Healthy Children - April 2015

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.


Why is it Important to Eat Grains, Especially Whole Grains?

Eating grains, especially whole grains, provides health benefits. People who eat whole grains as part of a healthy diet have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases. Grains provide many nutrients that are vital for the health and maintenance of our bodies.

Health Benefits

  • Consuming whole grains as part of a healthy diet may reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Consuming foods containing fiber, such as whole grains, as part of a healthy diet, may reduce constipation.
  • Eating whole grains may help with weight management.
  • Eating grain products fortified with folate before and during pregnancy helps prevent neural tube defects during fetal development.



  • Grains are important sources of many nutrients, including dietary fiber, several B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and folate), and minerals (iron, magnesium, and selenium).
  • Dietary fiber from whole grains or other foods, may help reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Fiber is important for proper bowel function. It helps reduce constipation and diverticulitis. Fiber-containing foods such as whole grains help provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories.
  • The B vitamins thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin play a key role in metabolism - they help the body release energy from protein, fat, and carbohydrates. B vitamins are also essential for a healthy nervous system. Many refined grains are enriched with these B vitamins.
  • Folate (folic acid), another B vitamin, helps the body form red blood cells.
  • Women of childbearing age who may become pregnant should consume adequate folate from foods, and in addition 400 meg of synthetic folic acid from fortified foods or supplements. This reduces the risk of neural tube defects, spina bifida, and anencephaly during fetal development.
  • Iron is used to carry oxygen in the blood. Many teenage girls and women in their childbearing years have iron-deficiency anemia. They should eat foods high in heme-iron (meats) or eat other iron containing foods along with foods rich in vitamin C, which can improve absorption of non-heme iron. Whole and enriched refined grain products are major sources of non-heme iron in American diets.


What Counts as an Ounce Equivalent in the Protein Foods Group?

In general, 1 ounce of meat, poultry or fish, 1/4 cup cooked beans, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or 1/2 ounce of nuts or seeds can be considered as 1 ounce equivalent from the Protein Foods Group.

The chart lists specific amounts that count as 1 ounce equivalent in the Protein Foods Group towards your daily recommended intake:


  Amount that counts as 1 ounce equivalent
in the Protein Foods Group
Common portions and ounce equivalents

1 ounce cooked lean beef

1 ounce cooked lean pork or ham

1 small steak (eye of round, filet) = 3 1/2 to 4 ounces equivalents

1 small lean hamburger = 2 to 3 ounce equivalents


1 ounce cooked chicken or turkey, without skin

1 sandwich slice of turkey 

1 small chicken breast half = 3 ounce equivalents

1/2 cornish game hem = 4 ounce equivalents

Seafood 1 ounce cooked fish or shellfish

1 can of tuna, drained = 2 to 4 ounce equivalents

1 salmon steak = 4 to 6 ounce equivalents

1 small trout = 3 ounce equivalents

Eggs 1 egg

3 eggs whites = 2 ounce equivalents

3 egg yolks = 1 ounce equivalents

Nuts and seeds

1/2 ounce of nuts (12 almonds, 24 pistachios, 7 walnut halves)

1/2 of seeds (pumpkin, sunflower or squash seeds, hulled, roasted)

1 Tablespoon of peanut butter or almond butter

1 ounce of nuts or seeds = 2 ounce equivalents
Beans and peas

1/4 cup of cooked beans (such as black, kidney, pinto or white beans)

1/4 cup cooked peas (such as chickpeas, cowpeas, lentils, or split peas)

1/4 cup of baked beans, refried beans

1/4 cup (about 2 ounces) of tofu

1 oz. tempeh, cooked

1/4 cup roasted soybeans

1 falafel patty

2 Tablespoons hummus

1 cup split pea soup= 2 ounce equivalents

1 cup lentil soup = 2 ounce equivalents

1 cup bean soup = 2 ounce equivalents




1 soy or bean burger patty = 2 ounce equivalents



The Hidden Vegetable Truth

Vegetables, whether fresh, frozen or canned, are an excellent source of vitamins. Peas are a great source of vitamins A and C, which helps maintain vision health and bone and tooth strength.

Fresh Peas = Serving size 1/2 cup, total fat 0 grams, calories 50, sodium 58 mg

Frozen Peas = Serving size 1/2 cup, total fat 0 grams, calories 60, sodium 125 mg

Canned Peas = Serving size 1/2 cup, total fat 0 grams, calories 60 sodium 300mg


If you choose canned vegetables look for those with "no added salt" to reduce sodium content.


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. 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 and low-fat dairy.

3. add a touch of spice

Combinations of herbs and spices often remind us of dishes from our won heritage or 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 make 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 for more information.


Learn about Beverages

Offer your preschooler water and fat-free or low-fat milk as beverage choices. You may also offer small amounts of 100% fruit juice.



When your preschooler is thirsty, water is a good beverage choice. It provides the fluid your child's body needs.

Be sure to have water available when your child is playing outdoors or doing other physical activity.

Make sure your preschooler drinks fluoridated water. It helps build and maintain strong teeth. Many community tap water supplies contain fluoride. Check with your water supplier to make sure. If your water supply is not fluoridated or is from a well, check with your doctor about a possible need for fluoride supplements.

Bottled water is not better or safer than regular tap water, and is an added expense.

"Flavored" waters or "vitamin" waters may have added sweeteners. Be sure to read the Nutrition Facts label on these beverages.



Milk and milk products provide many vital nutrients that your preschooler needs for growth. Milk is a good choice to offer as a beverage at meals and snacks.

While some children don't drink enough milk, other sometimes prefer to fill up on milk and avoid other important foods. Preschoolers need about 2 to 2 1/2  cups from the dairy group each day. Help your child get enough but not too much milk.

Choose fat-free or low-fat milk. These have the same amounts of calcium, protein, and vitamin D as whole or 2% milk, but less saturated fat and calories. 

All types of fluid milk are typically fortified with vitamin D. Some yogurts are also fortified with vitamin D. Vitamin D fortified products help build and maintain bones.

Make sure you serve only pasteurized (not raw) milk to your preschooler.


100% Fruit Juice

Fresh, frozen, canned and dried fruits provide more fiber than juice. Offer them most often.

Look for beverages that have 100% fruit juice on the label. 100% fruit juice  can be a healthy part of a preschooler's beverage choices in small amounts.

You may offer your preschooler up to 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup (4-6 ounces) of 100% fruit juice per day.

Sweetened beverages such as fruit punch and fruit drinks look like fruit juice, but may contain little or no fruit. These drinks, as well as some flavored waters, sweetened teas, and sports drinks, provide calories, but little or no nutrients.