Healthy Children - March 2016

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 for a Safe and Fun Winter 

Staying cooped up during cold winter months can bring on a serious case of cabin fever for kids. Outdoor activities are a welcome dose of fun, especially after it snows. Here’s how to keep kids happy – and safe. 

Bo Kennedy MD, a Washington University emergency medicine physician at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, is a dad with kids who love the snow. Art Hill is their favorite destination for sledding. Like most parents, he wants to keep his kids safe. His advice to moms and dads? Use common sense and keep an eye on kids when they’re outside.

Here are his top suggestions for winter fun:


Find hills away from streets, trees or permanent objects, such as big rocks or bushes. Sometimes these objects aren’t easy to avoid if they’re covered in snow. Also, make sure there is one path going up a hill and another path to sled down. This helps your kids avoid running over people.

Keep an eye on the weather, as well. Snow may start to melt and then refreeze, or there could be a layer of ice with the snow.

“The biggest problem with icy surfaces is that they make sledders lose control – they can’t steer. “Dr. Kennedy says.

Teach children to take extra care when sledding in these conditions.

Finally, protect heads with helmets. “Although arm and wrist injuries are common, we worry most about head injuries,” Dr. Kennedy says. “Having your child sled feet first may also help with this problem.”

Snow Forts

To build a safer snow fort, keep it away from the street. Also, build only the sides with snow. Dr. Kennedy recommends not putting a roof on at all.

“People underestimate the weight of snow.” Dr. Kennedy says. “If a snow roof falls on kids, it’s like being trapped in an avalanche. Kids may get stuck and not be able to breathe.”

Ice Skating

The biggest danger is falling on the ice, even for experienced people who may get knocked over.

“It’s important to wear a helmet when ice skating.” Dr. Kennedy says. “You can buy special helmets, but bike helmets are fine for regular skating.”

He also advises against skating on ponds or lakes in the St. Louis area.

“Around here, the temperature changes so much that it’s too dangerous,” He says. “The pond can have soft spots and thin ice.

Playing in the Cold

Frostbite is another issue in winter. It can harm kids who are playing outside or just waiting at the bus stop. To prevent frostbite, Dr. Kennedy suggests dressing kids in layers of synthetic material, which dries quickly, and covering up as much as you can. Take off wet clothes as soon as possible. Better yet, wear waterproof clothes, boots and gloves. Make sure there’s wiggle room in boots. The extra room allows air to circulate and will keep toes warmer.

The first sign of frostbite is burning pain. So parents should listen to their kids, especially if their kids are hurting from the cold, Dr. Kennedy says.

As frostbite gets worse, kids may start to loose feeling in the affected area. The key is to warm the area with warm water as soon as possible.

“When warming the area, don’t add a burn injury by using water that is too hot,” Dr. Kennedy says. “Put warm water in a bowl and test the temperature. And don’t rub the area. “It’s a myth that you should rub the area with snow. That will further damage the skin.”

If normal skin color does not return in one hour, call your doctor or go the ER.

Build Healthy Mealtime Habits

10 Tips for Preschoolers

Preschoolers love to copy what their parents do. They mimic your table manners, your willingness to try new foods, and your preferences. Take a break from the TV or phone and build healthy mealtime habits together.

  1. Plan meals and snacks- Make time for three meals and one or two snacks every day. Offer choices from each food group – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and protein foods—throughout the day so your preschooler gets the nutrition he or she needs.
  2. Make meals enjoyable- Eat meals with your children whenever possible. Let them help you prepare the meal. Make conversations about something that made them laugh. Keep mealtime upbeat and stress free.
  3. Try to get two food groups in a snack- Pair sliced tomato with low-fat cheese or add nut butter to a 100% whole-wheat mini bagel.
  4. Keep things positive- Talk about the color, feel, or flavor of food so they sound appealing to your preschooler. Discourage others from making negative comments about foods during meals.
  5. Develop taste buds- When preschoolers develop a taste for many foods, it’s easier to plan meals. Keep in mind that it may take a dozen tries for a child to accept a new food.
  6. Visit the market- Shopping can teach your preschooler about food and healthy eating – talk about where foods come from and how they grow.
  7. Let children practice serving themselves- Include smaller cuts of fish or meat and offer small serving utensils so they get just enough during meals. Encourage them to ask for more if they are still hungry.
  8. Beverages are important too- Water helps to quench your preschooler’s thirst, and milk provides nutrients for growth. Offer water or fat-free and low-fat milk as beverage choices instead of sugary drinks.
  9. Help them know when they are full- Encourage your child to stop eating when he or she is full rather than when the plate is clean. When your child is not interested in the meal, excuse him or her from the table.
  10. Reward with attention, not treats- Rewarding children with sweet desserts or snacks may encourage them to think that treats are better than other foods. Comfort and reward with care and praise, not food. 

MyPlate Snack Tips for Kids  

10 Tips for Making Great Tasting Snacks

  1. Create a yogurt sundae- Top plain, low-fat or fat-free yogurt with fresh, frozen, or canned fruit, like bananas, strawberries, or peaches. Sprinkle whole-grain cereal on top for crunch.
  2. Make pita pockets- Stuff a small whole-wheat pita with sliced bell peppers, salsa, and a slice of low-fat cheese. Melt in microwave for 15-20 seconds.
  3. Jazz up your favorite cereal- Make a trail mix! Stir ¼ cup of unsalted nuts, ¼ cup of dried raisins or cranberries, and ¼ cup of whole-grain cereal together.
  4. Make a fruit sandwich- Cut an apple into thin slices. Spread peanut butter or almond butter between two slices to create “apple sandwiches.”
  5. Dip your veggies- Create veggie treats by dipping slices of cucumbers, peppers, and carrots in a low-fat salad dressing or hummus.
  6. Pack an afterschool snack- For a healthy afterschool snack; keep a fruit cup packed in 100% juice or water in your bag. Some fresh fruit, like bananas and oranges, are also easy to pack and eat any time.
  7. Try a piece of cheesy toast- Toast a slice of whole-wheat bread and top with a slice of your favorite low-fat cheese.
  8. Freeze your fruit- For a frozen treat on hot days, try freezing grapes or bananas! Don’t forget to peel bananas and pull grapes from the stem before freezing.
  9. Power up with ‘roll-ups’- Roll a slice of low-salt deli turkey or ham around an apple wedge or around a slice of low-fat cheese.
  10. Build a fruit salad- Mix your favorite sliced fruits such as pineapple, grapes, and melon.