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Get Your Portions in Control

Portions, Portions, Portions! If you are plugged in to nutrition at all, you probably read a different article about portions every day. But, do you pay attention? Or, for you dietitians, do you struggle to get your clients to pay attention? Portions are a very important part of any diet. However, for most of the fad diets that exist today, it’s the element that is given the least amount of attention. Or, for many, the expectations on portions are so completely unrealistic that it’s impossible to continue to practice what you’ve learned once you’ve reached your goal weight and stop ‘dieting’ in the literal sense of the word.

Between the common plate sizes in America growing as fast as our waistlines and restaurant portion sizes increasing in size to try to get ahead in their competitive market, we’re paying the price with rising obesity and diabetes rates. Did you know that the average household dinner plate has grown to 12 inches? Yet the appropriate size is 9 inches. So, here’s a tip that can make bringing your portions back under control very simple: instead of serving dinner on your dinner plates, serve them on your smaller salad plates. These plates present a much more realistic size for serving up correct portions for your family. You’ll be amazed at how satisfied you can be when you eat your dinner on these smaller plates. You’ll still get the satisfaction of cleaning your plate. However, you most likely won’t have eaten larger portions than you should.

So, we’ve made it easier to serve the correct portion sizes at home, now what are you supposed to do when you’re out to eat? I’m sure you’ve heard this tip before; cut your meal in half and put it in a take-out box before you even begin your meal. This is a great tip and can really help you control your portion sizes when eating out. But, it’s not always a great “across the board” kind of rule. There are some restaurants that serve appropriate portions. So, how are you supposed to gauge your portion size here? (BTW – This tip is great at any restaurant… whether you think the portion sizes are correct or not) Start by asking the server to bring an empty salad plate out with your meal. When you get the salad plate, visualize the MyPlate image sitting on your plate. Begin moving the meal from your dinner plate over to the salad plate, making sure to consider your portions in reference to MyPlate. By doing this, you’re fixing two big problems in restaurant servings; 1) the size of plate that your food is served on, and 2) the skewed proportions of grains and protein compared to fruits and vegetables served. Once your salad plate is full and closely reflects MyPlate, then you know you’ve got a correctly portioned meal while you’re out to eat. Take the rest and set it aside or put it in a to-go box to enjoy later.

Don’t feel like guessing? NCES has created Right-Size Portion Plates for Kids and Adults. So, whether you’re looking to take control of your own health or your entire family, we’ve got the plate for you! These plates are great for use at home. Or, they can be used as an easier tool than the salad plate while you’re out to eat. Use the links above to view each plate.

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Is Coconut Oil the New Olive Oil?

HAs a common component in the currently popular Paleo Diet, Coconut Oil has been getting a lot of attention lately. Because of its varying properties to Olive and Vegetable oil, it’s been given a lot of recognition as ‘the better’ option for cooking with. But, are there any side effects? Any other properties that may not be good for your health?

Olive Oil is currently leading the race as the top oil, both raw and cooked. Because of its fantastic flavor, lower amount of saturated fat (the bad stuff) and increased amount of mono-unsaturated fat (the good stuff), it’s long been known as a better option than traditional vegetable or canola oils. But, olive oil may have finally met some real competition in Coconut Oil. You see, when you consume most oils, you’re body treats them as a fat and stores them as such. But, Coconut Oil metabolizes to Ketone bodies, which are used for fuel; more similar to the way your body reacts to a carb. So, the potential energy benefits are part of what’s making coconut oil gain in popularity. The drawback is that coconut oil is 92% saturated fat, giving it a much higher saturated fat content than olive oil.

Our conclusion: Coconut oil is great for your skin, energy and many other parts of your body. It’s also proven that coconut oil is more heat stable for cooking. Where your olive oil will turn rancid when it reaches a certain temperature, coconut oil will maintain its flavor and freshness at higher temperatures. However, the long term health benefits and risks, including the risk to your heart because of the saturated fat content are still yet to be determined. So, we’re not quite ready to make the switch. Who knows what time will tell though!

Interested in learning more about trans fats or mono/polyunsaturated fats? Or, looking to teach your clients more about these nutrients? Click on the names above to view our educational tear pads that will clear up any confusion about fat and how it’s used in the body.

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Is the Paleo Diet Worth all the Hype?

If you’re clued in to the fad diet scene at all, you’ve probably heard of the newest entry in to the market, the Paleo Diet. The Paleo Diet is also known as the caveman diet. Simply speaking, the idea of the Paleo Diet is to consume only foods that our caveman ancestors would have consumes because our bodies are most equipped to process these foods. For an in-depth overview of the diet, you can visit the Greatist website.

Just as with any new diet that comes along claiming to fix the world’s obesity epidemic, the Paleo Diet makes us want to research some of the details and weigh out the pros and the cons. So, we did! Here’s what we came up with.

Pros:

  • Weight Loss: The Paleo Diet has produced many great examples proving that weight loss is definitely a benefit of the diet.
  • Healthy Choices: By participating in the Paleo Diet, people are more likely to make healthier decisions when choosing their foods, especially when it comes to fats, carbs, calories, etc.

Cons:

  • Sustainability: Due to the rigid structure of allowed foods, the likelihood of the average person maintaining this diet is slim.
  • Variety: Again, because this diet is so strict, participants will lose a lot of their food variety. Not only can that be boring and hard to stick with, it also increases the likelihood that they will miss out on important key nutrients found in foods that aren’t allowed.
  • Dairy Deficit: This diet completely removes dairy from your diet. Dairy is one of the biggest sources of calcium and Vitamin D in our diets. Although there are other ways to get these important nutrients, it will be a culture shock for most to continue to get these nutrients without consuming any dairy products.

The bottom line is that there is still a lot of research that needs to be done in order to determine the long term health risks and benefits to the Paleo Diet. This diet seems eerily similar to the Atkins Diet, and we all know where that went! According to NCES dietitian, Carrie Mark, “My main concern is the long term sustainability for a diet such as this one. Sure, people will lose weight because they are focusing on making healthier food choices. But, will they be able to maintain the diet and their weight loss long-term? I don’t know.”

What do you think? Have you seen any other pros or cons not listed here. Our list is brief because there is still a lot of research to be done. But, we look forward to seeing where this diet goes in the future. Please feel free to share your thoughts on the Paleo Diet right here on the NCES blog. Or, visit us on Facebook to share your thoughts.

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Avoid the January Gym Rush!

Welcome to throwback Friday here at NCES. Here’s a blog that we shared just over a year ago, January 5th, 2012. But, there were some great tools that we wanted to share again in case you may have missed it or forgotten about it. Enjoy!

What’s your New Year’s Resolution for 2012? Mine is to make the gym part of my daily routine! Wait… You’re Kidding… that’s yours too? Okay, let’s face it… the most common new year’s resolution is to hit the gym more often. If you’ve ever been to the gym in the month of January, you’ll know exactly what I am talking about. At times, I forget if I am waiting in line for a weight machine or the newest attraction at Six Flags! So, how can you keep your commitment to your New Year’s resolution, but not waste your entire evening at the gym? Just stay home! That’s right… stay away from the gym. The truth is, you can get creative and complete your entire workout at home, at least until the gym starts to clear out again at the end of the month. Here are just a few ways you can get started today!

Static Running (Medium Difficulty)

  • Stand tall with feet shoulder-width apart
  • Lift one leg toward the chest and raise the opposite arm, mimicking a running action
  • Alternate legs and arms     Repeat 20 times

Squat (Medium Difficulty)

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and arms crossed on your chest
  • Keeping the back straight and looking forward, bend the legs 90°
  • Return to the start position     Repeat 20 times

Oyster (Medium Difficulty)        

  • Lie on your left side with your lower arm extended above your head; keep the legs together, bent at 45°, making a straight line from shoulders to hips to feet.
  • Life the upper knees as high as possible, keeping the lower leg on the floor.
  • Return to the start position.     Repeat 20 times
  • Turn over and repeat with the opposite leg.

Side Raise (Medium Difficulty)

  • Sit on your right hip with knees bend and right arm extended under your right shoulder.
  • Without collapsing the arm, lift the hip to the ceiling, keeping your knees on the floor and making a straight line from shoulder to hip to ankle; hold for 10 seconds.     Return to start position and repeat 3 times
  • Roll over and repeat for the left hip

Side Stretch

  • Standing upright and looking forward, extend both arms above your head
  • Without bending forward or backward, lean to one side
  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds
  • Return to the start position     Repeat for the other side

Like what you see? All of the exercises mentioned above were pulled from the book ‘Fit in 5’. (Item # 4507 at www.NCESCatalog.com) This book includes a lot of exercises that will work on your core strength, flexibility, Power, Abs and much more. The workouts are customized to you based on the amount of time you have to commit to working out. We’ve got plenty on the shelf to go around. So, go ahead and order your copy today! Give these workouts a try today and let us know what you think! You can always connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or right here on the blog.

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Please Help Me Avoid the Flu Epidemic of 2013

Young Male Doctor Wearing Protective Headgear and Face MaskThis morning, before I left the house, I went to the usual section of my wardrobe that has all the winter clothes in it. I put together an outfit of warm clothes. Then, before I left, I grabbed the warmest coat I have, gloves and even a hat because it was pretty chilly. But, if you are like me, you fight the temptation every morning to put on some sort of mask to protect you from all the flu germs that seem to be saturating the air this time of year. This winter is no exception! Every day, there is a breaking news story about how the flu outbreak is affecting so many Americans. So, even though we don’t all hide from it like the plague, most of us are still concerned about how to avoid getting the flu and letting it infiltrate our houses.

As many of you know, there are other measures you can take to avoid getting the flu besides getting the flu shot. Although the flu is very tricky and can’t be figured out completely, we’ve identified some power foods to be sure to include in your diet this time of year to help fight the flu germs that threaten us at every grocery store, office meeting and social gathering.

Citrus Fruits: I know. Usually you’ll see multiple blog posts in the Spring and Summer encouraging you to eat fresh fruits and veggies. They’re in season and so fresh at that time of year. Plus, they’re easy to find and fun to eat. This time of year, they kind of get left in the dust (literally). But, citrus fruits like Oranges, Grapefruits and Limes contain high levels of Vitamin C. Vitamin C is a great food to have on hand when it comes to fighting cold and flu viruses.

Milk, Cheese and Yogurt: That’s right. Did you catch the trend here? Dairy! Dairy foods are a common source of Vitamin D. Vitamin D goes to work to fight viruses like the flu, helping to protect your body from their effects.
Meat: You may not pay a lot of attention to the amount of Zinc in your diet. But, zinc is important in keeping your immune system healthy and fighting off the flu. So, if you want to have a well-rounded flu prevention program, be sure to incorporate the appropriate servings of meat to take advantage of the zinc benefits. Just another little tip, red meats tend to have higher zinc levels than other meats.

Berries and Green Tea: If you’re looking for anti-oxidants, welcome to anti-oxidant central! Berries contain high levels of antioxidants, which are great for cleaning the free radicals out of your blood stream. Along with making your body healthier to help prevent the flu, antioxidants have also been touted as a great anti-aging tool and a way to help prevent many diseases.
So, here’s wishing all of you a flu-free 2013. And, be sure to share these tips with all of your favorite friends to help them avoid the flu too.

Do you have a place to display the best flu prevention tips? If so, NCES has created a free printable poster all about flu prevention. Click here to view and download this free poster.

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Will I Freeze if I Drink Water in the Winter?

First off, the answer to that question is No! But, for most of us, drinking water in the winter is harder. I know it’s harder for me! In the summer, when the temperatures are high and the sweat just keeps rolling, it’s easy to remember that we need to drink water. But, it’s important to remember that it is equally important for our bodies to stay hydrated in the winter too.

There are a lot of tricks you can use to make sure you’re getting enough water in the winter. Keeping some kind of handy tracking tool close by can help you keep track of how much water you’re drinking any given day. But sometimes, it’s not just about keeping track of your water intake; it’s forcing yourself to actually drink it.

Did you know that many foods are high in water content and can help keep your body hydrated? Just a little disclaimer here though… eating foods that are high in water content doesn’t replace the need to drink water. They only help keep your body hydrated so you don’t have to drink as much water. So, here’s our list of foods that contain a lot of tissue moistening, joint lubricating H2O!

  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon (Or really any melon for that matter)
  • Lemons & Limes
  • Leafy Greens
  • Eggplant
  • Squash – All squash are good, but some have higher content than others
  • Strawberries
  • Broth Based Soups – Sorry guys, potato soup doesn’t count here!
  • Popsicles/Juice Bars
  • Sorbet/Sherbet

That looks like a list of pretty good foods to me. By incorporating some of these foods in to your diet each day, you can greatly reduce your need to drink as much water as you would without them. Trust me, your body will thank you!

What kind of foods do you enjoy eating that are high in H2O content? As always, share your thoughts here on the blog. We love to hear from you!

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NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” Tackles Childhood Obesity

the biggest loser

Have you joined in on all the hype of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” Season 14? I mean, what isn’t there to be excited about? Jillian Michaels has returned, we all have the opportunity to join in on the fun through Biggest Loser’s ‘Challenge America’, and for the first time ever, The Biggest Loser is tackling childhood obesity with 3 child contestants. That’s right, of the 18 contestants on season 14, 3 of them are under the age of 18. If you had the opportunity to watch, you already know that Sunday’s season premiere kicked off with a bang. If you haven’t had a chance to catch up yet, let’s meet the kids of season 14.

On the blue team, 13 year old Noah (Biingo) is a fun-loving kid who wants to use his experience on The Biggest Loser to gain the knowledge he needs to lose weight and get healthy. On the white team, Sunny is the oldest of the child contestants at age 16. Sunny balances a very busy schedule, managing her advancement placement classes and extra-curricular activities. Time is tight and when stress creeps in, Sunny turns to food to relieve her stress. Fighting on the red team is Lindsay, age 13. Lindsay wants to use The Biggest Loser to change her habits and become more active. She’s also excited to be an inspiration to those watching at home, especially kids her age.

For those of who you who are familiar with The Biggest Loser gym and trainers, you’re probably very scared for these poor children right now. But, the format of the program for these child contestants is completely different from their adult counterparts. The kids will not be training on the ranch; they’ll be training from home. But, the trainers will be available to the kids as resources on their journey and a trainer will be checking in on each of the kid’s progress every week. Plus, the kids are not subject to the weekly weigh-ins and cannot be ‘kicked off’ the show!

As we all know, childhood obesity rates are scary… and their rising! So, thank you Biggest Loser for shedding more light on this problem. It’s up to all of us to do our part! Here’s wishing the best of luck to Biingo, Sunny and Lindsay on this season and to a lifetime of health and happiness!

If you haven’t tuned in yet, you’re not too late to join in on the fun of Season 14. NBC’s The Biggest Loser airs on Monday’s at 7:00 PM (CST). You can also learn all about this seasons contestants on The Biggest Loser page.

Stay tuned for all of our future blogs! Later this week, we’ll be talking about why drinking water is still important in the winter. Plus, if you’re tired of drinking glass after glass of water, we’ll share some great foods that can help you reach your daily fill of water. Use the box in the upper, right section of the blog to subscribe to the NCES Health Beat to make sure you don’t miss a beat.