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Cooking Fresh in the ‘Off Season’

Fresh Winter Pears NCES CatalogAs winter settles in throughout most of the country, are you finding that you’re tired of cooking from a can? When spring arrives, it’s exciting to start buying fresh and cooking light, fresh meals with seasonal fruits and vegetables. But, why wait until spring? Instead, adjust your recipes to include fresh fruits and vegetables that are in-season throughout the winter months. Here are a couple of freshtastic foods that have more flavor this time of year than any other!

Brussels Sprouts: If you just said “Gross!” under your breath, you should be ashamed! The days of mushy canned brussels sprouts are gone forever… at least for us. Instead, we’ve found ways to bake, broil and sauté these little gems into tasty side dishes full of flavor and freshness.

Simple and Light Roasted Brussels Sprouts from Food Network

Fresh, Citrusy Brussels Sprouts with Walnut-Lemon Vinaigrette – If you close your eyes, you may think it’s summer

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon & Onions – Talk about comfort food!

Pears: Growing up, canned pears were always a favorite snack in my house. Probably because they were canned in sugary syrup. But, have you tried a freshly sliced pear that’s never seen the inside of a can? I prefer a freshly cut pear over the canned variety any day. So, for the spring and summer, remember that an apple a day will keep the doctor away. But, for the winter months, switch to pears for a naturally sweet treat. These are great fresh or cooked in to your favorite dish as a replacement for apples.

Sweet Potatoes: There is a reason that sweet potatoes are a staple at every Thanksgiving and Christmas meal… they are at their finest during the holidays. Although sweet potato casseroles are the most common way we see sweet potatoes prepared, there are so many different ways to cook and enjoy them.

Spiced Sweet Potato Chips – Forget store-bought chips. This is the only snack you’ll need all winter!

Two-Toned Mashed Potatoes – A sweet twist on an old holiday favorite!

Because of the selection of frozen foods in most grocery stores these days, we can enjoy most foods all year long. However, if you have a hankering for fresh (never frozen, never canned) foods in the winter months, remember that there are foods that are in season this time of year. You may have to think outside the box to prepare them. But, rest assured that your palate will appreciate the change in flavor! For a larger list of seasonal fruits and veggies, visit fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org. What are your favorite fresh fruits and vegetables during the winter months? Share them here on the blog, on Facebook or on Twitter

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Portions from the Eyes of a Beginner

With this Sunday touted as the official end to the ‘Eating Season’, Portion Control has been weighing heavily on our minds. Starting Monday, many people will begin the yearly ritual of ‘dieting’ to remove the extra pounds they accumulated during the holidays before swimsuit season hits in just a few short months. For some they’ll choose to go it alone and find an online program or book that can guide their healthier eating choices, others will seek professional help in person through dietitians, nutritionists, weight coaches, etc. No matter the method they choose, most have the same goal; to lose weight and be healthy. We received a note from a longtime friend of NCES who has started their journey of losing some extra pounds sharing their feelings on what they’ve learning about portion control. Odds are, many of your patients are feeling this very same way!

“I’ve lost a handful of pounds, slowly and safely in the past month, learning more and more about healthy eating in the process. The most eye opening fact, however, was the difference in the amount of food I ate, rather than the content. Don’t get me wrong, a deep fried Twinkie is still a deep fried Twinkie, and there’s really no way to logically fit that into a diet, no matter how you try to sneak it in. But, say a nice cheeseburger and fries; that’s something you can enjoy, even on a diet. It’s size that really matters.

The hardest thing to wrap my head around when I started this diet, is that when I’m looking at that delicious, mouth-watering cheeseburger, and those fresh, salty fries, I’m actually seeing double; two servings. What I had to do was learn to immediately cut that burger in half, stash it (and half the fries) into a to-go container, and then begin my meal, savoring each saucy, delectable bite. Portions, or rather, what we put on our plates, have gotten ridiculously inflated over the past several decades of American dining. At any given restaurant, you’re usually given two servings on one plate at a time. So when you finish eating, it was only one plate of pancakes and hash browns, when in fact, you ate enough for two meals, or more.”

So, next time you meet with a client who is struggling with their weight loss program, hopefully this excerpt can help you to better understand where they’re struggling and why eating in America today makes it hard for us to be healthy. Or, if you’re someone who is struggling with portion control yourself, know that you’re not alone. If you feel exactly like our reader, you’re normal! Understanding and adhering to appropriate portions takes training. So, for many clients, the training is exactly where to start. NCES offers many products including portion plates, educational tear pads and food models to aid in teaching about portions at www.NCEScatalog.com. Feel free to browse the site, or you can call our on-site dietitian at 877.NCES.BOOKS for help shopping for the perfect product for you.

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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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Over the River and Through the Woods… Across the Country We Go!

The holiday season is quickly approaching. And, if your family is like ours, you’ll be traveling to destinations across the country to share holiday cheer with as many family members as you can fit in to one jam-packed season! The holidays are all about family and traditions. So, the last thing you want to do is miss out on one of your family get-togethers. But, how do you keep your family healthy during all of your travels? There are a few tips and tricks that can give your family a heads up on staying healthy, even when you’re on the go!

  1. If your travels require you to eat out, try incorporating at least one serving of fruit and one serving of vegetables with each meal. (By the way, French fries and ketchup do not count as a vegetable!)
  2. Squeeze in exercise whenever and where ever you can.  Get creative with it: If you’re flying, try walking the airport terminals between flights. If you’re driving, when you stop for a break, race your kids around the car a few times to get everyone’s blood flowing and hearts pumping a little faster. This is a much better alternative to seeing who can pick out the most sugary snack at the convenience store.
  3. Limit yourself to one sweet a day.  It’s tough when your Aunt makes the best chocolate chip cookies ever and your Grandma makes a pecan pie that you may be willing to trade one of your kids for! But, try setting a goal that you will only allow yourself one sweet treat each day. Remember, you can always take some home to enjoy throughout the following couple of weeks.

Alright, are you ready for your healthiest holiday season yet? Providing resources that will help you stay healthy is our #1 goal. That is why we have compiled the best list of health and nutrition education resources available. Be sure to visit www.ncescatalog.com to view the latest, greatest nutrition products, including our Holiday Gift Baskets… wrapped and ready to give!

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2011 Is the Year YOU Will Stay Healthy for the Holidays!

Are you tired of saying ‘THIS is the year I will stay healthy for the holidays’, only to get consumed with all of the unhealthy habits that run rampant throughout the holidays? It can definitely be a frustrating experience. But, this is your year… we’ve compiled a list of ideas to help you avoid unhealthy holiday habits and stay on the path to a healthier you!

  1. Cut the fat! Remember, there are so many substitutes you can use in your foods to cut the fat. In many recipes, you can replace oil with applesauce. Plus, it’s always a great idea to use egg substitutes instead of eggs.
  2. Continue to exercise! With all of the Christmas parties and family get-togethers, it is hard to keep your workout routine. But, find a buddy and commit to working out at least 4 times per week. You can help hold each other accountable.
  3. Don’t over indulge!  Who can resist the platefuls of homemade fudge, gallons of holiday Wassail and Santa’s cookies?  I know I can’t! The key is moderation… enjoy your favorite foods in healthy portions. And, if you do over indulge, be sure to make up for it in the gym! Remember the E.I.E.O theory, Energy In (food) needs to equal Energy Out (exercise).

Although we are pretty proud of this list, we understand that there are many other things you can do to stay healthy during the holidays! What do you do? We’d love to hear about your ideas for staying healthy this holiday so we can all start 2012 on a healthy foot! Share your thoughts here on the blog, on Facebook or on Twitter! Cant’ wait to hear from you!

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Take the Guesswork Out of your Holiday Gift Giving!

As we said the other day on Facebook, December 3rd was ‘Make Your Own Gift Day’. But, we know that you’re too busy to sit down and actually make your own gifts, so we did it for you! We’ve put together 4 gift basket options… which one is right for you? BTW – These gift baskets are wrapped and ready-to-give! Ship directly to one, or many! (Click title for more details and larger images)

$25 Holiday Gift Set

Set includes: Fruit & Veggie Note cards (1 set of 12) Eco-friendly shopping bag (1) $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook (1) and Stainless Steel Water Bottle (1). Continue reading

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It’s Time to Pitch the Old Bird

As promised, we’ve been working hard on getting together some information on Food Safety! Let’s be honest, how many days after Thanksgiving did you continue enjoying those holiday leftovers? Some of you probably have them packed for lunch today! Well, I’ve got some disheartening news for you… TUESDAY was ‘Throw Away your Leftovers Day’. That’s right, Tuesday… as in TWO days ago! So, if you haven’t yet, stop reading this and go throw away your leftovers. It’s okay… we’ll wait until you get back!

Okay, now that you’re back, let’s talk about why you shouldn’t still be eating your Thanksgiving leftovers! BACTERIA! So often, we think of bacteria when we see mold growing, or brown spots appearing on fruits and vegetables. But, the truth is that bacteria grow on so many foods while you can’t see, smell or taste it. You’ll have no idea what type of viruses or parasites that you are putting in your body. These bacteria can cause very serious foodborne illnesses, especially in children, the elderly and those with weak immune systems. So, what do you think? Is it really worth it to clean up every piece of that leftover turkey or pumpkin pie?

So, did you skip that last opportunity to go throw away your leftovers? Now is your chance… It’s not too late! To learn more about food safety, and keeping your family safe, be sure to visit www.4DayThrowAway.org. Plus, as always, you can visit the Food Safety section of the NCES website.

We want to hear from you! How long do you continue eating leftovers after the holidays? Share your response here at WordPress, on Facebook or on Twitter.

Here is a cute video to remind you of the 4 Day Throw Away rule!