Healthy Children - April 2017

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. 


Tips to Help You Eat Fruits 

In general:

  • Keep a bowl of whole fruit on the table, counter, or in the refrigerator.
  • Refrigerate cut-up fruit to store for later.
  • Buy fresh fruits in season when they may be less expensive and at their peak flavor.
  • Buy fruits that are dried, frozen, and canned (in water or 100% juice) as well as fresh, so that you always have a supply on hand.
  • Consider convenience when shopping. Try precut packages of fruit (such as melon or pineapple chunks) for a healthy snack in seconds. Choose packaged fruits that do not have added sugars.

For the best nutritional value:

  • Make most of your choices whole or cut-up fruit rather than juice, for the benefits dietary fiber provides.
  • Select fruits with more potassium often, such as bananas, prunes and prune juice, dried peaches and apricots, and orange juice.
  • When choosing canned fruits, select fruit canned in 100% fruit juice or water rather than syrup.
  • Vary your fruit choices. Fruits differ in nutrient content.

At meals:

  • At breakfast, top your cereal with bananas or peaches; add blueberries to pancakes; drink 100% orange or grapefruit juice. Or, mix fresh fruit with plain fat-free or low- fat yogurt.
  • At lunch, pack a tangerine, banana, or grapes to eat, or choose fruits from a salad bar. Individual containers of fruits like peaches or applesauce are easy and convenient.
  • At dinner, add crushed pineapple to coleslaw, or include orange sections or grapes in a tossed salad.
  • Make a Waldorf salad, with apples, celery, walnuts, and a low-calorie salad dressing.
  • Try meat dishes that incorporate fruit, such as chicken with apricots or mangoes.
  • Add fruit like pineapple or peaches to kabobs as part of a barbecue meal.  
  • For dessert, have baked apples, pears, or a fruit salad.

As snacks:

  • Cut-up fruit makes a great snack. Either cut them yourself, or buy pre-cut packages of fruit pieces like pineapples or melons. Or, try whole fresh berries or grapes.
  • Dried fruits also make a great snack. They are easy to carry and store well. Because they are dried, ¼ cup is equivalent to ½ cup of other fruits.
  • Keep a package of dried fruit in your desk or bag. Some fruits that are available dried include apricots, apples, pineapple, bananas, cherries, figs, dates, cranberries, blueberries, prunes (dried plums), and raisins (dried grapes).
  • As a snack, spread peanut butter on apple slices or top plain fat-free or low-fat yogurt with berries or slices of kiwi fruit.
  • Frozen juice bars (100% juice) make healthy alternatives to high-fat snacks.

Make fruit more appealing:

  • Many fruits taste great with a dip or dressing. Try fat-free or low-fat yogurt as a dip for fruits like strawberries or melons.
  • Make a fruit smoothie by blending fat-free or low-fat milk or yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit. Try bananas, peaches, strawberries, or other berries.
  • Try unsweetened applesauce as a lower calorie substitute for some of the oil when baking cakes.
  • Try different textures of fruits. For example, apples are crunchy, bananas are smooth and creamy, and oranges are juicy.
  • For fresh fruit salads, mix apples, bananas, or pears with acidic fruits like oranges, pineapple, or lemon juice to keep them from turning brown.

Fruit tips for children:

  • Set a good example for children by eating fruit every day with meals or as snacks.
  • Offer children a choice of fruits for lunch.
  • Depending on their age, children can help shop for, clean, peel, or cut up fruits.
  • While shopping, allow children to pick out a new fruit to try later at home.
  • Decorate plates or serving dishes with fruits slices.
  • Top off a bowl of cereal with some berries. Or, make a smiley face with sliced bananas for eyes, raisins for a nose, and an orange slice for a mouth.
  • Offer raisins or other dried fruits instead of candy.
  • Make fruit kabobs using pineapple chunks, bananas, grapes, and berries.
  • Pack a juice box (100% juice) in children’s lunches instead of soda or other sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Look for and choose fruit options, such as sliced apples, mixed fruit cup or 100% fruit juice to fast food restaurants.  
  • Offer fruit pieces and 100% fruit juice to children. There is often little fruit in “fruit-flavored” beverages or chewy fruit snacks.

The Gift of Mother's Milk

Using and donating breast milk is becoming more popular. However, there are some important things to keep in mind for givers and receivers alike.

Breast milk donations help mothers who can’t provide enough breast milk give their babies the most nutritious food for their growing brains and bodies. But just because donated breast milk is available doesn’t mean it’s always safe.

“Pay attention to where the milk comes from,” says Kathleen Berchelmann, MD, a Washington University pediatrician at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “Studies have found high levels of harmful bacteria in breast milk sold online.”

Those bacteria, as well as viruses such as hepatitis and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), can be passed to a baby who drinks the milk. Studies have also found that breast milk sold online may be diluted with cow’s milk.

Dr. Berchelmann recommends both buying from and donating to organizations, such as the Human Milk Baking Association of North America, that screen donor’s’ milk and pasteurize it for added safety. Good milk banks also work closely with hospitals and newborn intensive care units to make sure that donated breast milk goes where it’s needed most. St. Louis Children’s Hospital uses breast milk only from these safe sources if mothers are unable to breast-feed.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and World Health Organization agree – when a mother’s own breast milk isn’t an option, pasteurized, banked donor breast milk is a wonderful alternative.

Get more practical advice from St. Louis Children’s Hospital doctors who are also moms! Subscribe to receive the Mom Docs blog at ChildrensMD.org


Be a Healthy Role Model for Children: 10 Tips for Setting Good Examples

You are the most important influence on your child. You can do many things to help your children develop healthy eating habits for life. Offering a variety of foods helps children get the nutrients they need from every food group. They will also be more likely to try new foods and to like more foods. When children develop a taste for many types of foods, it’s easier to plan family meals. Cook together, eat together, talk together, and make mealtime a family time!

  1. Show by example – Eat vegetables, fruits, and whole grains with meals or as snacks. Let your child see that you like to munch on raw vegetables.
  2. Go food shopping together – Grocery shopping can teach your child about food and nutrition. Discuss where vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and protein foods come from. Let your children make healthy choices.
  3. Get creative in the kitchen – Cut food into fun and easy shapes with cookie cutters. Name a food your child helps make. Serve “Janie’s Salad” or “Jackie’s Sweet Potatoes” for dinner. Encourage your child to invent new snacks. Make your own trail mixes from dry whole-grain, low-sugar cereal and dried fruit.
  4. Offer the same foods for everyone – Stop being a “short-order cook” by making different dishes to please children. It’s easier to plan family meals when everyone eats the same foods.
  5. Reward with attention, not food – Show your love with hugs and kisses. Comfort with hugs and talks. Choose not to offer sweets as rewards. It lets your child think sweets or dessert foods are better than other foods. When meals are not eaten, kids do not need “extras” – such as candy or cookies – as replacement foods.
  6. Focus on each other at the table – Talk about fun and happy things at mealtime. Turn off the television. Take phone calls later. Try to make eating meals a stress-free time.
  7. Listen to your child- If your child says he or she is hungry; offer a small, healthy snack – even if it is not a scheduled time to eat. Offer choices. Ask “Which would you like for dinner: broccoli or cauliflower?” instead of “Do you want broccoli for dinner?”
  8. Limit screen time – Allow no more than 2 hours a day off screen time like TV and computer games. Get up and move during commercials to get some physical activity.
  9. Encourage physical activity – Make physical activity fun for the whole family. Involve your children in the planning. Walk, run, and play with your child – instead of sitting on the sidelines. Set an example by being physically active and using safety gear, like bike helmets.
  10. Be a good food role model – Try new foods yourself. Describe its taste, texture, and smell. Offer one new food at a time. Serve something your child likes along with the new food. Offer new foods at the beginning of a meal, when your child is very hungry. Avoid lecturing or forcing your child to eat.

Peanut Butter Banana Breakfast Shake

Makes: 1 serving
Total/Serving Cost: $0.46

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup milk (fat free or 1%)
  • ½ cup banana (frozen, slices)
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon (ground)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Cocoa powder (as needed, sweet, optional)

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy.
  2. Pour into a tall glass and garnish with a sprinkle of cocoa powder, if desired.