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3 Ways to ‘Healthify’ your Breakfast Cereal for the Best Start

NCES Healthy Breakfast CerealAs you probably already know, we love celebrating ‘healthy’ days throughout the year! We’re big fans of the UNL Food Calendar and use many of the days they highlight to bring attention to different nutrition topics. This week is National School Breakfast Week, which also happens to coincide with Cereal Day (tomorrow). So, to further the message of creating a healthy breakfast, we’ve compiled our RD’s tips for the best ways to make the most of your breakfast cereal.

Many RD’s tend to shun breakfast cereals. It’s really not surprising given all the added sugar, empty carbs and deceitful marketing surrounding popular cereals. However, there are many companies out there fighting to provide healthy breakfast cereal options. Plus, by using some of our tips below, you can really beef up your breakfast cereal to a level that will please any dietitian.

  1. Don’t skip reading the nutrition label. All cereals are not created equal. And, just because the image or text on the front of the box implies that the cereal is a healthy way to start the day, you still need to read the label. Look for things like:
    1. Whole Grains: Check the ingredients label to see if the first ingredient is a whole grain.  If the first ingredient is enriched or refined whole grain then it’s best to but it back on the shelf.
    2. Low-Sugar: You are looking for cereals with 15 grams or less of sugar per serving
    3. High fiber to jump start your metabolism and help your body process food
    4. Protein to keep you full and fuel your body through the morning
  2. Stick to the serving size. Most cereal serving sizes are between ¾ and 1 cup. However, most cereal bowls easily lend themselves to servings at least double that size. Use a measuring cup, or one of our NCES Right-Sized Portion Bowls to keep your cereal portions in check.
  3. Full your bowl with nutritious add-ins. Fruit like bananas and strawberries, as well as nuts and dried fruits like blueberries help to provide the fuel your body needs to get through the morning. Since you’re focusing on cereal portions now, you’re bowl may look a little emptier than your used to. So, fill it up with fresh, filling options!

Breakfast tends to be one of the hardest meals for many Americans. Mornings are busy and donuts are easy. However, understanding how different foods can fuel your body for the day will help you build the best cereal. Cereal isn’t the only way to start your day either! When you’re choosing breakfast foods, focus on these same tips. Protein and Fiber will help you start the day strong, making foods like eggs and peanut butter a good choice. Just remember to focus on portion control. How you start your morning can determine your attitude about eating for the rest of the day.

For more great tips on starting your day with a healthy breakfast, check out the NCES “Breakfast: The Most Important Meal of the Day” video, available as a Lunch N Learn Presentation or on DVD.

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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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Beat your Budget with a Garden

NCES GardenSpring is here! Well, if you’re here with us in the Midwest, it doesn’t feel like it though. Regardless, April is Garden Month and we’re going to celebrate rain or shine… or snow, or sleet, or hail! Planting a garden is one of the best things you can do for your health, and your budget. I can’t tell you how often I hear the complaint “I can’t afford to eat healthy”. Although I think there are many options for making eating healthy affordable, growing your own vegetable garden is one of the best solutions to eating healthy on a budget.

Did you know that you can go to Amazon and order a pack of tomato seeds for around $2? Depending on where you get your seeds, the quality and how many you get, the price will vary. But, either way, $2 for an entire growing season of tomatoes is pretty affordable. Plus, if you grow them without the use of any pesticides, your tomatoes will be completely organic. You would pay a premium for that at the store!

Other vegetables that are great for growing in your garden at home include lettuce, onions, radishes, peppers and green beans. With some of these, such as lettuce or onions, they will only produce the consumable vegetable once. But, if you plant them early enough in the season, you can often replant after your first batch and have time to grow a second batch before the end of the growing season.

It’s easy to see why April is Garden Month. This is the best time to get your vegetable garden planted in order to see great results throughout the summer! Just remember, vegetable gardens need water. Be sure to cultivate your garden to keep it weed free and fully hydrated throughout the hot summer months.

By the way, if you’re wondering where we come up with all of our nutrition themes for the blog, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Food, Nutrition & Health department creates this calendar each month. It’s a great free resource that you can use to create themes for the material you use with your clients. You can find the calendar at http://food.unl.edu/web/fnh/april

We’ve also created a printable desktop calendar for May using the UNL calendar. Oh yeah, did I mention that it’s free. Go check it out today! http://www.ncescatalog.com/May-2013-Foodie-Calendar_p_1230.html

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Top 5 Summer Foods to Enjoy Before their Gone

As we all know, summer is here! We’ve all been feeling the relentless heat that the summer of 2012 has thrown our way! If nothing else, you can look through our past few blog posts and hear us rant and rave about the heat this summer! So today, we’re turning it around… we’re taking lemons and making lemonade! Today, we want to share with you our top summer foods to enjoy before their gone! Before we know it, winter will be here and all the amazing fresh fruits & veggies that we enjoy all summer will be nothing but a memory, or a hard, flavorless grocery store imitation! So, enjoy these top picks while you still can!

  1. Peaches – Has anybody ever told you, “You’re a Peach!”? If so, you should be flattered! Peaches are sweet, flavorful and unique to their core. Enjoy one today because they are at the peak of their season right now!
  2. Tomatoes – Umm… BLT! Need we say more! Although great by themselves, adding a freshly picked tomato to your favorite sandwich or salad is sure to make your mouth happy!
  3. Blueberries – Talk about the perfect snack! Once you pop… the fun won’t stop! And, with these little guys, the fun doesn’t have to stop! You can pop as many as you want without counting fat or calories.
  4. Cherries – And we’re not talking maraschino here folks! When was the last time you bit in to a fresh, unprocessed, Bing cherry? They are in season now and give those jarred guys a run for their money on sweetness!
  5. Cucumbers – Although probably not a vegetable that you always think to turn to, cucumbers are a great addition to many recipes. Sliced or diced, a fresh cucumber can be added to any summer salad for a splash of unique flavor!

Well, that’s it! Our list of top summer foods! What’s on your list? We’re always up for trying new ideas, foods and recipes! Share your favorite summer foods with us right here on the blog, on Facebook or on Twitter! If it’s reasonable, we promise we’ll try it! We hope you enjoy these fresh, flavorful and fun foods! Come back and let us know what you think!

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Top 3 Summer Super Foods

Were you able to stay out of the hospital this 4th of July? For many, this hot summer holiday is an excuse to act crazy and forget all the rules! Unfortunately, our bodies are still paying attention to all the rules! Not only are the fireworks themselves dangerous, but the heat that always accompanies the 4th of July can pose its own health hazards if we don’t pay attention to our bodies signals and take necessary precautions to keep our bodies healthy. This year, it’s no different! In fact, many portions of the country are facing record-breaking heat this summer.

We have spent some time this morning discussing our 4th of July party menus and chosen the top 3 foods that we were glad we included on the menu! As we all know, there is a major heat wave sweeping the entire U.S. So, it’s extremely important this year to pay attention to the food and drinks that we’re consuming! Here’s a list of our Top 3 super foods to include on your summer party menu.

  1. Water is the #1 super food on our list because your body needs it! Did you know that our bodies are made up of about 60% water?  This means that when you start to get dehydrated, over half of your body begins to go in to shock… It can’t function correctly without this water. So, while you’re out enjoying your summer activities, remember to drink plenty of water! The daily recommendation is 64 oz. But, if you’re going to be out in this heat, our dietitian recommends you drink 8 oz. of water for every 30 minutes you spend outside. Drink up!

Tip: Are you struggling to drink all the water that is recommended? Try adding some light flavor, in the form of fresh fruit, to your water. The light, sweet flavor should help you enjoy your water!

  1. Summer is here and the produce is fresh! So, take advantage of it and be sure to set out plenty of green, leafy vegetables! These vegetables help provide the vitamins and nutrients that help our bodies stay strong. Plus, they are heavily composed of water. So, they won’t dehydrate our bodies by eating them.

Tip: Looking for a fun way to serve leafy greens? Serve a spinach salad with a fresh sliced apple and dried cranberries. Top it with a sweet, fruity dressing like strawberry vinaigrette… your guests will be singing your praises for weeks!

 

  1. As we’ve alluded to in the previous two tips, fresh berries are an extremely popular superfood this time of year. Fresh fruits, like blueberries and blackberries, make great snacks and are a much better choice than chips or candy. They are great for adding flavor to recipes as well. Plus, making desserts using fresh fruits usually eliminates any need for added sugar. Just remember, the possibilities are endless when it comes to adding fruit to any part of your menu.

Tip: Most berries are currently in season, so there is no better time to start building them in to your menu. Try visiting your local farmers market for the freshest, most flavorful berries.

What are your summer super foods? As always, we love to hear from you, our readers! So, leave your comments here on the blog or visit us on Facebook or Twitter! We look forward to hearing from you!

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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!

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A Plum a Day Keeps the Doctor Away! Wait… What?

Have you had your plum today? That’s right, I said plum! This isn’t the most common of fruits in our daily diets. However, I would say that a large majority of us have tried this sweet, juicy fruit at least once. So, why don’t we keep eating them?  Well, that’s simple. They just don’t rank up there with apples, oranges, bananas and even pears, in the hierarchy of ‘popular fruits’. But, they should… this fruit is packed with a lot of the nutrients our body’s need. Plus, adding it to your diet can change things up for your palate… which will encourage you to eat more fruit!

So, let’s say you’re ready to run out to the store and purchase some plums to pack in your lunches this week. What do you look for? What makes one plum better than another? Do you scratch & Sniff like a sticker? Wait, I know, do you cut a chunk out and taste it? No… it’s much simpler than that. Just take a look at the skin! The darker the skin, the better the fruit, it will taste better and is also going to be more heavily packed with essential vitamins and minerals. This is actually a good rule of thumb for any fruit!

There are also many great ways to add plums to your diet without biting in to a fresh one. Many recipes, which are sure to satisfy even the pickiest of taste buds, incorporate plums into the mix. From jam to bread and marinades to summery drinks, plums add an intriguing flavor to some of our most traditional dishes. We cooked up one of our favorite plum dishes… just for a reminder of how we feel about these fallish fruits. And, we remembered correctly. What a great treat! Here’s the recipe for you to enjoy too!  Don’t forget to leave us your feedback on the recipe. You can leave a comment here on the blog, visit us on Facebook or Twitter OR you can even call us directly at 800.NCES.BOOKS.

Looking for a fun way to introduce plums in to your diet? Check out this delicious recipe from www.allrecipes.com!