Healthy Children - October 2015

ExceleRate Illinois in partnership with the Illinois Department of Human Services is providing information on healthy choices and 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 for all children and 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.


Keep Your Child Safe from Poisoning

Poisoning is a very real danger for children, especially for those between 6 months and 5 years old.

About 90 percent of poisonings occur at home. Many poisonings occur around mealtime, when children are hungry and parents are distracted. Other times children might be more likely to try something that could harm them include changes in routine (such as during holidays), illnesses, moving, vacations, stressful times and stressful times and celebrations.

The most dangerous poisons are medicines and iron pills, but vitamins and diet pills are also risky. Sometimes all it takes is one pill to poison a small child.

You may not be able to get rid of everything in your home that can poison a child, especially with medications. But the key is to safely store and use anything that might poison a child.

Poison Prevention Do's and Dont's


  • Store all medicines and household products, such as detergents, bleaches and cleaning supplies, where children can't see or reach them.
  • Store medicines, household products and other poisons in their original containers to avoid dangerous mix-ups.
  • Treat vitamins just as you would medicines. Vitamins can be poisonous in large doses.
  • Store pesticides high and/or locked up in your garage.
  • Keep cosmetic items like nail polish remover locked up or out of reach. They can be poisonous, too.
  • Install safety locks on cabinet doors. Just remember: Locks may slow a child down, but they aren't always child-proof.
  • Keep in mind children older than 2 can be good climbers and reach upper cabinets.
  • If using a poison like a cleaning product or medicine when a child is around, take it with you if you need to answer the door or the phone.
  • Keep plants out of reach to avoid poisoning, even if you think the plant wouldn't poison a child.
  • Watch small children outside around flowering plants, lawn mushrooms or shrubbery with berries, all of which can be poisonous. 
  • Teach your children to ask an adult before eating or drinking anything. Poisons can look like food or drink.


  • Don't take your medicine when small children are watching.
  • Don't call medicine candy.
  • Don't leave your purse out if it has medicines in it. Kids often associate mom's purse with candy and gum and may eat what they find.
  • Don't rely on packaging to keep children out of medicines and products - child-resistant packaging doesn't mean child-proof.
  • Don't keep poisonous products and food in the same cabinet.

Post the local Poison Control Center phone number near your phone. If you think your child has been poisoned, call the Poison Control Center immediately at 800.222.1222.

MyPlate snack tips for kids

10 tips for making great tasting snacks

If you're a budding chef, it's easy to create a great tasting snack! Below are some quick ideas that you can make on your own.

  1. create a yogurt sundae
    Top plain, low-fat or fat-free yogurt with fresh, frozen, or canned fruit, like bananas, strawberries, or peaches. Sprinkle whole-grain cereal on top for crunch.
  2. make pita pockets
    Stuff a small whole-wheat pita with sliced bell peppers, salsa, and a slice of low-fat cheese. Melt in the microwave for 15-20 seconds.
  3. jazz up your favorite cereal
    Make a trail mix! Stir 1/4 cup of unsalted nuts, 1/4 cup of dried raisins or cranberries, and 1/4 cup of whole-grain cereal together.
  4. make a fruit sandwich
    Cut an apple into thin slices. Spread peanut butter or almond butter between two slices to create "apple sandwiches."
  5. dip your veggies
    Create veggie treats by dipping slices or cucumbers, peppers, and carrots in a low-fat salad dressing or hummus.
  6. pack an after school snack
    For a healthy after school snack, keep a fruit cup packed in 100% juice or water in your bag. Some fresh fruit, like bananas or oranges, are also easy to pack and eat any time.
  7. try a piece of cheesy toast!
    Toast a slice of whole-wheat bread and top with a slice of your favorite low-fat cheese.
  8. freeze your fruit
    For a frozen treat on hot days, try freezing grapes or bananas! Don't forget to peel bananas and pull grapes from the stem before freezing.
  9. power up with 'roll-ups'
    Roll a slice of low-salt deli turkey or ham around an apple wedge or around a slice of low-fat cheese.
  10. build a fruit salad
    Mix your favorite sliced fruits such as pineapple, grapes, and melon.

Go to for more information.

Kitchen Activities

Get your preschooler to try new foods by having them help you in the kitchen. Kids feel good about doing something "grown-up." Give them small jobs to do. Praise their efforts. Children are less likely to reject foods that they help to 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 pages

Make "faces" out of pieces or 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
Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion


Liven up your meals with vegetables and fruits

10 tips to improve 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.

  1. 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 mangoes add great flavor to a cookout.
  2. expand the flavor of your casseroles
    Mix vegetables such as sauteed onions, peas, pinto beans, or tomatoes into your favorite dish for that extra flavor.
  3. 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.
  4. get creative with your salad
    Toss in shredded carrots, strawberries, spinach, watercress, orange segments, or sweet peas for a flavorful, fun salad.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. be creative with your baked goods
    Add apples, bananas, blueberries, or pears to your favorite muffin recipe for a treat.
  9. 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.
  10. 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 mushroms, spinach, onions, or bell peppers.

Go to for more information.

Finding Fun in Physical Activity

Try these easy and fun ways to increase your classroom's activity level and laugh your way to physical fitness!

The Hokey Pokey

Follow the Leader

Simon Says

Parades - use instruments or act like animals

Dancing - have each child create a dance move for everyone to try

Parachute Play - keep any type of objects on the parachute

Clapping and stomping to the beat of the music

Children's Music that Calls for Movement, Participation, Dance and Exercise

Brainstorm some fun, creative ideas for your classroom and share them with the group. Try doing a couple of the favorites together.


Great Northern Bean Soup

Great Northern beans are white beans that have a mild flavor.

Makes: 6 servings


  • 2 cups Great Northern beans (dry)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup onion (chopped)
  • 1/2 pound chicken (thawed, cut up and skin removed)
  • 1/4 pound ham (chopped)
  • 2 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 cup tomatoes (diced, or 1/2 can about 8oz. low-sodium diced tomatoes)
  • 1 Tbs distilled white vinegar


  1. In a medium size bowl, soak beans in 3 cups of water overnight.
  2. Drain the water and rinse beans.
  3. In a large pot, brown onion, chicken, and ham in oil over medium to high heat for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add water, beans, and salt to pot. Mix well.
  5. Bring pot to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.
  6. Lower heat and cook for about 1 hour. Stir pot every 15 minutes.
  7. Add tomatoes and vinegar to pot. Keep cooking over low heat for about 20 minutes. Serve hot.