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Fill your Plate with Colorful Foods

 

As spring shows its beautiful face, it seems more appropriate than ever to fill our plates with colorful foods. Right now, fruits and vegetables are starting to show up in the grocery store with a new found sense of purpose! Their more colorful, more flavorful and fuller than they’ve been in quite a few months. So, let’s take advantage of the season and eat healthy!

We all know that, according to MyPlate, we should fill half our plate with fresh fruits and veggies. But, as we all know, it’s just hard to do that in the winter. We find ourselves having to get more creative to get the fruits and veggies that we need. But, this time of year, throw creativity out the window and start slicing up fresh foods to fill your plate. Plus, spring encourages us to go RAW… getting back to the basics. One of our RAW-10 Steps to Reducing America’s Waistline- tips is to avoid processed and prepackaged foods. So, in light of that and in celebration of spring, we’ve decided to share a few of our favorite RAW
recipes with you! Plus, if you haven’t had a chance to view our RAW tear pad, now is a great time. This handout will help you teach patients about the importance of ‘getting back to the basics’ by enjoying fresh foods and physical activity.

Snap Bean–Corn Salad with Yellow Tomato Vinaigrette
Source: Delish.com

Grilled Chicken and Garden Vegetable Penne Pasta with Oven Roasted Tomatoes
Source: MidwestLiving.com

Pomegranate-Glazed Chicken with Blackberries
Source: Health.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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Back to School Lunch: Yeah, it’s really that time again!

We’ve written a lot of blogs over the years about school lunch. But, it’s that time of year again. With students heading back to school everywhere across the country, we want to give parents all the tools they need to pack nutritious and yummy meals for their kids! This year, we’re focusing on R.A.W. foods! R.A.W. actually stands for Reducing America’s Waistline. But, the whole idea refers to ‘getting back to the basics’… cutting out the things that are hurting our bodies and focus on the things that help our bodies. Keep an eye out for your Fall 2012 NCES catalog for all of the new R.A.W. products! Don’t get one? Request your FREE copy here!

What are you packing in your student’s lunch? The types of foods that you’re packing are probably the most important aspect to remember when you’re making lunches for your family. Picture MyPlate when you’re packing, and always remember to fill half your plate with R.A.W. fruits & veggies. So, start by packing fresh vegetables. Try to be creative though… the last thing you want to do is turn your child off to the idea of veggies because they are forced to eat ones they don’t like the taste of. Most kids will enjoy the taste of carrots, fresh broccoli and cauliflower. If it helps, don’t be afraid to provide them a dipping sauce like Light Ranch. But, you have to be responsible for controlling the amount. Only send one serving so they don’t overdo it. Also be sure to include foods from each food group. Along with your vegetable, pack a whole wheat grain, a lean protein, dairy and fruit. All of these foods contain vitamins and nutrients that will help your student perform better in school, both physically and academically.

How much are you packing in your student’s lunch? Portion control is important, even for kids. As a matter of fact, it is especially important at this age because we are helping to create habits that kids will remember as they grow. Pay attention to the suggested portion sizes of the foods you’re packing. Remember, there really is no limit to the amount of fresh vegetables you should eat. So, if after packing all of the other elements (according to portion recommendations), you feel like your student will still be hungry; fill the rest of the lunchbox with fresh vegetables and fruits.

Coming up in the Fall 2012 catalog are “Easy Lunchboxes”. Pack lunches fast with these sturdy and reusable containers; great for work, school or travel and perfect for both children and adults. They are dishwasher, microwave & freezer safe and made of non-toxic, food safe polypropylene (PP). They are also BPA, PVC & Phthalate free. It doesn’t get much better than that! These lunchboxes are in the Fall 2012 catalog (hitting mailboxes soon) and will be available at www.NCEScatalog.com next week. Want to be the first to order yours? Send us an email at info@ncescatalog.com and we’ll let you know as soon as these lunchboxes are available for order!

What do you enjoy packing in your kids lunches?  We all learn best from each other! So, share your tips and tricks for successful school lunches here on our blog, on Facebook or on Twitter! We love hearing from you!

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Summer Munching!

Okay, we know that kids all across the country are jumping for joy over summer break!  But, we also know that parents everywhere are cringing. Summer break provides a new set of challenges for parents everywhere. One of those challenges is what to serve for lunch.  When the kids are in school, it is so easy to send them to school with a few dollars to purchase their lunch.  However, that option typically isn’t available during the summer.  So, that’s where we want to help!  We’ve found the ultimate lunch that your kids will enjoy making and will also give them the fuel they need to power through the day! (Kids Cook 1-2-3)

Burger-on-a-Stick

In many Middle Eastern countries, ground beef or lamb is grilled on sticks or skewers. These are known as kebabs. Press the mixture with your hands onto 8-inch wooden skewers and broil (or grill) them to your liking.

¼ pound ground beef chuck

1 small garlic clove

½ teaspoon ground cumin

  1. Turn the broiler (or grill) on high.
  2. Put the ground beef in a medium-sized bowl. Peel the garlic and push it through a garlic press. Add to the beef. Add the cumin, ½ teaspoon salt, and freshly ground black pepper and mix well.
  3. Divide the mixture into 4 mounds. Using your ahnds, squeeze the mixture onto 4 wooden skewers, making a long cylinder that is about 6 inches long and 2 inches wide. Flatten the mixture slightly and put the skewers on a rimmed baking sheet (if broiling). Cover the exposed wood of skewers with foil so the skewers don’t burn.
  4. Broil for 3 to 4 minutes (or grill for 8), until just cooked through. Do not overcook. Serve immediately.

Makes 4

Hopefully, this recipe will get you started planning and making nutritious lunches for your active kids. Summer is a great time for all of us, especially kids, to get outside and remain active.  It’s important to remember that our bodies need fuel to operate at their best! We’ve got some great books that will help you as you continue making lunches for your kids. A couple of these books are ‘Bag Lunches and Snacks to Fit your Food Plan’, ‘Funky Lunch’ and ‘Kids Cook 1-2-3’. They can be found by clicking the title or by visiting www.ncescatalog.com.  Ya never know. You may even like them so much that you decide to keep packing your kids a balanced lunch throughout the school year, not just during summer break. And, don’t forget, if you ever have any questions about NCES products, feel free to go online or give us a call to chat live with a dietitian.

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Let’s ‘Brown Bag It’

How many of you remember carrying your lunch to school as a kid? Did you carry it in a little brown paper bag? So many of us used to. But, with the convenience of fast food restaurants, snack machines and even cafeteria’s in our workplaces, many of us have forgotten about the art of packing our own lunch. We think it’s time to bring it back! Well… maybe not the actual brown paper bag. But, packing your own lunch (in a reusable lunch container, of course) can benefit your waistline, as well as the environment. Below are our top 3 tips to make it easier for you to get back in the habit, especially since Mom isn’t here to pack it for us anymore!

  1. 1.       Pack it the night before.  Let’s face it. It is hard enough to get everybody up, ready and out of the house in the mornings. The last thing you want to do is add another step, like making your lunch, to that crazy mix. If you pack your lunch the night before, (right after dinner, or when the kids go to bed) you’re more likely to stick with the plan and get to work with your homemade lunch.
  2. 2.       Keep it simple. Just because you are taking your own lunch doesn’t mean that it has to be a gourmet specialty that will make everyone else in the office jealous. Things that can be put together very easily, and that are fairly mobile will be a great choice.
  3. 3.       Include one food from each food group.  We all hate those late afternoon hunger pains from an unsatisfying lunch. Avoid those by including foods from each food group. Proteins will keep you fuller, longer, while the others will help keep you fully satisfied.

So, exactly what kind of lunch are we talking about? Included below is an example of an ideal lunch that is simple, filling and downright tasty!

  • Turkey sandwich:  Include light miracle whip, mustard, lettuce, tomato, onion and any other vegetables you enjoy.  If you like avocados, they will also add a great taste to this sandwich.
  • Cottage cheese and fruit: Any fruit is great with cottage cheese. But, berries in particular provide a great flavor combination and are full of antioxidants.
  • Lunch is also a great time to get some of your recommended daily water. So, ditch that diet soda and enjoy an ice cold glass of water instead.

As good as this meal is, you will get tired of it if you eat it every day. So, if you are struggling to come up with your own bag lunch ideas, be sure to check out “Bag Lunches and Snacks” available at www.NCEScatalog.com.

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Celebrating Earth Day with ‘A Million Acts of Green’

Tomorrow, April 22nd, is Earth Day and all of us here at NCES are very excited. In order for us to be healthy, our planet has to be healthy. Earth Day is a great opportunity to begin celebrating Mother Earth and brainstorming ways to keep her healthy. Have you jumped on board yet? Here are 6 ways that many Americans have started ‘Thinking Green’ to conserve our planet (Courtesy Readers Digest).

Green Driving: Roughly 1.5 million hybrid cars were sold in the US between 2004 and 2009. Most of us drive our vehicles on a daily basis. So, this is a great place to start.

Turn off the Lights: 1 in 2.17 adults claim they always keep unneeded lights off or turn the lights off when leaving a room. Not only does turning off the unused lights help save the planet, it will also have   a direct impact on your electric bill.

Recycle, Reduce, Reuse: 1 in 2.38 adults claim they always recycle. But, 1 in 20 admit they never recycle. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, recycling creates jobs, reduces pollution, energy use, and conserves national resources. Many cities are currently offering new programs to encourage residents to recycle. Check with your city to see what you can do today.

Trash Can: The average American produces 1,600 pounds of garbage a year. 1 in 3.7 adults claim they always reuse things instead of throwing them away or buying new items. But, 1 in 25 admit to never reusing things. Garbage is sitting in landfills all across this country. By reducing our personal trash, we can reduce the size of these landfills.

Running Water: 1 in 3.85 adults claim they always make an effort to use less water. However, 1 in 16.67 admit they never make an effort to conserve water. The average American uses between 80 and 100 gallons of water a day. You may be asking; if water is constantly recycled through Earth’s water cycle, why do we need to conserve it? The truth is that we currently use water faster than it can be replenished. So, conserving water eases the burden on treatment facilities, uses less resources and energy and costs us less.

Vampire Power: 1 in 6.25 adults claim they always make an effort to unplug electrical appliances when not using them. However, 1 in 6.67admit they never make such an effort. The electricity used by appliances plugged in but not in use is estimated to account for 1% of global C02 emissions. Where do you start? Begin by unplugging the items around your house that you don’t use often. For example, you may only use your toaster once every couple weeks. Therefore, it doesn’t need to be plugged in 24/7. This is also a good rule of thumb for your home printer, if you don’t use it often.

Now that we have discussed the 6 things you can do to start being green around your house, let’s discuss a few things you can do to in order to start ‘Eating Green’.  Eating Green is not only great for the planet but is great for our  bodies as well . Some things you can do to eat green include:

  • Buying local food items, including fruits, vegetables and meat.
  • Using natural food products in your recipes.
  • Plant your own garden, any size is great.
  • Pack your own lunch
  • Avoid processed foods

There are many great resources available to help you begin ‘Living Green’. For a full list of NCES products to get you started visit our ‘Green Products’ section.  Also, check out this Earth Day video created to encourage everyone to begin considering our planet when making decisions.

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Plant the Seeds of Good Nutrition

This month, which is National Fruits and Vegetables Month, give a little extra thought to the naturally grown foods that you eat (hopefully) on a daily basis.

One thing you can find scattered around the offices here at NCES are members of the Fruit and Vegetable Seedies. We know they’re for kids, but there’s nothing quite like having a friendly, smiling fruit or vegetable looking your way when you’re going about your daily business.
The fact of the matter is: it’s good to have healthy reminders around to keep you in the nutritious mood. Children especially, are more prone to picking up good nutrition habits, just by being exposed to it. Having kids help prepare meals and pick out the items for the meals gives them a sense of control when it comes to their nutrition, and gives you a chance to educate them a little bit on what might be best for them to eat.
One of the biggest areas they get their habits from is you. Leading by example works well in many situations, and when raising a child, it’s no exception. Just by eating well yourself, you’ll be giving your own child that much better of a chance to develop good eating habits in the future.
Of course, the Fruit and Veggie Seedies probably wouldn’t hurt your odds either. Food can always seem more enjoyable when it’s got a big pair of eyes and a silly smile with it.
Check them out for yourself in our catalog, in the ‘Educated Kids’ section, or by searching Item #’s 2661 and 3001 at www.ncescatalog.com.