vegetables

The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) is pleased to announce that children in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) will receive an increase in the amount allocated for fruits and vegetables. Effective June 2, 2014, children one and older will receive an additional $2 per month - from $6 to $8 – to redeem for any WIC eligible fruits and vegetables.

"This increase will allow for more fruits and vegetables to be available to these children," said IDHS Secretary Michelle R.B. Saddler. "Fruits and vegetables provide many nutrients that support a healthy weight and lifestyle.

"WIC is a USDA-funded public health nutrition program created to reduce the nutritional risk of low-income pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women, infants, and children up to the age of five. WIC provides food, nutrition education and access to healthcare. The program serves more than 140,000 children statewide.

The supplemental foods and nutrition education provided in WIC have assisted in reducing fetal deaths, infant mortality, low birth weight rates, iron deficiency anemia in children and increased immunization rates.

To learn more about the WIC program or to see if you may qualify, please visit or contact your local WIC office.

Delicious Snacks!

Pumpernickel bread and a tangerine
Bran muffin and low-fat milk
Cinnamon rice cake and a peach
Whole-wheat toast with a sliced tomato
Waffle square and strawberries
Graham crackers and a pear
Raisin toast and peanut butter
Pita bread and hummus
Gingersnaps and applesauce
Whole- wheat bread sticks and marinara sauce
Toasted English muffin and low-fat cheese
Whole-grain cereal and low-fat milk
Cinnamon toast and a plum
Toasted bagel and orange slices
Corn tortilla and refried beans
Whole-grain crackers and cheese
Low-fat yogurt and fruit
Cottage cheese with crushed pineapple
Cucumber and carrot slices and cottage cheese dip
Rice cakes with peanut butter
Cut up vegetables with a package of ranch dressing mixed into cottage cheese
String cheese and celery
Broccoli bean quesadilla

Check your meal pattern for serving sizes.
Serve water with all snacks.
Adapted from: Health Heart Snack Choices Resource


Liven Up Your Meals with Vegetables and Fruits

Discover the many benefits of adding vegetables and fruits to your meals. They are low in fat and calories, while providing fiber and other key nutrients. Most Americans should eat more than 3 cups —and for some,up to 6 cups—of vegetables and fruits each day. Vegetables and fruits don’t just add nutrition to meals. They can also add color, flavor, and texture. Explore these creative ways to bring healthy foods to your table.

fire up the grill
Use the grill to cook vegetables and fruits. Try grilling mushrooms, carrots, peppers, or potatoes on a kabob skewer. Brush with oil to keep them from drying out. Grilled fruits like peaches, pineapple, or mangos add great flavor to a cookout.

expand the flavor of your casseroles
Mix vegetables such as sauted onions, peas, pinto beans, or tomatoes into your favorite dish for that extra flavor.

planning something Italian?
Add extra vegetables to your pasta dish. Slip some peppers, spinach, red beans, onions, or cherry tomatoes into your traditional tomato sauce. Vegetables provide texture and low-calorie bulk that satisfies.

get creative with your salad
Toss in shredded carrots, strawberries, spinach, watercress, orange segments, or sweet peas for a flavorful, fun salad.
salad bars aren't just for salads Try eating sliced fruit from the salad bar as your dessert when dining out. This will help you avoid any baked desserts that are high in calories.

get in on the stir-frying fun
Try something new! Stir-fry your veggies-like broccoli, carrots, sugar snap peas, mushrooms, or green beans-for a quick-and-easy addition to any meal.

add them to your sandwiches
Whether it is a sandwich or wrap, vegetables make great additions to both. Try sliced tomatoes, romaine lettuce, or avocado on your everyday sandwich or wrap for extra flavor.

be creative with your baked goods
Add apples, bananas, blueberries, or pears to your favorite muffin recipe for a treat.

make a tasty fruit smoothie
For dessert, blend strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries with frozen bananas and 100% fruit juice for a delicious frozen fruit smoothie.

liven up an omelet
Boost the color and flavor of your morning omelet with vegetables. Simply chop, saute, and add them to the egg as it cooks. Try combining different vegetables, such as mushrooms, spinach,  onions, or bell peppers.

Go to for more information.


What Foods Are in the Vegetable Group?

Any vegetable or 100% vegetable juice counts as a member of the Vegetable Group. Vegetables may be raw or cooked; fresh, frozen, canned, or dried/dehydrated; and may be whole, cut-up, or mashed.

Vegetables are organized into 5 subgroups, based on their nutrient content.

Dark Green Vegetables

  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Collard greens
  • Dark green leafy lettuce
  • Kale
  • Mesclun
  • Mustard greens
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Turnip greens
  • Watercress


Red & Orange vegetables

  • Acorn squash
  • Butternut squash
  • Carrots
  • Hubbard squash
  • Pumpkin
  • Red peppers
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Tomato juice


Starchy vegetables

  • Cassava
  • Corn
  • Fresh cowpeas, field peas, or black-eyed peas (not dry)
  • Green bananas
  • Green peas
  • Green lima beans
  • Plantains
  • Potatoes
  • Taro
  • Water chestnuts


Beans and peas*

  • Black beans
  • Black-eyed peas (mature, dry)
  • Garbanzo beans (chichpeas)
  • Kidney beans
  • Lentils
  • Navy beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Soy beans
  • Split peas
  • White beans


Other vegetables

  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Bean sprouts
  • Beets
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Green beans
  • Green peppers
  • Iceberg (head) lettuce
  • Mushrooms
  • Okra
  • Onions
  • Turnips
  • Wax beans
  • Zucchini


Apple-Carrot Muffins

Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes
Serves: 12

1 apple, medium
1 carrot
1 cup flour, whole wheat
1 cup flour, all-purpose
1 cup wheat germ, toasted
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup liquid egg substitute
2 tablespoons canola oil
8 fluid ounces apple juice, unsweetened
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 F . Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners or spray lightly with cooking spray. Wash, core, and shred apple (McIntosh, Granny Smith, Rome, and Gala work well). Wash, peel and grate carrot. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the flours, wheat germ, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the egg substitute, oil, apple juice, and applesauce with an electric mixer.

Pour the egg mixture into the well of the flour mixture and stir just until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened, being careful not to over mix.

Fold in the shredded apple and carrot, raisins, and chopped pecans.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filing cups about 2/3 full.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean.


Preventing Childhood Obesity: Tips for Parents

Childhood Obesity is on the Rise

The number of overweight children in the United States has increased dramatically in recent years. Approximately 10 percent of 4 and 5 year old children are overweight, double that of 20 years ago. Overweight is more prevalent in girls than boys and in older preschoolers (ages 4-5) than younger (ages 2-3).

Obesity increases even more as children get older. For ages 6 to 11, at least one child in five is overweight. Over the last two decades, this number has increased by more than SO percent and the number of obese children has nearly doubled.

For most children, overweight is the result of unhealthy eating patterns (too many calories) and too little physical activity. Since these habits are established in early childhood, efforts to prevent obesity should begin early.

Determining if a Child is Overweight

Parents should not make changes to a child's diet based solely on perceptions of overweight. All preschoolers exhibit their own individual body structure and growth pattern. Assessing obesity in children is difficult because children grow in unpredictable spurts. It should only be done by a health care professional, using the child's height and weight relative to his previous growth history.

Helping Overweight Children

Weight loss is not a good approach for most young children, since their bodies are growing and developing. Overweight children should not be put on a diet unless a physician supervises one for medical reasons. A restrictive diet may not supply the energy and nutrients needed for normal growth and development. 

For most very young children, the focus should be to maintain current weight, while the child grows normally in height.

The most important strategies for preventing obesity are healthy eating behaviors, regular physical activity, and reduced sedentary activity (such as watching television and videotapes, and playing computer games). These preventative strategies are part of a healthy lifestyle that should be developed during early childhood. They can be accomplished by following the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The Dietary Guidelines provide general diet and lifestyle recommendations for healthy Americans ages 2 years and over (not for younger children and infants). The most recent edition of the Dietary Guidelines can be found on Following these guidelines can help promote health and reduce risk for chronic diseases

Promote a Healthy Lifestyle

Parents and caregivers can help prevent childhood obesity by providing healthy meals and snacks, daily physical activity, and nutrition education. Healthy meals and snacks provide nutrition for growing bodies while modeling healthy eating behavior and attitudes. Increased physical activity reduces health risks and helps weight management. Nutrition education helps young children develop an awareness of good nutrition and healthy eating habits for a lifetime.

Children can be encouraged to adopt healthy eating behaviors and be physically active when parents:

  • Focus on good health, not a certain weight goal. Teach and model healthy and positive attitudes toward food and physical activity without emphasizing body weight.
  • Focus on the family. Do not set overweight children apart. Involve the whole family and work to gradually change the family's physical activity and eating habits.
  • Establish daily meal and snack times, and eating together as frequently as possible. Make a wide variety of healthful foods available based on the Food Guide Pyramid for Young Children. Determine what food is offered and when, and let the child decide whether and how much to eat.
  • Plan sensible portions. Use the Food Guide Pyramid for Young Children as a guide.


What Counts as One Serving?

Grain Group
1 slice of bread
1/2 cup of cooked rice or pasta
1/2 cup of cooked cereal
1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal

Vegetable Group
• 1/2 cup of chopped raw or cooked vegetables
• 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables

Fruit Group
• 1 piece of fruit or melon wedge
• 3/4 cup of juice
• 1/2 cup of canned fruit
• 1/4 cup of dried fruit

Milk Group
• 1 cup of low-fat or fat-free milk or yogurt (learn more about choosing low-fat or fat-free milk)
• 2 ounces of cheese

Meat Group
• 2-3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry or fish
• 1/2 cup of cooked dry beans, or 1 egg counts as 1 ounce of lean meat. 2 tablespoons of peanut butter count as 1 ounce of meat.

Fats and Sweets
Limit calories from these.

Four-to-6 year-olds can eat these serving sizes. Offer 2-to-3 year-olds less, except for milk. Two-to-6 year-old children need a total of 2 servings from the milk group each day.

  • Discourage eating meals or snacks while watching TV. Eating in front of the TV may make it difficult to pay attention to feelings of fullness and may lead to overeating.
  • Buy fewer high-calorie, low-nutrient foods. Help children understand that sweets and high-fat treats (such as candy, cookies, or cake) are not everyday foods. Don't deprive children of occasional treats, however. This can make them more likely to overeat.
  • Avoid labeling foods as "good" or "bad." All foods in moderation can be part of a healthy diet.
  • Involve children in planning, shopping, and preparing meals. Use these activities to understand children's food preferences, teach children about nutrition, and encourage them to try a wide variety of foods.
  • Make the most of snacks. Continuous snacking may lead to overeating. Plan healthy snacks at specific times. Include two food groups, for example, apple wedges and whole grain crackers. Focus on maximum nutrition -fruits, vegetables, grains, low-sugar cereals, lowfat dairy products, and lean meats and meat alternatives. Avoid excessive amounts of fruit juices, which contains calories, but fewer nutrients than the fruits they come from. A reasonable amount of juice is 4-8 ounces per day.
  • Encourage physical activity. Participate in family physical activity time on a regular basis, such as walks, bike rides, hikes, and active games. Support your children's organized physical activities. Provide a safe, accessible place outside for play.
  • Limit the amount of time children watch television, play video games, and work on the computer to 1 to 2 hours per day. The average American child spends about 24 hours each week watching television. Reducing sedentary activities helps increase physical activity.

Taken from Mealtime Memo for child care. A fact sheet for the Child and Adult Care Food Program, from the
National Food Service Management Institute, The University of Mississippi.