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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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Spring in to Picnic Day 2013

PicnicCan you think of anything more ideally perfect than an April picnic? I can’t! I’m sure that’s why tomorrow, April 23rd, is Picnic Day. However, many people don’t think of this perfect opportunity to get out, get some fresh air and enjoy a fresh, ‘springy’ meal. So, here’s our challenge to you: If you’re not already too busy today, take your lunch outside! Even if you just find a park bench or an open grassy space, odds are you can have the perfect picnic with the lunch you already packed. Or, if that’s not an option, take a few minutes to plan the perfect picnic for your family tonight or this weekend. Need a little help? Here are our top tips for packing the perfect picnic.

  1. Pack a well-balanced meal – This is important to remember when preparing any meal, especially for your children. Be sure to include a protein, grain, veggie, fruit and dairy. Tip: Freeze some mixed berries ahead of time. They’ll make a great dessert to satisfy their sweet tooth!
  2. Take plenty of H20 – Our bodies are composed of 60-70% water. Therefore, it is important that we consume plenty of H2O, especially when we’re active. Make it a goal that everyone consume 8 oz. of water each hour while you are out in the heat enjoying your picnic.
  3. Keep the cold stuff cold – Always remember food safety! To reduce the risk of sicknesses due to bacteria, cold foods need to remain cold throughout your trip.  For any non-perishable items, a picnic basket is great. However, you’ll need to keep the cold items in a cooler with ice. Tip: Reserve the bottom of the cooler for the cold items. They’ll stay cooler down there.
  4. Think about the extras – Of course you’ll need food on your picnic. But, what else do you need? A couple things to take would be bug spray and sun screen. Sunburns are still possible in the spring, even when the sun isn’t as hot.
  5. Take a long a good ground-cover – Don’t you want to be comfortable? Sometimes, grass can leave your legs a little itchy. A good ground cover will keep you clean, and itch-free.

If you’re someone who already enjoys the occasional picnic to soak up whatever sun you can, use this holiday as an opportunity to invite some friends on your picnic with you. Or, invite some of your neighborhood families to picnic at the park with you this weekend. So, enjoy Picnic Day 2013. And, don’t use it as the only day each year you picnic, instead use it to get in the habit of getting outside often!

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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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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.

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World Diabetes Day: Stand Up! Fight Diabetes!

Did you know that today is World Diabetes Day? This day is all about raising awareness from the local level to a global level. Most of you already know about diabetes. But, just to recap, diabetes is a

“chronic disease that arises when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces.  Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that enables cells to take in glucose from the blood and use it for energy. Failure to produce insulin, or of insulin to act properly, or both, leads to raised glucose (sugar) levels in the blood (hyperglycemia). This is associated with long-term damage to the body and failure of various organs and tissues.” (www.idf.org)

The effects of diabetes on the body are sickening, as very high blood sugar levels can do long term damage to many organs in the body. Here are some stunning facts (diabetes.org); 25.8 million Americans have diabetes. Another 79 million people have pre-diabetes.  In 2007, diabetes contributed to 231,004 deaths and the estimated total cost of diagnosed diabetes was $174 billion. The good news: we can fight these numbers!

Like the Coca-Cola bears, join in the fight to stop diabetes. Begin by education yourself and others around you about the causes of diabetes and the damaging effects this disease has on the body. Find a way to get involved in the fight! There are many organizations like the “International Diabetes Federation” (idf.org), StopDiabetes (stopdiabetes.com) and the American Diabetes Association (diabetes.org).  Also, don’t forget to visit the Diabetes section of the NCES Catalog website. Here, you’ll find all the tools you need to educate patients about living with diabetes and even learning to live with your own recently diagnosed diabetes.

If you have any questions about educating about or living with diabetes, please comment on this blog, visit us on Facebook or email us at info@ncescatalog.com. We love hearing from you!

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Trick or Treat: Or, should we say Trick the Treats!

Happy Halloween! I bet you’re expecting a blog all about how horrible candy is and that you should help your kids avoid it this Halloween at all costs. But, man have we got a surprise for you! The reality is that sugary junk foods like candy exist in the real world! Your kids have access to it at school, at friend’s houses and for many of you, even in your own home. Just like everything else, the trick is to teach your kids how to enjoy their treats responsibly. For many kids, simply heading out for an evening of trick or treating with a tummy full of nutritious, filling foods will help them make better decisions and not overeat all of the sweet treats they receive.

Here are a few simple & fun ideas to help you fill your family up before you head out for a night of Halloween fun!



Turkey Mummy’s:
Slice your mummy wrap (square wonton wrappers) in to strips. Then, wrap the strips around your mummy (a turkey hot dog) and bake. 350° for 20 minutes should do the trick!

Pumpkin Veggie Tray: Simply fill a plate with any vegetables of your choice and use them to make a pumpkin outline. Your kids will think its fun to make and then enjoy snacking on it too!

Pumpkin Krispies: Prepare your crispy rice treats the way you’ve always done it. But, add orange food coloring once your marshmallows have melted. After you’ve mixed in your crispies, set the mixture out on parchment paper in ‘blobs’ to let it cool. When it has cooled, but not quite set, form the blobs in to a pumpkin shape and add your features. We used chocolate chunks for the eyes and nose, almond slivers and white pearl candy for the mouth and Twizzlers for the stem. But, you can use your favorite treats to decorate your pumpkins.

Strawberry Ghosts: A Halloween twist on an old favorite. Using white dipping chocolate, give your strawberries a ghostly cloak, then decorate their faces using chocolate decorators icing.

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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.