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Creating Healthy Meals & Snacks for Kids this Summer

“School’s out for summer. School’s out Forever!” Well, if you’ve got kids home with you, it may sometimes feel like it’s going to last forever, especially if you’re working hard to come up with healthy meals and snacks. But, it doesn’t have to be difficult. There are so many resources available for parents that want to feed their kids healthy, balanced meals. The most common resource available is the USDA MyPlate. The MyPlate icon provides a visual of what every plate should look like for every meal. With basic tips like filling half your plate with fresh fruits and vegetables, MyPlate makes nutrition easy both at home and on the go!

Based around the MyPlate concept, NCES has developed a line of Right-Sized portion products, including educational handouts and portion plates. For tots and kids, you can use the NCES handouts, A Healthy S.T.A.R.T. for Tiny Tots and A Healthy S.T.A.R.T. for Cool Kids. These handouts are packed full of super snack ideas, fantastic family meal must-haves and a table of healthy calorie intake ranges for children ages 2-12. They also focus on teaching the NCES S.T.A.R.T. concept for health and nutrition. And, let’s not forget food safety. While the kids are home with you this summer, it’s a great time to get them involved in preparing meals. When kids understand the foods they’re eating, they are more likely to choose healthy foods.

Portion plates are also an easy way to encourage healthy eating at every meal. Divided out to make sure that kids fill their plates with the right amount of foods from each food group, these plates make healthy meals an easy choice! Around the edge of the plate, kids can read about how to fit physical activity in to their day, as well as tips about choosing the right foods to fill each section of their plate.

So, there it is! A few simple tricks to make healthy meal planning an easy chore this summer. So, stop stressing about what to feed your kids and start enjoying the beautiful sunshine that comes with summer!

Are you ready to order your NCES Healthy S.T.A.R.T. handouts? Here are a few snack ideas that we pulled out for you to use until yours arrive! As always, if you have any questions, visit us at www.ncescatalog.com. Write on our wall at www.facebook.com/ncescatalog, or call us at 877.NCES.BOOKS.

  • Dry Whole Grain Cereal
  • Fun Fruit
  • String Cheese
  • Popcorn
  • Baked Tortilla Chips & Salsa

 

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Healthy School Lunches: Do you know what your kids are eating?

Do you remember that old commercial that used to play on all the major stations, “It’s 10:00 pm, do you know where your kids are?” This topic reminds me of that commercial… with a little twist! It’s lunchtime at school; do you know what your kids are eating? This may sound like a silly question, especially to those of us clued-in to the nutrition world. But, millions of parents send their children to school every day and don’t have a clue what they’re eating. Are they getting a school lunch or joining their friends at the vending machine? And, if their getting a school lunch, are the nutrition standards in your school cafeteria where they need to be for your child to grow up strong and healthy?

No matter what your school is doing to promote nutrition in eduation, the important thing is to educate children on how to make healthy choices as they’re walking through the cafeteria line. Whether you are the parent, the educator or the school food service director, educating kids on how to make healthy choices is how to make sure that they become lifelong healthy eaters. The truth is that no matter how hard schools try to provide healthy options, they still have to be appealing to kids. If the healthy foods provided don’t look as appealing, then kids may choose to not eat at all, which is just as bad as going to the vending machine. It’s important to help kids learn to choose the healthiest foods available to them. For example, a good lunch choice would be baked chicken breast, vegetable, fruit and milk instead of fried chicken strips, mashed potatoes and fruit salad or dessert with juice. And, remember, if you’re student just doesn’t seem to like any of the healthy options provided, you may want to consider packing a lunch to ensure that your child is getting the foods they need to stay full throughout the day.

Just remember this, it’s not only important to monitor what your children are eating today. Also educate them about how to make healthy choices for themselves. Are you looking for great ways to educate students of every age on health and nutrition? NCES offers a full line of educational handouts and portion plates aimed at educating tots, kids and teens! Check them out at the previous links! Plus, stick around next week as we’ll be going over tips for raising a healthy family directly from these handouts. See you then!

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Nutrition in Schools: What’s Being Done?

ImageHere at NCES, we focus a lot on child and school nutrition! We have had the opportunity to work with schools all across the spectrum in school nutrition. Some don’t have much of a nutrition program at all, while others have great programs that are helping their students understand the importance of nutrition and educating them to make healthy choices in the lunchroom, at home, and everywhere else.

It’s no secret that schools are constantly under fire for not providing the resources that students need in order to make healthy choices and live a healthy lifestyle. However, it’s not every day that schools get the accolades they deserve for the strides that many have made to provide healthy school lunches and fitness opportunities.

So many schools across the country are participating in programs like the National Dairy Council and NFL’s Fuel Up to Play 60 program. When schools partner with Fuel Up to Play 60, students have the opportunity to participate in fun challenges and track their healthy eating and physical activity. Students work with their adult sponsors to complete ‘plays’ in their playbook and earn online rewards. Over 70,000 schools across the country currently participate in the Fuel Up to Play 60 program. If you have any other questions or want to learn more about Fuel Up to Play 60, visit their FAQ section here.

Schools are also taking steps to take unhealthy choices out of their student’s hands; like removing vending machines from their cafeterias. Pre-packaged foods are often very appealing to students. Not only are they super sweet, salty or flavorful, the flashy marketing and branding of these items makes them hard for kids to resist. Removing this temptation and showing students how great the healthy options can taste will help them develop lifelong habits of healthy eating. In February of this year, we were introduced to some new rules from the USDA that would make it harder for kids to find “sugar-filled candy, high-calorie sports drinks and greasy dishes” in their school lunchroom. Instead, healthy school lunches would be promoted. Read more about these new guidelines from CBS News here.

The gist of the story here is that many schools across the country are taking the steps necessary to foster a healthy eating and active environment for their students. Through participating in local and national programs, taking steps in their schools to remove unhealthy options and promote healthy choices, these schools are working together to save a generation. Congratulations to these schools for being pioneers in school nutrition. Keep up the great work!

We want to hear from you! What is your school doing to improve child and school nutrition in your community? What kind of results have you seen? Let’s all work together to encourage healthy lifestyles at home, at school and everywhere else! Share your ideas and stories here on the blog, our Facebook page or Twitter. Plus, you can always find the best in nutrition education at www.NCEScatalog.com

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Reader Favorites: Top School Lunch & Child/Family Resource Blogs

We hope you all had a happy National School Lunch Week. Like we said in the NCES HealthLinks Newsletter, School Lunch Week is all about raising awareness for this cause and praising those that are doing a great job of actually improving school lunches for children across the country. In our last newsletter, we asked our readers to participate by submitting their list of favorite blogs or websites that they think are the best resources for packing yummy, healthy lunches. Here’s what we got from you! (In random order)

  1. TheLunchTray.comThe Lunch Tray is a blog all about food and kids, both in school and out. The blog has a big focus on school lunch reform. But, also is passionate about sharing ways to feed your kids healthy both in and out of school. From articles about current trends and issues to recipes that will help your family eat healthy, The Lunch Tray is a great source for healthy families.
  2. 100DaysofRealFood.com100 Days of Real Food has one goal: Eat without processed foods! It may seem like a lofty goal in today’s society. But this blog can help you do it. It’s full of tips, recipes and lots of resources perfect for someone that is just trying to cut out processed foods or a seasoned professional that just wants to stay on top of this industry. If you’re just coming around to the idea, 100 Days of Real Food even helps you with their ‘10 Day Pledge’ to help you get on the right track.
  3. FedUpWithLunch.comAre you a parent looking for ideas to help your youngsters be fit and active? If so, this is a great spot for you! You’ll find everything here from blogs about how to spend less at the grocery store to cookbook reviews to help you make buying decisions. Looking for more than just a blog? Fed Up with Lunch even has a self-titled book out. The tagline; “How One Anonymous Teacher revealed the truth about school lunches-and how we can change them”.
  4. ChooseMyPlate.govChooseMyPlate.gov is the official website for everything MyPlate. So, although their site covers a lot of topics outside of child nutrition, they offer great resources on school lunches, healthy snacks and even physical activity for kids. Have you seen the Super Tracker yet? The USDA’s super tracker allows you to track your food and activity to make sure they balance! Sounds familiar, huh! Learn about balancing Energy In and Energy out with the NCES EIEO handout.
  5. NourishInteractive.com/BlogGreat for parents, teachers and everyone interested in kids health and nutrition. Nourish Interactive’s ‘Nourishing Thoughts’ blog is here to help you dig through all of the news you hear about nutrition these days. With more and more studies, products and trends constantly being thrown at us, the goal of Nourishing Thoughts is to do some of the legwork for you and only bring accurate, relevant information to the table.

Well, there you have it; our reader favorites! Going through each of these websites to research their purpose, I found each one of them to bring their own special piece to the table. I guess what Simon Cowell would call their “X Factor”. Using the links above, you can go check out each of the blogs for yourself! From the blog, you can easily follow them on Facebook and other social networking sites. If you like this list, but feel like we left your favorite off, please feel free to leave it in the comments sections so that we can all check it out!

For more great resources, you should check out the NCES Educated Kids section. Here a couple of our favorite products from this section!

MyPlate Munch and Learn Placemat: 

Make eating out or in fun with these Placemats. Each one provides activities to teach young children about eating healthy and being active while waiting to eat their food. This placemat is great for in-home, restaurants and any school or hospital cafeteria. Grades Pre-K-6. Pkg of 50, 2012.

Easy Lunchboxes

Pack lunches fast with these sturdy and reusable containers. Great for work, school or travel and perfect for both children and adults. Dishwasher, microwave & freezer safe. Made of non-toxic, food safe polypropylene (PP) BPA, PVC & Phthalate free. FDA-approved.

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Let’s Move ~ Eat Local, Eat Fresh

Are you tired of searching through fad diets and grocery store freezers to learn how to eat healthy? It’s pretty time consuming reading food label after food label to find the pre-packaged food that best meets your goals. But, I’ve never seen a piece of fruit or a vegetable with a food label on it. Why? Because they don’t need them! The ingredients in fresh fruits and vegetables are exactly what your body has been begging you for! Plus, there’s no calorie counting! And, who says that eating fresh has to be boring? Here’s a fresh recipe that’s sure to entertain your palate!

Stuffed Chicken Breast
With only 5 ingredients, you can create a fresh meal that is so full of flavor, you’ll start thinking that you should open a restaurant so you can share it with the world!

Ingredients
1) Chicken Breast
2) Garlic
3) Heirloom Tomato
4) Mozarella Cheese
5) Herbed Goat Cheese

Instructions
Take your pressed garlic, diced tomato and crumbled cheeses and stuff them in to your chicken breast. How much is up to you! Remember to get enough for flavor, while remembering portion control! Toss the stuffed chicken on the grill and cook both sides thoroughly. (About 10 minutes on each side depending on the heat of your grill)
Not sure that 5 ingredients is enough for you? You can always add anything you want for more flavor! Basil, spinach and other types of cheeses are all great options.

We hope that you are looking forward to cooking fresh for your family! Let us know what you think of this recipe! It’s all about finding ways to live healthy and fight obesity in America, especially childhood obesity! Need some more inspiration? The experienced staff at NCES is always here to help! You can find us at www.ncescatalog.com, chat with us from our homepage, or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

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Let’s Move: Healthy Lunches for Kids!

ImageIt’s hard to believe that the middle of May has already come and gone! For parents from coast to coast, this means one thing… School’s out for summer! Or, at least it soon will be. For many parents, you’ve been packing your students lunch all year. So, continuing to provide lunch throughout the summer is no big change. However, for a large number of parents, planning ahead to provide lunches all summer is a daunting task! Instead, let’s make it fun!

For many families, the idea of packing a lunch at home isn’t really an option. Whether it is due to a lack of time, income or knowledge on balanced meals, a school lunch is the only, or at least best, option for many students. So, in order to meet the needs of all students, let’s focus on educating children to build a healthy plate! This way, no matter whether a student’s lunch is packed for them, or handed to them on a divided tray, your kids will know exactly what they should and shouldn’t be eating!

  1. Know the Facts: It’s important to teach children how much food from each food group they should be eating each day. Depending on the age of the child, they may have a hard time grasping this concept. Especially if they are trying to keep track of their food intake for an entire day. Make it easier by only relying on them to track their lunch foods; you can help by keeping an eye on their breakfast and dinner foods with them. It’s also never a bad idea to send them to school with one of our Kids Right-Sized Portion Plates.  The fun design will ensure they’re not embarrassed to use it; the perfectly portioned areas will help them get their servings right.
  2. Know the Stats: According to the CDC, 1/3 of the U.S. child population is currently overweight or obese. And, unfortunately, this number continues to trend upwards year after year. The excess weight that these children are carrying around has so many immediate and long-term health effects including pre-diabetes, cardiovascular disease and increased risk for many types of cancers.
  3. Know the Cure: Prevention is the number one cure! Teaching children about balanced eating, being the example they need and demonstrating a physically active lifestyle can all aid in the prevention, and reversal of childhood obesity.  According to the CDC:

The dietary and physical activity behaviors of children and adolescents are influenced by many sectors of society, including families, communities, schools, child care settings, medical care providers, faith-based institutions, government agencies, the media, and the food and beverage industries and entertainment industries.”

So, it’s very important to pay attention to every aspect of your lifestyle that will be influencing your child’s behavior; the friends your child plays with, daycare provider and the school your child attends.

So, are you ready for the challenge? This summer, instead of dreading preparing your child’s lunch every day, take time to teach them why you are packing each piece. Tell them that the protein in their lunch helps them build muscle to be strong, the fruit helps them heal from any cuts and bruises, the vegetable helps them see well and stay focused, the whole-wheat grains give them the energy they need to play with their friends all day and dairy keeps their bones strong to avoid breaks and fractures!

We hope that you have found the tips in this blog helpful! It’s all about finding ways to get active and fight obesity in America, especially childhood obesity! Need some more inspiration? The experienced staff at NCES is always here to help! You can find us at www.ncescatalog.com, chat with us from our homepage, or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.