Healthy Children - February 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.


Enjoy fruit all day long


  • Add fruit to ready-to eat cereal or hot cereals
  • Top pancakes and waffles with fruit

Lunch and Dinner

  • Top lettuce and spinach salads with fruit
  • Add fresh or canned fruit to gelatin salads
  • Serve fruit for dessert


Keep fresh fruit and dried fruit handy for snacking
Top yogurt with sliced fruit
Make a quick fruit smoothie with milk and chilled or frozen fruit

Pineapple & Walnut Salad – serves 6

1 can (20oz) pineapple chunks, drained reserving 2 Tbsp juice
1 cup chopped celery
½ cup nuts (walnuts, peanuts)
½ cup raisins
2 Tbsp low fat mayonnaise
3 cups salad greens

  1. In a large bowl toss pineapple, celery, nuts and raisins. Chill.
  2. Before serving, add just enough mayonnaise to moisten salad.
  3. Sprinkle on pineapple juice and gently stir to blend.
  4. Serve on salad greens.

Nutrition facts (per serving): Calories 180 ~ fat 8 g ~ calories from fat 70 ~ sodium 70mg ~ total carbohydrate 26 g ~ fiber 3 g


Vary Your Veggies


To increase the knowledge and awareness of the importance of eating a variety of vegetables, especially colorful and locally-grown vegetables, every day as part of a healthful diet.

Participant Objectives:

  1. Name two colorful locally grown vegetables and describe why they are a good choice for their family.
  2. Name one way in which to add vegetables to their family’s diet without increasing the cost of the meal.
  3. Describe how to purchase, store, and safely prepare at least one new vegetable item that they could serve at home.


Points to cover

  1. Explain that children and adults need to eat more vegetables each day for imporved health and growth.
  2. Explain that adults should strive to eat 2 ½ cups and children 1 ½ cups of vegetables each day.
  3. Inform parents that every little step they take in consuming more vegetables really does help their families be at their best today and in the future.
  4. Discuss that colorful vegetables generally provide nutrients important for good health, such as vitamin A and vitamin C.
  5. Emphasize that vegetables taste good cooked or raw.
  6. Discuss that vegetables come fresh, frozen, canned and dried; all make a valuable contribution to your diet; seasonal and locally grown vegetables can be an economical way to add fresh vegetables to your family’s meals. Consider growing your own vegetables.
  7. Review that there are tried and true ways in which to introduce vegetables to your family’s diet and to get children to eat them.
  8. Emphasize that adding vegetables to your menu does no have to cost extra money – there are low cost vegetables with a powerful nutritious punch.
  9. Discuss that vegetables must be stored, prepared and served in ways in which to keep them safe.

 Kids, Eat Your Calories

Research shows American children on average consume more than 300 calories per day in sugary drinks with limited nutritional value.
Children who do not consume sugary drinks are 70 percent less likely to be overweight than their sugar-guzzling counterparts. Calorie-laden drinks, including juice, energy drinks, fruit drinks or soda, add extra calories without helping the child feel full. Children and adults will continue to eat despite the high-calorie impact of such beverages.

“Offering children juice or other sugar-laden drinks crowds out nutritious choices and teaches children drinks should always be sweet,” says Tara Todd, RD, outpatient dietitian at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “Milk that contains calcium and vitamin D – chocolate milk, almond milk, soy milk, and rice milk – and water are the only drinks a child needs.”

Separating Myth from Fact

Advertisers have convinced Americans juice is a healthful part of our diets, but drinking juice does not have the nutritional benefits of eating whole fruit. Every meal should contain at least one fruit or vegetable for good nutrition.

“The younger your children are when you make the switch to healthier choices, the less they will miss calorie-laden drinks,” Todd says. “If parents are concerned about what constitutes a healthful diet for their children and families, a one-time visit with a dietitian can help separate myth from fact.”

Healthy Eating on a Budget

Eating healthy doesn’t have to cost more. Use hese tips and materials to help you make choices that are not only healthy but also economical.

  • The 3 P’s – Plan, Purchase, and Prepare Food on a Budget
    - The reminders help you stay within your food budget.
  • Smart Shopping for Veggies and Fruits
    - Get the fruits and vegetables you need without breaking the bank!
  • Eating Better on a Budget
    - These 10 tips will help you stretch your food dollars.
  • Sample 7-day menu
    - This sample weekly menu meets all nutritional needs at a cost below current average food costs.


Eating Healthy on a Budget – A consumer economics perspective

  • Can people eat healthier and spend less money?
  • Are fruits and vegetables so expensive that people cannot afford to eat a healthy diet?
  • How can people actually know what foods are healthful choices and that they are likely economical as well?


Read a USDA Economist’s Views: Nutrition Doesn’t Have to be Expensive

  • Eat Right When Money’s Tight
  • 30 Ways in 30 Days to Stretch Your Fruits & Vegetables Budget
  • SNAP-ED Connection Recipe Finder
     - Search recipes by various categories – including cost per serving or per recipe.
  • Iowa State University Extension’s “Spend Smart. Eat Smart.”


 Healthy Snacks: Quick tips for parents

Health snack ideas

  • “Ants on a log” (celery with peanut butter and raisins)
  • Fresh or canned fruit (in 100% juice, not syrup) with fat-free or low-fat vanilla yogurt
  • Whole-grain crackers with low-fat cheese
  • Frozen grapes (rinse and freeze grapes overnight)
  • Quesadillas (low-fat cheese on a whole-wheat tortilla)
  • Unsalted pretzels or air-popped popcorn
  • Baked tortilla chips and salsa
  • Whole-wheat pita bread with hummus
  • Water or fat-free or low-fat milk

Put fresh fruit in a bowl at eye-level in the refrigerator or on the kitchen counter. It will be easier for kids to see and grab.


On the go

  • Put dried fruits and nuts, fresh veggies, or fruit in small baggies.
  • Pack low-fat string cheese sticks.


Set the rules

  • Teach your kids to ask before they help themselves to snacks.
  • Eat snacks at the table on in the kitchen, not in front of the TV.
  • Serve snacks in a bowl. Don’t let kids eat snack foods directly out of the bag or box.
  • Drink water or fat-free or low-fat milk instead of soda or juice.

For more information on nutrition and kids, visit:

Serving Sizes

Bread, Cereal, Rice and Pasta
1 slice of bread
½ cup of cooked cereal, rice or pasta
1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal

½ cup cooked or chopped raw vegetables
¾ cup vegetable juice
1 cup of raw leafy vegetables

1 apple, banana or orange
¾ cup of fruit juice
½ cup of chopped, cooked, or canned fruit

Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry beans, Eggs, and Nuts
2-3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry or fish
Eating one of these foods counts as eating 1 ounce of meat:
½ cup of cooked dry beans
1 egg
2 tablespoons of peanut butter

Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese
1 cup milk
1 ½ to 2 ounces of cheese
1 cup yogurt

Note:  Preschool children need the same variety but may eat smaller portions.