Healthy Children - August 2011

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.

Be Snack-Wise

Plan 'Em Using the Food Guide Pyramid

For ingredients, stock up on simple foods such as peanut butter, cheese spread or slices, whole grain crackers, little bagels, small pita breads, non-sugarcoated, ready-to-eat cereals, vegetables, and fruits.

THESE ideas work at home or "on the go."

Snacks from the Grain Group

  • Cracker stacks—wheat crackers spread with cheese spread
  • Ready-to-eat cereals
  • Flavored mini rice cakes or popcorn cakes
  • Breads of all kinds such as multi-grain, rye, white, wheat
  • Ginger snaps or fig bars
  • *Popcorn
  • *Trail mix...ready-to-eat cereals mixed with raisins or other dried fruit
  • Graham crackers


Snacks from the Vegetable Group

  • Vegetable sticks such as carrot*, celery*, green pepper, cucumber, or squash
  • Celery stuffed with peanut butter*
  • Cherry tomatoes cut in small pieces
  • Steamed broccoli, green beans, or sugar peas with lowfat dip


Snacks from the Fruit Group

  • Apple ring sandwiches...peanut butter on apple rings
  • Tangerine sections
  • Chunks of banana or pineapple
  • Canned fruits packed in juice
  • Juice box (100% juice)


Snacks from the Milk Group

  • Milk shakes—made with fruit and milk
  • Cheese slices with thin apple wedges
  • String cheese or individually wrapped slices
  • Mini yogurt cups


Snacks from the Meat Group

  • Hard cooked eggs (wedges or slices)
  • Peanut butter spread thin on crackers
  • Bean dip spread thin on crackers


*May cause choking in 2 to 3-year-old children.

Dealing with Childhood Obesity
Parents: Take Control — Teach Control

Childhood obesity concerns parents and kids. Choosing the right approach improves success. Fad diets do not help. Programs that focus on food alone are not the best method either.  Experts tell us to take the focus off the weight loss. Instead, begin lifestyle changes that improve the mind, body and spirit.

Lifestyle changes begin with parents. You have the most control over you child’s diet, activities and self-image. Life-long habits are established between 6–12.

Take control now. Learn to make healthy lifestyle changes. Then, teach and model them for your child.

Big lifestyle changes start with small steps. Involve all family members in your plan.

  • Set goals that everyone can achieve. For example, say “no” to soda during the week. Allow each child 1 soda on Saturday and Sunday. Start with 20 minutes of exercise a day. Work up to 60 minutes daily.
  • Make your lifestyle changes fun. Kids want to have fun with their parents. Find exercise activities that you can do as a family.
  • Forgive setbacks. Look at failures. Make changes that might help you find success. Start again with a positive attitude.
  • Stick with your plan. Do not give up. After a few weeks, your changes will start to become a part of your routine.
  • Be a family cheerleader. Say positive words. Give praise for good attempts. Celebrate successes.
  • Give your child control she can handle. Offer two healthy snacks. Let her choose one. Have her plan her packed lunches to take to school. Involve her in shopping for food.
  • Keep unhealthy food out of your home. Do not put yourself in the role of always saying “no” to food your child wants.
  • Make learning about healthy living a family activity. Attend local classes. Search the Internet. Find sites for kids and adults that teach healthy living. One site for both you and you child is


Families are unique. What works for one family, might not work for another. With you as the coach, however, your family will find the healthy lifestyle that works for them.

Reprinted with permission from Parent Help Line at



Hand washing

Hand washing is one of the most important ways to keep your preschooler from getting sick.

Preschoolers are much less likely to get sick if they wash their hands properly. Plus, it may become a healthy habit for life! Children should wash their hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds each of these times:

  • After using the bathroom
  • Before and after handling food
  • After playing with pets or visiting a petting zoo
  • Whenever they are dirty


Make hand washing FUN!

  • Sing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” or “the Alphabet Song” through while washing hands to make sure your child is washing long enough.
  • Have your child pick out a special hand washing soap.
  • Help your preschooler reach the sink easily by placing a stool in front of it for them to stand on when you are with them.


For fun activities for older preschoolers to learn more about hand washing, visit the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) website.

Reprinted with permission from the USDA United States Department of Agriculture.

Kids in the Kitchen

Children enjoy helping in the kitchen and often are more willing to eat foods they help prepare. Involve your child in planning and preparing some meals and snacks for the family.

It is important that you give kitchen tasks appropriate for your child’s age. Be patient as your child gains new skills at different ages.

Meal Preparation Activities for Children:

Children have to be shown and taught how to do these activities. Each child has his or her own pace for learning, so give it time and the skills will come.

When your child is helping you with food preparation, don’t forget cleanliness. Wash hands using soap and warm running water before and after handling food or utensils to prepare food.

Expect a few spills. It’s a small price to pay for helping your children become comfortable around food.

Wipe table tops
Snap green beans
Scrub vegetables
Wash salad greens
Tear lettuce or greens
Play with utensils
Break cauliflower
Bring ingredients from one place to another
Can do what 2-year-olds do, plus...
Wrap potatoes in foil for baking
Shake liquids in covered container
Knead and shape yeast dough
Spread soft spreads
Pour liquids
Place things in trash
Mix ingredients
Can do all that 2 and 3 years-olds do, plus...
Peel oranges or hard cooked eggs
Mash bananas using fork
Move hands to form round shape
Set table
Cut parsley or green onions with dull scissors
5 to 6-year-olds
Can do all that 2, 3, and 4-years-olds do, plus...
Measure ingredients
Use an egg beater
Cut with blunt knife



Healthy Homes

I am Moving, I am Learning - Nutrition Nugget

Try It, You’ll Like It

It is important for children to eat a variety of foods to be healthy. If your child tries a new food once and does not like it, don’t be discouraged. Children 2-5 years of age are more likely to like new foods introduced to them if they have repeated exposure to the new foods. It may take as many as ten to fifteen tries before a child accepts a new food, so keep offering new foods and eventually your child may like it.

Try having a family rule around taking a “thank you” or “courtesy” bite. This practice encourages children to try new foods without negative consequences. Children are encouraged to always take at least one small bite of a new food. If they really don’t like it, they are permitted to spit the food into a napkin. Remember it may take ten to fifteen “trys” before the child likes the new food.

Healthy Recipe: Pita Pizza
1 whole wheat pita
1-2 tablespoons spaghetti or pizza sauce
1-2 tablespoons reduced fat mozzarella cheese
1-2 tablespoons each chopped vegetables, fruits, or cooked meat
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Spread pita bread with sauce
Add cheese and toppings of your choice
Bake for 8-10 minutes until lightly browned and cheese is melted
Allow to cool slightly before eating
Refrigerate leftovers within 2-3 hours


Try a variety of fruits and vegetables such as onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, pineapple and tomato. | Reprinted with permission from Head Start Body Start.



Water vs. Sports Drinks

Ashley Hoffman, BS, Dietetic Intern, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

If you have kids playing sports, then you are aware of the many sports drinks on the market. Kids love sports drinks because they are tasty and brightly colored. But are they good for you and your kids?

Sports drinks are full of ingredients that our bodies do not need during exercise and physical activity. Sports drinks have extra sugar and sodium that are not good for the body. Too much sugar and sodium can lead to health problems later in life, so practicing healthy eating and drinking habits at a young age is very important. Sports drinks have more calories that children do not need, and could add to obesity and tooth decay. Some sports drinks have added vitamins and minerals, but most people get enough through the foods they eat.

Water, is the most natural drink in the world and has many benefits to our bodies. Our body is about 60% water. Benefits of water are:

  • Gives our cells oxygen
  • Keeps our lungs moist
  • Protect our organs
  • Helps our organs to take in nutrients better
  • Controls body temperature
  • Protects our joints


When your kids are outside playing or playing sports, grab a water over a sports drink. Your kids’ body will thank you!