Healthy Children - April 2016

ExceleRate Illinois in partnership with the Illinois Department of Human Services is providing information on healthy choices. The Healthy Children, Healthy Families Project will communicate to parents, child care practitioners, 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 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 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. 

Clean Your Plate!

“If you want dessert, you better clean your plate!” Does this sound familiar? Growing up in my household, this was a normal conversation I had with my parents. Especially when something I did not enjoy was being served for dinner. Parents know that feeding children can be tricky and feeding toddlers can be even trickier. Some day’s mealtime can be peaceful and pleasant and other day sit seems as if you are in a battle with your child. What many parents don’t realize is that one’s feeding style can increase their child’s chances of obesity. Who knew?

Research shows that parent who take a more forceful approach in their child’s feeding actually have a negative impact on the child’s eating behaviors. Strict parents tend to be more aggressive, demanding, and threatening during feeding. This makes mealtime unpleasant for the child. This form of feeding style teaches the child to ignore the signal in their bodies which tells them when they are hungry and when they are full. When parents restrict high fat and sugary foods, the child desires them even more. In turn, they will ignore the signal that is within them, and eat these types of foods when they are finally made available, even if they are not hungry.

On the other hand, there are parents who allow their child to eat whatever they want, whenever they want. Children who are left to themselves are unable to judge what foods they should eat, how much food they should eat and what foods are best for them. As a result, the child eats excessive calories with minimum nutritional value. This behavior can also lead to obesity.

There should always be a balance in the way we feed our children. Research shows that children actually respond better to encouragement and support from adults during mealtime. They need structure coupled with some freedom to choose.

Here are 6 Best Practices in Child Feeding:

  • Encourage, but don’t force child to try new food
  • Offer new foods at the beginning of a meal when your child is hungry
  • Introduce new foods one at a time
  • Allow your child to explore food smell, touch, and taste
  • Praise your child for favorable behaviors
  • Avoid Bribery

Enjoy Foods From Many Cultures

10 Tips to wisely celebrate healthier foods and customs

As a diverse Nation, we can embrace our cultural traditions for the foods we love and still prepare them in healthier ways. This involves being creative with favorite recipes by substituting foods and ingredients that are less healthy with flavorful and appealing choices that still help remind us of our treasured food ways.

  1. Cook with Others- Learn about cooking different traditional or regional foods from others who use authentic recipes and ingredients and explore ways to improve the nutrition of some of your own family favorites. Cooking dishes at home allows you to add variety to meals. If needed, adapt recipes by cutting back on gravies, creams, and sauces; adding more vegetables, or baking instead of frying.
  2. Blend Cultures- Many popular foods and beverages in America blend the cuisines of many cultures. Celebrate our Nation’s diversity and be inspired by dishes that include more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seafood, lean meats, and low-fat dairy.
  3. Add a Touch of Spice- Combinations of herbs and spices often remind us of dishes from our own heritage of our favorite ethnic food. Add flavor to meals with herbs and spices, such as chili, garlic, ginger, basil, oregano, curry, or cilantro, which can replace salt and saturated fat.
  4. Use Familiar Foods to Create Exotic Dishes- Use foods you know and prepare new recipes, such as adding curry to chick peas, cilantro to brown rice, or mango to your salad or smoothie. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. 
  5. Find the Salt and Sodium and Go with Lower Numbers- All packaged foods are labeled to show amounts of sodium. Use “low-sodium” soy sauce, or broth or canned beans labeled “no salt added.” Check nutrition labels and use products that are lower in sodium or are salt-free..
  6. Think about Beverages- Many cultures offer tasty beverages, such as fruit drinks, alcoholic drinks, rich coffees, and sweet teas. Consider using frozen fruits to create a great tasting smoothie, or adding spices, low-fat dairy and small amounts of sugar to make beverages. When buying prepared beverages, choose items with less sugar and fat. To manage calories, drink water or other unsweetened beverages instead of sugary drinks.
  7. Delight in Cultural Gatherings- Celebrate traditions, especially those that help you stay physically active. Have fun with traditional dances, sports, and games that make you move. Balance what you eat with regular physical activity.
  8. Show Children what’s Important- Children learn to cook from their elders. Show kids how meals and dishes from various traditions are prepared. Let them taste foods they made, as you share related stories and customs from your own heritage or expose them to other cultures but consider ways to cut back on high-calorie foods and ingredients.
  9. Make Smart Choices when Dining Out- Eating out offers tempting new dishes that makes it easy to overeat. Choose lower calorie dishes, such as stir fries, kabobs, or whole-wheat pastas with tomato sauce. Split a dish or ask for a take-home container at the start of a meal to save part of what’s served on your plate..
  10. Remember, All Types of Foods Fit on MyPlate- MyPlate is designed to remind Americans to eat healthfully, using foods from the food groups. The MyPlate website provides practical information, tips, tools, and recipes that will help you build a healthier diet.  Go to

Recipe - Pulled Chicken and Slaw Sliders  

½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup chopped green onion
2 tablespoon Dill pickle juice (from jar of pickles)
2 tablespoon Cider vinegar
2 tablespoon Sugar
½ teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 16-oz. package shredded cole slaw mix
1 cup bottled barbecue sauce
3 tablespoons, cider vinegar
3 cups roughly shredded rotisserie chicken
12 slider buns

To prepare slaw, whisk all ingredients together in a large bowl, except bowl, except cole slaw mix. Add the cole slaw mix and toss to coat. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

To prepare chicken, combine barbeque sauce, vinegar and chicken in a bowl. Microwave about three minutes or until thoroughly heated.

To serve, place chicken on bun bottoms. Spoon slaw on top of chicken. Place remaining bun halves on top. Makes 12 sliders. 

Per slider: 250 calories, 10g fat, 35mg chol., 14g prot., 25g carbs, 1g fiber, 520mg sodium

Foodborne Germs Can’t Be Seen, Smelled, or Tasted – But They Can Still Make You Sick

Follow these safe cooking tips to prevent foodborne illness when preparing food for your family!

Always use a food thermometer when cooking meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood – you cannot tell if those foods are cooked safely by how they look. Each food should reach the following temperature before it is safe to eat:

  • Beef, pork, veal, and lamp, steaks, roasts and chops to 145*F with a 3 minute “rest time” after removal from the heat source
  • Chicken and turkey – whole, pieces or ground to 165*F
  • Ground meats, including hamburgers and egg dishes, to 160*F
  • Reheat leftovers to 165*F

Always place the food thermometer in the thickest part of the food, away from bone and fat to check the temperature.

When cooking in a microwave oven, stir, cover, and rotate food for even cooking. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of the food in several places.

Let food stand for a few minutes after cooking it in the microwave. This gives the food time to finish cooking.

Always cook eggs before eating them. When cooked, eggs should be firm, not runny.  

Cool Treats

You can have it all- with these recipes for quick, easy, tasty, and healthy treats. Search the following links to find some healthy and fun recipe ideas!

Dips & Snacks:

Drinks and Smoothies:



Just Desserts: