Healthy Children - January 2016

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.


Holiday Food Safety

The Holiday meal is the largest many cooks prepare each year. Getting the turkey brings a fair amount of pressure whether or not the host is experienced with roasting one. Below are some tips to make sure you meal is both delicious and safe to serve.

Steps to follow before cooking a turkey:

  • Read labels carefully. Temperature labels show if the bird is fresh or frozen. If you plan to serve a fresh turkey, purchase it no more than two days before Thanksgiving.
  • Purchase two thermometers: a refrigerator thermometer to ensure the turkey is stored at 40 or slightly below. A food thermometer to make sure the cooked turkey reaches a safe 165° F.
  • Thaw the turkey by using the microwave, the cold water method, or the refrigerator. The refrigerator method is USDA recommended. 

Steps to follow when cooking a turkey:

  • Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before toughing any food to prevent the spread of many types of infection and illness.
  • Do not wash the turkey. This only spreads pathogens onto kitchen surfaces. The only way to kill bacteria that causes foodborne illness is to fully cook the turkey.
  • Keep raw turkey separated from all other foods at all times.
  • Use separate cutting boards, plates, and utensils when handling raw turkey to avoid cross- contamination. Wash items that have touched raw meat with warm soap and water, or place them in a dishwasher.
  • Cook the turkey until it reaches 165°F as measured by a food thermometer. Check the turkey’s temperature by inserting the thermometer in three places: the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the thigh and the innermost part of the wing.

Steps to follow when consuming leftover holiday food:

  • Refrigerate leftovers within two hours to prevent bacteria from growing on the food.
  • Store leftovers in shallow pans or containers to decrease cooling time. This prevents the food from spending too much time at unsafe temperatures (between 40° to 140° F)
  • Do not store stuffing inside a leftover turkey. Remove the stuffing from the turkey, and refrigerate the stuffing and the meat separately.
  • Avoid consuming leftovers that have been left in the refrigerator for longer than 3-4 days. Use the freezer to store leftovers for longer periods of time.
  • Keep leftovers in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs if the food is traveling home with a guest who lives more than two hours away.

Move More this Winter

How to get your kids active indoors

Health experts recommend that children get 60 minutes of “moderate too vigorous” physical activity a day. That means any exercise that gets the heart beating fast and gets kids breathing hard. Recent studies indicate that just one in four kids in the U.S. are achieving that level of activity a day. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends that children should have no more than two hours of screen time per day, yet today’s children are spending an average of seven hours a day on electronic media.

 Physical activity is a key component to a healthy lifestyle. Physically active children tend to physically active adults and a lifetime of physical activity can lead to better health. Increasing children’s activity levels on a daily basis can bring additional benefits Being active can help improve academic performance, reduce behavioral problems, help with conflict resolution, and contribute to a positive environment in schools, communities and families.

 As the mother of two very active outdoor-loving children, I dread cold winter months with long dark nights. Keeping kids active and “not bored” can be challenging. Going to the YMCA is a great way to get the wiggles out on a cold afternoon. But there are activities that you can do at home as well. I know we love a good dance party at our house. Put on your family’s favorite radio or Pandora station and turn your living room into a dance floor! Here are some resources for programs that we use at genHkids to get kids up and moving, which can be adapted for your use at home.

 The Sangamon County nonprofit genHkids educations parents, teachers and children on how to “Move More” through our physical activity programs in schools and at community events. One such program is called Brain Breaks. These brief activities (one to five minutes each) are designed to get kids up and moving vigorously, thus increasing the flow of blood and oxygen to their brains. Brain Breaks recharge kids’ brains and get them ready for learning and listening.

 Parents can use Brain Breaks at home as a way to increase physical activity before or after school, to recharge their children during home-work, or create a distraction from unwanted behavior.

 The goal of genHkids’ Jumpstart is to inject 12 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity at the start of every school day. This is to “JumpStart” students’ bodies and brains, and to encourage the development of lifelong skills and movement. The JumpStart program has been such a hit at school that we been a hit at schools that we have created a series of videos that parents can use at home as well.

 Over the last year, genHkids has partnered with nonprofit called Playworks. Playworks has developed a library of thousands of game ideas that you can search online. Many of these games can be played inside. Playworks has instructional videos on YouTube that provide tutorials and additional ideals about some games as well.

 We parents all know that keeping our kids active is important to their overall health and wellness. With some creativity and planning we don’t have to let the lack of warmth and sunshine outdoors slow us down indoors this winter. If you have a favorite indoor physical activity that you us with your children, email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or share on our Facebook page. We love learning new ideas and sharking with others. 


Winter Holidays

As the end of the year approaches, it’s likely there are multiple meals and parties in your future. Carrying food from one location to another and sharing dishes with a crowd means more opportunity for bacteria to grow and cause food poisoning. Whether you’re an experienced cook, a first-time party host, or simply adding a dish to the potluck lineup, the holidays can make even the most confident chefs nervous. Follow these steps to keep your holiday season food poisoning- free.

Steps to follow during holiday grocery shopping:

Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood away from other foods in your grocery cart.
Buy cold foods last.
Ask the cashier to place your raw meat, poultry and seafood in a separate bag.

Steps to follow during food preparation:

  • Use separate cutting boards for raw meat and ready to eat items like vegetables or bread.
  • Prepare uncooked recipes before recipes requiring raw meat to reduce cross-contamination. Store them out of the way while preparing meat dishes to ensure they don’t become contaminated after preparation.
  • Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of dishes to ensure they are fully cooked and safe to eat. Fresh beef, pork, veal, and lamb should be cooked to 145°F with a three minutes rest time; fish should be cooked to 145°F, ground beef, veal and lamb should be cooked to 160°F; egg dishes should be cooked to 160°F and all poultry should be cooked to 165°F.

Fool proof tips when cooking for groups:

  • Keep hot food hot and cold food cold using chafing dishes or crock pots and ice trays. Hot items should remain above 140°F and cold items should remain below 40°F
  • Use several small plates when serving food.
  • Discard perishable foods left out for 2 hours or more.

Steps to follow when cooking a holiday roast:

  • Use separate cutting boards, plates and utensils for raw roasts and cooked roasts to avoid cross contamination.
  • Wash items such as cutting boards that have touched raw meat with warm water and soap, or place them in a dishwasher.
  • To ensure the juiciest possible roast this holiday, use a meat thermometer. Once it has reached the USDA recommended internal temperature of 145°F, the roast is safe to eat.
  • Remember all cuts of pork, beef, veal, and lamb need a three minute rest time before cutting or consuming.


Germs Can Be Hiding Just About Anywhere

  • Wash your hands and surfaces often
  • Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food
  • Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water just before eating cutting, or cooking
  • Wash your hands before you make or eat a snack or meal, after playing with pets and after using a bathroom
  • Use a thermometer to determine if your food is fully cooked and safe to eat
  • Always use clean knives, forks, spoons and plates. Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw food
  • To save leftovers or take out, be sure to child within two hours
  • Put backpacks and books on the floor. Don’t put them on the kitchen table or counters

Physical Activity: What is It?

Physical activity simply means movement of the body that uses energy. Walking, gardening, briskly pushing a baby stroller, climbing the stairs, playing soccer, or dancing the night away are all good examples of being active. For health benefit, physical activity should be moderate or vigorous intensity.

Moderate Physical Activities Include:

  • Walking briskly (about 3.5 miles per hour)
  • Bicycling (less than 10 miles per hour)
  • General gardening (raking, trimming shrubs)
  • Dancing
  • Golf (walking and carrying clubs)
  • Water aerobics
  • Canoeing
  • Tennis (doubles)

Vigorous Physical Activities Include:

  • Running/jogging (5 miles per hour)
  • Walking very fast (4.5 miles per hour)
  • Bicycling (more than 10 miles per hour)
  • Heavy yard work, such as chopping wood
  • Swimming (freestyle laps)
  • Aerobics
  • Basketball (competitive)
  • Tennis (singles)

You can choose moderate or vigorous intensity activities, or a mix of both each week. Activities can be considered vigorous, moderate, or light in intensity. This depends on the extent to which they make you breathe harder and your heart beat faster.

Only moderate and vigorous intensity activities count toward meeting your physical activity needs. With vigorous activities, you get similar health benefits in half the time it takes you with the moderate ones. You can replace some or all of your moderate activity with vigorous activity. Although you are moving, light intensity activities do not increase your heart rate, so you should not count these towards meeting the physical activity recommendations. These activities include walking at a casual pace, such as while grocery shopping, and doing light household chores.

Be an Active Family!

Physical activity is important for children and adults of all ages. Being active as a family can benefit everyone. Adults need 2.5 hours a week of physical activity, and children need 60 minutes a day. Follow these tips to add more activity to your family’s busy schedule.

  1. Set specific activity times- Determine time slots throughout the week when the whole family is available. Devote a few of these times to physical activity. Try doing something active after dinner or begin the weekend with a Saturday morning walk.
  2. Plan ahead and track your progress- Write your activity plans on a family calendar. Let the kids help in planning the activities. Allow them to check it off after completing each activity.
  3. Include work around the house- Involve the kids in yard work and other active shores around the house. Have them help you with raking, weeding, planting, or vacuuming.
  4. Use what is available- Plan activities that require little or no equipment or facilities. Examples include walking, jogging, jumping rope, playing tag, and dancing. Find out what programs your community recreation center offers for free or minimal charge.
  5. Build new skills- Enroll the kids in classes they might enjoy such as gymnastics, dance or tennis. Help them practice. This will keep things fun and interesting, and introduce new skills.
  6. Plan for all weather conditions- Choose some activities that do not depend on the weather conditions. Try mall walking, indoor swimming, or active video games. Enjoy outdoor activities as a bonus whenever the weather is nice.
  7. Turn off the TV- Set a rule that no one can spend longer than 2 hours per day playing video games, watching TV, and using the computer (except for school work). Instead of a TV show, play an active family game, dance to favorite music, or go for a walk.
  8. Start small- Begin by introducing one new family activity and add more when you feel everyone is ready. Take the dog for a longer walk, play another ball game, or go to an additional exercise class.
  9. Include other families- Invite others to join your family activities. This is a great way for you and your kids to spend time with friends while being physically active. Plan parties with active games such as bowling or an obstacle course, sign up for family programs at the YMCA, or join a recreational club.
  10. Treat the family with fun physical activity- When it is time to celebrate as a family, do something active as a reward. Plan a trip to the zoo, park, or lake to treat the family.