Healthy Children - January 2014

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 via email. 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.

 


Healthy Snacks: Quick tips for parents

Healthy snack ideas

“Ants on a log” (celery with peanut butter and raisins)
Fresh or canned fruit (in 100% juice, not syrup) with fat-free or low-fat vanilla yogurt
Whole-grain crackers with low-fat cheese
Frozen grapes (rinse and freeze grapes overnight)
Whole-wheat bread or apple slices with peanut butter
Quesadillas (low-fat cheese on a whole-wheat tortilla)
Unsalted pretzels or air-popped popcorn
Baked tortilla chips and salsa
Whole-wheat pita bread with hummus
Water or fat-free or low-fat milk

Put fresh fruit in a bowl at eye-level in the refrigerator or on the kitchen counter. It will be easier for kids to see and grab.


On the go

Put dried fruits and nuts, fresh veggies, or fruit in small baggies.
Pack low-fat string cheese sticks.


Set the rules

Teach your kids to ask before they help themselves to snacks.
Eat snacks at the table or in the kitchen, not in front of the TV.
Serve snacks in a bowl. Don't let kids eat snack foods directly out of the bag or box.
Drink water or fat-free or low-fat milk instead of soda or juice.


What are Empty Calories?

Currently, many of the foods and beverages Americans eat and drink contain empty calories- calories from solid fats and/or added sugars.  Solid fats and added sugars add calories to the food but few or no nutrients. For this reason, the calories from solid fats and added sugars in a food are often called empty calories. Learning more about solid fats and added sugars can help you make better food and drink choices.

Solid fats are fats that are solid at room temperature, like butter, beef fat, and shortening. Some solid fats are found naturally in foods. They can also be added when foods are processed by food companies or when they are prepared.

Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added when foods or beverages are processed or prepared.

Solid fats and added sugars can make a food or beverage more appealing, but they also can add a lot of calories. The foods and beverages that provide the most empty calories for Americans are:

  • Cakes, cookies, pastries, and donuts (contain both solid fat and added sugars)
  • Sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks, and fruit drinks (contain added sugars)
  • Cheese (contains solid fat)
  • Pizza (contains solid fat)
  • Ice cream (contains both solid fat and added sugars)
  • Sausages, hot dogs, bacon, and ribs (contain solid fat)


These foods and beverages are the major sources of empty calories, but many can be found in forms with less or no solid fat or added sugars.  For example, low-fat cheese and low-fat hot dogs can be purchased. You can choose water, milk, or sugar-free soda instead of drinks with sugar. Check that the calories in these products are less than in the regular product.

In some foods, like most candies and sodas, all the calories are empty calories. These foods are often called "empty calorie foods."  However, empty calories from solid fats and added sugars can also be found in some other foods that contain important nutrients. Some examples of foods that provide nutrients, shown in forms with and without empty calories are.

Food with some empty calories:

  • Sweetened applesauce (contains added sugars)
  • Regular ground beef (75% lean, contains solid fats)
  • Fried chicken (contains solid fats from frying and skin)
  • Sugar-sweetened cereals (contains added sugars)
  • Whole milk (contains solid fats)


Food with few or no empty calories:

  • Unsweetened applesauce
  • Extra lean ground beef (95% or more lean)
  • Baked chicken breast without skin
  • Unsweetened cereals
  • Fat-free milk

Making better choices, like unsweetened applesauce or extra lean ground beef, can help keep your intake of added sugars and solid fats low.

A small amount of empty calories is okay, but most people eat far more than is healthy. It is important to limit empty calories to the amount that fits your calorie and nutrient needs. You can lower your intake by eating and drinking foods and beverages containing empty calories less often or be decreasing the amount you eat or drink.


What Counts as a Cup?

One cup refers to a common measuring cup (the kind used in recipes). In general, 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or 100% vegetable juice, or 2 cups of raw leafy greens can be considered as 1 cup from the vegetable group. One cup of fruit or 100% fruit juice, or ½ cup of dried fruit can be considered as 1 cup from the fruit group.

Examples of 1 cup
1 small apple
1 large banana
1 medium grapefruit
1 large orange
1 medium pear
1 small wedge watermelon
2 large or 3 medium plums
8 large strawberries
1 large bell pepper
1 medium potato
2 large stalks of celery
1 cup cooked greens or 2 cups raw greens
12 baby carrots or 2 medium carrots
1 large sweet potato
1 large ear of corn

Examples of ½ cup
1 snack container of applesauce (4 oz)
16 grapes
1 medium cantaloupe wedge
½ medium grapefruit
4 large strawberries
5 broccoli florets
6 baby carrots
1 large plum
1 small box (1/4 cup) of raisins

See more examples of what counts as 1 cup or ½ cup of fruits and vegetables at the CDC website.

 


Kid-friendly veggies and fruits

10 tips for making healthy foods more fun for children

Encourage children to eat vegetables and fruits by making it fun. Provide healthy ingredients and let kids help with the preparation, based on their age and skills. Kids may try foods they avoided in the past if they helped make them.

  1. smoothie creations
    Blend fat-free or low-fat yogurt or milk with fruit pieces and crushed ice. Use fresh, frozen, canned, and even overripe fruits. Try bananas, berries, peaches, and/or pineapple. If you freeze the fruit first, you can even skip the ice!
  2. delicious dippers
    Kids love to dip their foods. Whip up a quick dip for veggies with yogurt and seasonings such as herbs or garlic. Serve with raw vegetables like broccoli, carrots, or cauliflower. Fruit chunks go great with a yogurt and cinnamon or vanilla dip.
  3. caterpillar kabobs
    Assemble chunks of melon, apple, orange, and pear on skewers for a fruity kabob. For a raw veggie version, use vegetables like zucchini, cucumber, squash, sweet peppers, or tomatoes.
  4. personalized pizzas
    Set up a pizza-making station in the kitchen. Use whole-wheat English muffins, bagels, or pita bread as the crust. Have tomato sauce, low-fat cheese, and cut-up.
    vegetables or fruits for toppings. Let kids choose their own favorites. Then pop the pizzas into the oven to warm.
  5. fruity peanut butterfly
    Start with carrot sticks or celery for the body. Attach wings made of thinly sliced apples with peanut butter and decorate with halved grapes or dried fruit.
  6. frosty fruits
    Frozen treats are bound to be popular in the warm months. Just put fresh fruits such as melon chunks in the freezer (rinse first). Make "popsicles" by inserting sticks into peeled bananas and freezing.
  7. bugs on a log
    Use celery, cucumber, or carrot sticks as the log and add peanut butter. Top with dried fruit such as raisins, cranberries, or cherries, depending on what bugs you want!
  8. homemade mix
    Skip the pre-made trail mix and make your own. Use your favorite nuts and dried fruits, such as unsalted peanuts, cashews, walnuts, or sunflower seeds mixed with dried apples, pineapple, cherries, apricots, or raisins. Add whole-grain cereals to the mix, too.
  9. potato person
    Decorate half a baked potato. Use sliced cherry tomatoes, peas, and low-fat cheese on the potato to make a funny face.
  10. put kids in charge
    Ask your child to name new veggie or fruit creations. Let them arrange raw veggies or fruits into a fun shape or design.