Healthy Children - December 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 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.

Small changes can help our kids overcome obesity

When Jonas Salk discovered the polio vaccine in 1953, the world breathed a collective sigh of relief  Today we don't have to worry about losing our children to polio. But we do need to be concerned  about the number of our children who are overweight.

One in three American children is overweight or obese. African-American, Hispanic and Native American children are even more likely to be overweight. The rise in childhood obesity has resulted in an alarming increase in diabetes among children. More than 20,000 children have type 2 diabetes, according to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

We know obesity is affecting our children. But how many of us have taken responsibility to help reverse the trend. Our children can change and have healthier outcomes if we as parents, guardians, family members and friends are willing to do our part to help them.

The causes of childhood obesity are well-known:

  1. Lack of physical exercise;
  2. Consumption of fast food, sugary snacks and high calorie drinks like soda and juice containing high fructose com syrup.

The good news is we adults hold the purse strings, debit cards and wallets. We are the ones who buy what our kids eat and make the majority of our family's purchasing decisions. If our children are overweight, the buck stops with us. We must fess up to what we are putting in our grocery carts and be willing to change.
By making small changes, we can make a big difference. Our children are certainly worth it. Here are my top 10 suggestions to help our children get healthier.

  1. Replace soda, diet soda and fruit juice with plain, old-fashioned water. Serve water in special glasses over ice with a twist of lemon.
  2. For snacks, replace sweets with fruit, unsweetened apple sauce with raisins, graham crackers, or sliced cheese and crackers. Yum.
  3. Pop popcorn in canola or olive oil instead of buying microwave popcorn. Children love watching popcorn burst into kernels. Add salt and butter for a healthier (and less expensive) treat than the microwaveable version.
  4. Limit trips through the drive through. If you eat fast food 4-5 times a week, cut back to two to three times a week. The other days, make simple meals at home using eggs, beans, rice, potatoes, fresh and frozen vegetables and lean meats.
  5. Limit your kids' access to TV and technology to 1-2 hours a day or to weekends.Encourage your children to be active by riding their bikes, scooting their scooters, jumping rope or playing other games that require them to move. If your neighborhood is safe and they are old enough, have them walk to the nearest park or school playground. If your children are young, you'll have to take them to the playground. I know you're tired from working all day and the last thing you want to do is go anywhere. But you gotta do it. Remember, it's a matter of your children's health.
  6. When shopping, resist the urge to pull into the parking spot closest to the entrance. Park further away so everyone gets more exercise.
  7. Prepare meals together. Kids love to help in the kitchen and enjoy trying foods they've helped prepare. Always be safe and assist your children when they are using knives and other sharp kitchen tools.
  8. Model a healthy lifestyle. If you want your children to drink more water, you're going to have to drink more water. If you're carrying extra weight, start walking more and implementing small changes in your diet as well.
  9. Eat meals together at the kitchen or dining room table and away from the TV. Studies show we eat more when watching TV.
  10. Lastly, make sure your children get enough sleep. There is a link between lack of sleep and obesity. The chart below recommends how much sleep children should get based on their age.

Birth-6 Months   16-20 hours
6-12 Months      14-15 hours
Ages 1-3           10-13 hours
Ages3-10          10-12 hours
Ages 11-12            10 hours
Teenagers               9 hours

Donna  Treadwell is a mother of four  and freelance writer. She works for SIU School of Medicine and is a member of the Springfield Collaborative to Reduce Childhood Obesity. Treadwell is available to speak to your group about helping children become healthier. For more information, e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Food Safety Advice

Clean: Wash Hands and Surfaces Often

Bacteria can be spread throughout the kitchen and get onto hands, cutting boards, utensils, counter tops, and food.

  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food and after using the bathroom or changing diapers.
  • Wash your hands after playing with pets or visiting petting zoos.
  • Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next food.
  • Consider using paper towels to clean up kitchen surfaces. If you use cloth towels wash them often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.
  • Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten.
  • Rub firm-skinned fruits and vegetables under running tap water or scrub with a clean vegetable brush while rinsing with running tap water.
  • Keep books, backpacks, or shopping bags off the kitchen table or counters where food is prepared or served.


Separate: Don't Cross Contaminate

Cross-contamination is how bacteria can be spread. When handling raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs, keep these foods and their juices away from ready-to­ eat foods. Always start with a clean scene - wash hands with warm water and soap. Wash cutting boards, dishes, countertops, and utensils with hot soapy water.

  • Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from other foods in your grocery shopping cart, grocery bags, and in your refrigerator.
  • Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
  • Use a food thermometer, which measures the internal temperature of cooked meat, poultry, and egg dishes, to make sure that the food is cooked to a safe internal temperature.
  • Never place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs.

Cook: Cook to Proper Temperatures

Food is safely cooked when it reaches a high enough internal temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that cause food borne illness. Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of cooked foods.

  • Use a food thermometer, which measures the internal temperature of cooked meat, poultry, and egg dishes, to make sure that the food is cooked to a safe internal temperature.
  • Cook beef roasts and steaks to a safe minimum internal temperature of 145°F. Cook pork to a minimum of 145°F. All poultry should reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F throughout the bird, as measured with a food thermometer.
  • Cook all ground meat to 160°F. Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) links eating undercooked ground beef with a higher risk of illness. Remember, color is not a reliable indicator of doneness. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of your burgers.
  • Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm, not runny. Don't use recipes in which eggs remain raw or only partially cooked. Casseroles and other dishes containing eggs should be cooked to 160°F.
  • Cook fish to 145°F or until the flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork.
  • Make sure there are no cold spots in food (where bacteria can survive) when cooking in a microwave oven. For best results, cover food, stir and rotate for even cooking. If there is no turntable, rotate the dish by hand once or twice during cooking.
  • Bring sauces, soups and gravy to a boil when reheating. Heat other leftovers thoroughly to  165°F.
  • Use microwave-safe cookware and plastic wrap when cooking foods in a microwave oven.


Chill: Refrigerate Promptly!

Refrigerate foods quickly because cold temperatures slow the growth of harmful bacteria. Do not over-stuff the refrigerator. Cold air must circulate to help keep food safe. Keeping a constant refrigerator temperature of 40°F or below is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of food borne illness. Use an appliance thermometer to be sure the temperature is consistently 40°F or below. The freezer temperature should be 0°F or below.

  • Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs, and other perishables as soon as you get them home from the store.
  • Never let raw meat, poultry, eggs, cooked food, or cut fresh fruits or vegetables sit at room temperature more than two hours before putting them in the refrigerator or freezer (one hour when the temperature is above 90°F).
  • Never defrost food at room temperature. Food must be kept at a safe temperature during thawing. There are three safe ways to defrost food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave using the defrost setting. Food thawed in cold water or in the microwave should be cooked immediately.
  • Always marinate food in the refrigerator.
  • Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator.
  • Use or discard refrigerated food on a regular basis.


Keeping Cold Lunches Cold

Prepare cooked food, such as turkey, ham, chicken, and vegetable or pasta salads, ahead of time to allow for thorough chilling in the refrigerator. Divide large amounts of food into shallow containers for fast chilling and easier use. Keep cooked food refrigerated until time to leave home.

To keep lunches cold away from home, include a small frozen gel pack or frozen juice box. Of course, if there's a refrigerator available, store perishable items there upon arrival. Insulated, soft-sided lunch boxes or bags are best for keeping food cold, but metal or plastic lunch boxes and paper bags can also be used. If using paper lunch bags, create layers by double bagging to help insulate the food.

Some food is safe without a cold source. Items that don't require refrigeration include whole fruits and vegetables, hard cheese, unopened canned meat and fish, chips, breads, crackers, peanut butter, jelly, mustard, and pickles.


Keeping Hot Lunches Hot

Use an insulated container to keep food like soup, chili, and stew hot. Fill the container with boiling water, let stand for a few minutes, empty, and then put in the piping hot food. Keep the insulated container closed until lunchtime to keep the food hot - 140°F or above.
For more information, visit the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

Could your child have diabetes?

Kiaro was diagnosed with diabetes on September 12, 2014. He’s not letting it stop him from playing basketball. He says, “Diabetes doesn’t stop you from being athletic. I take my blood sugar level and if I am running low I have a snack to take a glucose tablet to get my blood sugar up.”

If you are diagnosed with diabetes, it is with you every single minute of the day, but it doesn’t have to stop you from living a full life. Kids with diabetes are still just kids, and we want them to be able to do everything that a child without diabetes can do.

November is American Diabetes Awareness Month. Today, most people have a relative or know someone who has diabetes. Yet many are not aware of the symptoms, effects, and treatments of this dangerous disease. Nearly 30 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes. Another 86 million Americans have “prediabetes,” which means they are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes affects how the body uses glucose, a sugar that is a main source of fuel for the body. Your pancreas makes a hormone called insulin. Insulin helps the sugar from starches and other foods you eat make the energy for the body. If someone has diabetes, the body either can’t make insulin or the insulin isn’t working well. High blood sugar can make people sick if untreated.

There are two types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is the form most often seen in kids.  Type 1 diabetes is one of the most common chronic conditions in childhood. About 1 in 400 U.S. youth has type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is caused by a problem with the body’s immune system, which normally helps fight infections.  For an unknown reason, the body starts attacking the cells that make insulin.  Both genetics and the environment are involved in triggering this process.  The number of children developing this form of diabetes has been steadily increasing, especially among the youngest children.

Type 2 diabetes – more typically seen in adults – is now being diagnosed more often in children.  In this form of diabetes a person’s pancreas produces insulin but the body either doesn’t make enough or is unable to use it effectively. Lifestyle factors contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes, including obesity and decreased exercise.

Early detection is important because damage can be done to the body even before a diagnosis is made. Over the years, complications can result from high levels of glucose in the blood. These complications can affect many different organs including the eyes, heart, kidneys and nerves.

It is critical to recognize the early signs of diabetes, which include:

  • frequent urination
  • constant thirst
  • increased hunger
  • extreme fatigue
  • unexplained weight loss


One of the main challenges in treating diabetes is the possibility of causing low blood sugars.  When blood sugars are low, people can feel sweaty, shaky, or hungry.  They can also look sleepy, confused or stubborn.  Recognizing the signs of low blood sugar in someone who is being treated with insulin can help them to get immediate treatment before their low blood sugar causes serious complications, like seizures.

Although there is currently no way to prevent or cure type 1 diabetes, major improvements in treatment are now available including pump devices that deliver insulin continuously under the skin and monitors that continuously check blood sugar levels.

Healthy eating and exercising can help many kids with diabetes feel better.

Nine-year old third grader, Jaden was diagnosed in 2009 and has had diabetes for five years. She has had an insulin pump for the past three years. She loves to do cheer, and says, “We get to tumble, do flips and stunts, jumps and get to compete. It is a good activity for me so I can still be active and have fun.”

Caidan is a rising soccer star. He tells others with diabetes not to be afraid to play sports. Caidan dreams of becoming a U.S. National Soccer player and of winning the World Cup. He says to “check, check, check” your blood sugar often. That’s the best way to stay on top of your diabetes, and stay on the soccer field.

How to Eat More Vegetables

  • Buy vegetables that are easy to prepare. Pick up pre-washed bags of salad greens and add baby carrots or grape tomatoes for a salad in minutes. Buy packages of veggies such as baby carrots or celery sticks for quick snacks.
  • Use microwave to quickly “zap” vegetables. White or sweet potatoes can be baked quickly this way.
  • Vary your veggies choices to keep meals interesting.
  • Try crunchy vegetables, raw or lightly steamed.


For the best nutritional value:

  • Select vegetables with more potassium often, such as sweet potatoes, white potatoes, white beans, tomato products (paste, sauce, and juice), beet greens, soybeans, lima beans, spinach, lentils, and kidney beans.
  • Sauces or seasonings can add calories, saturated fat, and sodium to vegetables. Use the Nutirtion Facts label to compare the calories and % Daily Value for saturated fat and sodium in plain and seasoned vegetables.
  • Prepare more foods from fresh ingredients to lower sodium intake. Most sodium in the food supply comes from packaged or processed foods.
  • Buy canned vegetables labeled “reduced sodium,” “low sodium,” or “no salt added.” If you want to add a little salt it will likely be less than the amount in the regular canned product.

At meals:

  • Plan some meals around a vegetable main dish, such as a vegetable stir-fry or soup. Then add other foods to complement it.
  • Try a main dish salad for lunch. Go light on the salad dressing.
  • Include a green salad with your dinner every night.
  • Shred carrots or zucchini into meatloaf, casseroles, quick breads, and muffins.
  • Include chopped vegetables in pasta sauce or lasagna.
  • Order a veggie pizza with toppings like mushrooms, green peppers, and onions, and ask for extra veggies.


Make Vegetables More Appealing:

  • Many vegetables taste great with a dip or dressing.
  • Try a low-fat salad dressing with raw broccoli, red and green peppers, celery sticks or cauliflower.
  • Add color to salads by adding baby carrots, shredded red cabbage, or spinach leaves. Include in-season vegetables for variety through the year.
  • Include beans or peas in flavorful mixed dishes, such as chili or minestrone soup.
  • Decorate plates or serving dishes with vegetable slices.
  • Keep a bowl of cut-up vegetables in a see-through container in the refrigerator. Carrot and celery sticks are traditional, but consider red or green pepper strips, broccoli florets, or cucumber slices.

Vegetable Tips for Children:

  • Set a good example for children by eating vegetables with meals and as snacks.
  • Let children decide on the dinner vegetables or what goes into salads.
  • Depending on their age, children can help shop for, clean, peel, or cut up vegetables.
  • Allow children to pick a new vegetable to try while shopping.
  • Use cut-up vegetables as part of afternoon snacks.
  • Children often prefer foods served separately. So, rather than mixed vegetables try serving two vegetables separately.


Keep it Safe:

  • Rinse vegetables before preparing or eating them.  Under clean, running water, rub vegetables briskly with your hands to remove dirt and surface microorganisms. Dry with a clean cloth towel or paper towel after rinsing.
  • Keep vegetables separate from raw meat, poultry and seafood while shopping, preparing or steaming.

 10 tips:  Enjoy your food, but eat less

You can enjoy your meals while making small adjustments to the amounts of food on your plate. Healthy meals start with more vegetables and fruits and smaller portions of protein and grains. And don’t forget dairy – include fat-free or low-fat dairy products on your plate, or drink milk with your meal.

  1. Get to know the foods you eat
    Use the Super Tracker to find out what kinds of foods and how much to eat and to get timps and support for making better food choices.
  2. Take your time
    Be mindful to eat slowly, enjoy the taste and textures, and pay attention to how you feel. Use hunger and fullness cues to recognize when to eat and when you’ve had enough.
  3. Use a smaller plate
    Use a smaller plate at meals to help with portion control. That way you can finish your entire plate and feel satisfied without overeating.
  4. If you eat out, choose healthier options
    Check and compare nutrition information about the foods you are eating. Preparing food at home makes it easier to control what is in your meals.
  5. Satisfy your sweet tooth in a healthy way
    Indulge in a naturally sweet dessert dish-fruit! Serve a fresh fruit cocktail or a fruit parfait made with yogurt. For a hot dessert, bake apples and top with cinnamon.
  6. Choose to eat some foods more or less often
    Choose more vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fat-free or 1% milk and dairy products. Cut back on foods high in solid fats, added sugars, and salt.
  7. Find out what you need
    Get your personalized plan by using the Super Tracker to identify your food group targets. Compare the foods you eat to the foods you need to eat.
  8. Sip smarter
    Drink water or other calorie-free beverages, 100% juice, or fat-free milk when you are thirsty. Soda and other sweet drinks contain a lot of sugar and are high in calories.
  9. Compare foods
    Check out the Food-A-Pedia to look up and compare nutrition information for more than 8,000 foods.
  10. Make treats “treats,” not everyday foods
    Treats are great once in a while. Just don’t make treat foods an everyday choice. Limit sweet treats to special occasions.

Surprise Meringues
2 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup sugar or 1/2 cup sugar and 1/3 cup Splenda Granular
6 oz. chocolate chips
1/4 cups chopped nuts (optional)

Beat egg whites, salt, cream of tartar, and vanilla until soft peaks form (about 3-4 minutes). Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Drop by teaspoons onto cookie sheet lines with paper bags (to fit the cookie sheet). Bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Makes about 2 ½ dozen cookies.