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Restaurant Menu Labeling Complicated

carolynoneilmsrdnby Carolyn O’Neil, MS, RDN

The countdown to provide calorie counts and other nutrition information for menu items is in full swing for more than 250,000 restaurant locations nationwide.  Faced with a December deadline set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) restaurant chains with more than 20 outlets are busily crunching the numbers to provide nutrition facts on their menus, websites and in-store signage.

“Menu labeling is the biggest advance in providing nutrition information to consumers since the law that required Nutrition Facts labels on packaged foods was implemented 20 years ago,” said Margo G. Wootan, nutrition policy director for The Center for Science in the Public Interest.

In addition to calories, written information on total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, sugar, fiber and protein must be available upon consumer request. The intent of the new law is to guide diners toward healthier choices on the menu.

Joy Dubost, registered dietitian with the National Restaurant Association says, “Many restaurant patrons have stated that menu labeling is important to them when dining out, and we also know that based on trend data consumers are demanding more healthful options.”

Nutrition by the Numbers

Seeing the facts right up front can help diners avoid calorie bombs or at least be forewarned of the waistline busting cost of indulgent dishes and drinks.

“What I like about the new legislation is that it holds restaurants accountable,” says registered dietitian Nicole King of the website Healthy Dining Finder.com.

How do restaurants come up with the nutrition numbers? The FDA allows several methods including the use of software programs based on nutrient data bases designed to calculate nutritional analysis for recipes, using nutritional information already calculated for recipes in published cookbooks or the more costly but most accurate laboratory analysis of individual items. King says, “And restaurants have to show their work when they provide documentation to the FDA so it’s clear what method was used.”  From doing the math to making sense of ways to best present the nutrition numbers on menus, registered dietitians are finding opportunities to consult with restaurant companies. Some national restaurants groups employ full time dietitians for many services including marketing and menu planning.  Many others are enlisting the professional services of dietitians as part time and project based consultants to help them follow the new federal regulations for nutrition menu labeling. For the restaurant consumer it’s a win-win of taste and health.

It’s Complicated

Presenting the information to consumers is not always a simple task.  Take a pizza restaurant for example. How do they list the nutrition numbers for all of the combinations of toppings and different kinds of crusts? King says, “It’s complex and cumbersome.”

Staff training is part of the new labeling law too to ensure that cooks follow the recipes. A liberal hand with the salt or mayonnaise in the kitchen will mean the numbers on the menu won’t match the dish being served.

“We have to remember this is hand crafted food not made to specs such as an Oreo where every cookie is exactly the same size. There are going to be slight variations,” says King.

Other challenges behind the scenes are happening behind the bar. From pina coladas to cosmopolitans, alcoholic beverages are included in the menu labeling law even though they weren’t part of the packaged foods labeling laws.  That’s why you don’t see calorie counts on a bottle of vodka. “The alcohol piece was not regulated at all. But now cocktail menus have to list nutrition information,” says King.  So now when you say ‘make mine a double’ don’t forget to double the calories too.

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New York Times Featured Article: What Does 2000 Calories Look Like?

We stumbled across this article on the NY Times today and HAD to share it with you all! Take a minute to share it with all of your clients, patients and anyone you know who’s interested in eating healthy and/or losing weight!

You’ll be amazed at how many ‘everyday’ meals your patients are eating that are over their entire calorie allowance for the day! Even as restaurants talk about smaller portions, they continue to serve a full day’s worth of calories in a single meal… or even a single dish. Keep reading…

What does 2000 Calories look like

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The Best Gift for Every Health Enthusiast in 2014

Can you believe it? Thanksgiving is just over a week away! That means it’s already time to start getting your holiday shopping done. The Christmas season is all about giving, and many of us take this to heart as our shopping list grows and grows each year. As dietitians, I know that many of you like to use this as a time to thank your clients and encourage them through this season. For others, you may just have a health enthusiast in your life that you find it hard to buy for.

Whoever it is you’ve got in mind, we’ve created the best gift for every health enthusiast in 2014 that will be a perfect fit for them! Our Healthy Holiday Gift Boxes are packed with dietitian approved treats and snacks that will make the health nut in your life jump for joy! Plus, each box includes a few tips for enjoying a healthy holiday season. We’ve created them in two different sizes to make sure we can meet any budget and pre-filled them with some of our favorite snacks so you don’t even have to think about it. But, if you have some specific items you want included, we can customize your box to include any snacks you’d like. Simply email us at info@ncescatalog.com or give us a call at 877.623.7266 to customize your gift box today.

Whether you’re searching for the perfect teacher’s gift or for your dance instructor, personal trainer, or dietitian, these Healthy Holiday Gift Boxes are a great fit and make your holiday shopping just a little easier. They’re also great for employee, co-worker and bosses gifts.

Check them out today! You can have them shipped to you to give as gifts. Or, you can put your recipients mailing address in and we can ship directly to them.

To keep up with all the new products NCES has to offer, be sure to ‘Like’ us on Facebook or Follow us on Twitter.

Holiday Gift Boxes

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The Most Nutritious Measuring Cups I’ve Ever Used

Up until now, you may have been under the impression that all measuring cups are created equal. I mean, a cup is a cup is a cup, right? The truth is that not all measuring cups are created equal. In fact, the ones we’ve been using offer more information on choosing healthy portions of body-fueling foods than most of us really ever thought was possible. Nutriportion Measuring Cups ™ are created from a flexible, easy-to-use material and highlight calories, carbohydrates and carb exchanges for many of your favorite foods based on the size of the cup you are using.

For the diabetes patient, Nutriportion Measuring Cups™ highlight the carbohydrates and carb exchanges for many of your favorite foods. Each of the four sides classify foods based on carbohydrate levels and group them together so you know how many carbs are in ¼, 1/3, ½ and 1 cup of each food, such as granola, rice or pasta.

For the health and nutrition conscious, Nutriportion Measuring Cups™ help you understand the calories in many of your favorite foods. With everyday foods like popcorn, beans, dried fruit and raw or cooked vegetables, monitoring and tracking your calorie intake is made simple with these measuring cups.

No matter your language, you’ll find Nutriportion Measuring Cups™ easy to read and understand. All of the helpful information on the measuring cups is in both English and Spanish. According to the CDC, Hispanic/Latino Americans are at a particularly high risk for Type 2 Diabetes. So, providing diabetes education and resources to this group within our population is particularly important.

Whether you are looking for a new set of measuring cups for your personal kitchen, or you’re a dietitian searching for the perfect resource for your patients, these measuring cups will not let you down. They’re the only ones I use in my kitchen for many reasons, including the ones listed above. Plus, they make great giveaways for your nutrition or diabetes programs. I can even say that I’ve been known to give these as gifts to friends and family members as well as door prizes at conferences and events. Wherever I’ve taken them, they’ve always been a hit!

NCES is proud to carry Nutriportion Measuring Cups™ online at NCEScatalog.com. For many years, these cups have flown off the shelves to individuals, as well as organizations purchasing them in large quantities. The video below offers a look at Nutriportion Measuring Cups™ in action and highlights what sets these outstanding measuring cups apart from the rest. Visit the Product Page to learn more and place your order today. Order now and you can still get them in plenty of time for your holiday shopping!

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Your Toolbox for Fighting Childhood Obesity

With the Childhood Obesity Conference happening right now in Long Beach, CA, we thought it was a fitting time to address childhood obesity and some of the top ways to combat and reverse it. It’s no secret that the number of children in the US that are overweight or obese is overwhelming. And, to make it worse, that number is still growing at an astounding rate. But, the goal of the conference is to “Accelerate Progress”. So, what can we do to accelerate progress? As many of you remember from our last blog, we discussed some resources that are available to parents and educators to provide to children. Today, we wanted to provide some easy ways to teach health, nutrition and fitness to kids.

NCES MyPlate Lunch & Learn Placemat – Use at the breakfast/lunch or dinner table either at MyPlate Munch and Learn Placemathome or on the go. Designed specifically for kids, this placemat educates your child about the five major food groups while engaging their critical thinking skills as they work through the fun activities on the back.

EIEO Kids Tear pad

NCES EIEO tear pad – Use these handouts to help motivate kids to get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity in daily.  It also helps children understand that what you eat has to balance with how much they exercise in order to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle.


Kids Portion PlateNCES Right-Sized Plate – With two designs, one for adults and one for kids, these colorful plates provide portioned sections for measuring out portions. This is great for kids so they can learn all about portion control by filling each section of their plate.daily.  It also helps children understand that what you eat has to balance with how much they exercise in order to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle.

Whiz, Zip, Zap Kids Cookbook

Whiz Zip and Zap cookbook – Get your kids in the kitchen to start cooking so they can see how fun it is. Summer is a greattime to engage your kids in activities like helping to cook family meals.   It has been proven that kids who participate in cooking with their parents or caregivers have healthier eating habits. This cookbook provides simple recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks.

Scratch and Sniff Learning Cards for KidsScratch and Sniff Learning cards – These interactive scratch and sniff cards provide a fun way for kids to learn about and try new fruits and vegetables.  First, have them smell the card. Then, have them taste the actual fruit and vegetable to compare the scent and taste. They can also note what they liked most and least about the foods.

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Fighting Cancer with Fitness

The Major Role Fitness Plays in Fighting Cancer

Chances are that a friend or loved one will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. Although experts in the medical community still have a lot to learn about the different forms of cancer, there have been some very intriguing findings involving the relationship between cancer and fitness. In general, increased fitness levels seem to have a positive impact on people in all stages of cancer treatment. Whether someone is a healthy adult or a cancer survivor, including fitness into daily life can offer many benefits.
One of the most recognized positive outcomes for people who routinely exercise is a lowered body mass index. Getting frequent exercise helps to reduce body fat and increases lean muscle mass for those who work out.  Medical experts have recognized a correlation between lowered body mass index and the prevalence of cancer. Based on this scientific data, people of all ages should incorporate fitness into daily routines to help prevent a cancer diagnosis. Staying in shape can also help to lower inflammation throughout the body and lower the occurrence of other major illnesses.
Even with proper diet and exercise, a cancer diagnosis can sometimes happen without warning. For most, getting this news from the doctor is a stressful experience that is difficult to deal with. However, this is the time when staying fit can be the most advantageous. Fitness and medical experts agree that regular exercise helps to lower stress hormones in the body. After an initial cancer diagnosis, patients should stay motivated to stick with exercise programs in order to maintain a positive outlook. Staying active will help the body deal with the shock of this information.
After a cancer patient has agreed upon on a treatment method with a doctor, some may undergo depression and withdrawal. It can be easy to get discouraged when undergoing strong chemotherapy treatments for mesothelioma and other cancers. Patients should confer with their oncologist about the type of exercise that would be right for them. Moderate walking and resistance training can increase energy levels and positively affect mood. Additionally, there are many side effects associated with these aggressive treatments that can leave patients with the feeling that they have lost control over their bodies. Simple, short-term exercise goals can help patients to regain confidence with their abilities and help them to overcome a cancer diagnosis.
Even patients in remission from cancer can benefit from routine exercise.  Several studies have shown that exercise helps to prevent the cancer from recurring. One specific study of breast cancer survivors found that women who walked three to five hours a week saw a 50% reduction in mortality. Getting frequent exercise after going into remission offers survivors the chance to prevent the disease from coming back. In addition, those who maintain this level of exercise after going into remission are able to regain a lot of the strength that may have been lost during the treatment process.
Although staying active and maintaining a proper body weight is not a definitive cure for cancer, there is enough evidence to suggest that patients greatly benefit from regular participation in cardiovascular and strength training. Further, taking a simple walk around the block or picking up lightweights on occasion offers benefits for anyone desiring to prevent major medical issues. Cancer doesn’t have to be fought lying down. Oncologists can work with cancer patients to help them stay in shape during the long and arduous fight against the disease.

Author: David Haas

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Don’t Get the Sugar Scares!

Halloween is here! The most dreaded holiday for dentists and dietitians across the country! But, it’s nothing a little education can’t fix, since the holiday has the potential to be a lot of fun for kids of all ages. All of the unique costumes give kids an opportunity to show off their creative abilities. Then, they go door-to-door ‘trick or treating’ for some sugary snacks! Many people have already begun changing this tradition by passing out more health conscious items, including stickers, granola bars and even fruit! But, how do you keep your kids safe from those ghouls and goblins that still pass out sickening sweet treats? We’ve put together a list of the top things to do with all that candy so your children don’t spend the entire month of November amped up on a sugar high. (As with everything, it’s important to remember that moderation is key! Don’t feel like you have to take it ALL away!)

  • Donate to your Dentist: Obviously, you don’t want to be that parent that gives away all of your children’s hard earned candy. So, have them set aside their absolute favorites. Then, find a local dentist who will trade you for the leftovers. Many dentists have items that they will trade your children for their candy.
  • Put it on Ice: Sit down with your kids and pick out all the chocolate. Then, throw it in the freezer. This way, your kids can enjoy their Halloween treats all year long! Throw away the rest… or you can always trade the dentist!
  • Take it to Work: Although no one person needs to be consuming all that sugar, spreading it out amongst your co-workers will keep your kids healthier. Plus, you’ll probably be a big hit around the office.
  • Sell It: There are many organizations out there that will purchase your leftover Halloween candy. Some of them even take what they purchase and send it to our troops so they can enjoy the sweet treats. Try searching your area for locations you can take your Halloween stash and sell it.

As you can see, there are many options for keeping all that candy out of your little one’s tummy. A little bit of Halloween fun can go a long way. So, be sure to take this opportunity to teach your children about healthy habits and using self-control when digging in to their tasty treats!