Healthy Children - November 2013

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.



Striking the Screen Time Balance


Is it better for your child to avoid screen time or to spend time playing with educational apps on your smartphone or tablet?


Since the 1990s, the American Academy of Pediatrics has stood by the recommendation of no screen time—including tablets—for children younger than age 2, and two hours or fewer daily for older children. However, the group admits its recommendation is based on research into passive viewing, such as watching television, and not information  about the merits of interactive apps for handheld devices.


"With the right guidance, settings and apps, devices can be powerful tools for learning, communication and productivity,"  says Nicole Weckherlin, OTR/L, occupational therapist with St. Louis Children's Hospital Therapy Services. "However, direct supervision is needed. Children should not be set up on a device and left to passively watch. For children younger than age 2, technology is meant to be interactive and social. It should be used as a tool of engagement with parents, facilitating exploration and learning."


A Special Opportunity


In her role as an occupational therapist, Weckherlin has witnessed firsthand the difference apps can make in the lives of children, especially those with special needs.


"Devices and apps have allowed children with special needs to actively participate in the classroom setting," she says. "They promote communication, participation in age-appropriate activities, and greater independence, interaction and self-esteem."


What apps are OK? –Read more about apps designed to stimulate your child's mind and development.


Balancing Calories: Help  Kids  Develop Healthy Eating Habits


One part of balancing calories is to eat foods that provide adequate nutrition and an appropriate number of calories. You can help children learn to be aware of what they eat by developing healthy eating habits, looking for ways to make favorite dishes healthier, and reducing calorie-rich temptations.


Encourage healthy eating habits.


There's no great secret to healthy eating. To help your children and family develop healthy eating habits:


  • Provide plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain products.
  • Include low-fat or non-fat milk or dairy products.
  • Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils, and beans for protein.
  • Serve reasonably-sized portions.
  • Encourage your family to drink lots of water.
  • Limit sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Limit consumption of sugar and saturated fat.


Remember that small changes every day can lead to a recipe for success!


For more information about nutrition, visit and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.


Look for ways to make favorite dishes healthier.


The recipes that you may prepare regularly, and that your family enjoys, with just a few changes can be healthier and just as satisfying.


Remove calorie-rich temptations!


Although everything can be enjoyed in moderation, reducing the calorie-rich temptations of
high-fat and high-sugar, or salty snacks can also help your children develop healthy eating habits. Instead only allow your children to eat them sometimes, so that they truly will be treats! Here are examples of easy-to-prepare, low-fat and low-sugar treats that are 100 calories or less.


  • A medium-size apple
  • A medium-size banana
  • 1cup blueberries
  • 1cup grapes
  • 1cup carrots, broccoli, or bell peppers with 2 tbsp. hummus


Balancing Calories: Help  Kids Stay  Active


Another part of balancing calories is to engage in an appropriate amount of physical activity and avoid too much sedentary time. In addition to being fun for children and teens, regular physical activity has many health benefits, including:


  • Strengthening bones
  • Decreasing blood pressure
  • Reducing stress and anxiety
  • Increasing self-esteem
  • Helping with weight management


Help kids stay active.


Children and teens should participate in at least 6o minutes of moderate intensity physical activity most days of the week, preferably daily.  Remember that children imitate adults. Start adding physical activity to your own daily routine and encourage your child to join you.


Some examples of moderate intensity physical activity include:


  • Brisk walking
  • Playing tag
  • Jumping rope
  • Playing soccer
  • Swimming
  • Dancing


Reduce sedentary time.


In addition to encouraging physical activity, help children avoid too much sedentary time. Although quiet time for reading and homework is fine, limit the time your children watch television, play video games, or surf the web to no more than 2 hours per day. Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend television viewing for children age 2 or younger.  Instead, encourage your children to find fun activities to do with family members or on their own that simply involve more activity.



Happy Trails Trail Mix



Combine 1 cup of whole-grain toasted oat cereal and ½ cup of any combination of these healthy fun foods together for a trail mix.



Suggested portion size:  ½ cup (makes 3 servings)


  • Almonds
  • Banana Chips
  • Chocolate chips
  • Dried cranberries
  • Peanuts (Note: choking hazard if younger than age 7)
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Raisins
  • Small pretzel twists or pretzel sticks
  • Sunflower seeds

Store in airtight containers or resealable bags until ready to eat.


Healthy Food: Add Yogurt to Your Daily Diet


Yogurt is a healthy food. It:


  • Is a good source of protein.
  • Contains calcium and potassium.
  • Has B vitamins and minerals.
  • Contains live cultures called probiotics.


Yogurt has many uses. Try it for breakfast with fruit.  It makes a great snack.  Use it in recipes
- sauces, soups, dressings and desserts.  Substitute it for sour cream, mayonnaise, oil, butter and cream cheese.


Greek yogurt is an especially good fat substitute. It is a thick and creamy product once the liquid is strained and removed. This process increases the protein content and usually decreases the carbohydrates.  Lactose intolerant people may digest Greek yogurt more easily.


You can easily make your own yogurt in an inexpensive yogurt maker.  Boil milk, mix in some yogurt, and place it in your yogurt maker. In 8- 12 hours, your yogurt is ready to enjoy.


Yogurt Stuffed Sweet Potato
1/2 cup Greek Yogurt
1 tsp. of honey or brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Mix and use as a topping/or your baked sweet potato.


Yogurt-Cucumber-Mint Sauce
-great on grilled meats or as a vegetable dip.
1 cup Greek Yogurt
1 small cucumber- peeled, seeded and chopped or grated
2 - 4 tbsp. Fresh mint
2 tsp. chopped green or red onion
½ tsp. cumin powder
1 clove minced garlic or garlic powder to taste
1 tbsp. Lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste.



3 Tips for Eating Healthy During Thanksgiving Holiday


Thanksgiving is a holiday in which families get together and feast. However, this is the time when we tend to put our guards down on our health.  During thanksgiving, we need to watch out for high blood pressure and diabetes for those who have these two conditions. Checking on your thanksgiving dinner is highly recommended to avoid eating too much fatty foods or foods that might raise your cholesterol levels. Keep in mind your physicians orders regarding these conditions.


Generally, a thanksgiving dinner has over 2000 calories, and can be a challenge if you need to watch your waistline. Remember, it is easier to gain weight than to lose it, and especially if you are in a festive mood. The following 3 tips can be helpful to eating healthy during the Thanksgiving holiday.


Before you go to a thanksgiving dinner, ensure you eat something, not to your fill, but to avoid going there hungry. This will help you avoid packing your plate with unnecessary additions. While at the feast, go for greens and fruits and less meats, especially red meat.


Take your time to enjoy your feast. During thanksgiving, there is usually a tendency to eat quickly. This results in poor digestion, and loss of nutrients that are vital for the body. Eat slowly and in small quantities, to maximize on your meal.