National Health and Nutrition Month | Be a role model for health in Tahoe Truckee |

National Health and Nutrition Month | Be a role model for health in Tahoe Truckee

George LeBard
Special to the Sierra Sun

March has been designated National Health and Nutrition month by the American Dietetic Association. The main tenants for a and#8220;healthyand#8221; lifestyle include: Exercise, variety in foods, and basically developing a lifestyle for eating on a long-term basis rather than concentrating on meal by meal.

I donand#8217;t know how many times I made big plans for a and#8220;healthierand#8221; diet. It always starts off great and#8212; I buy lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean meats. Next I work out an exercise routine and think about being on the beach with my shirt off. If I can stick with this diet and keep doing my exercises on a regular basis, it should be no time at all before I lose my and#8220;twelve-packand#8221; and get it down to a and#8220;six-pack.and#8221;

Then the excuses start coming and I discover my innate creativity. and#8220;Iand#8217;m too tired, Iand#8217;m too sore, missing one day wonand#8217;t hurt, Iand#8217;m not really that much overweight, compared to everyone else Iand#8217;m doing all right, or, I have a headache.and#8221; Eventually I am right back where I started, wishing I had the discipline and will to and#8220;just do itand#8221; and lose the weight.

The main incentive I have for trying to maintain a reasonable weight is my health. I want to look good and feel good. Plus I have three sons and it is very important for me to be a good role model for them. That means developing and#8220;goodand#8221; life-long habits.

Moderation has become my goal. I decide how much and how often. Healthy eating does not mean feeling deprived or guilty. Look at the big picture; itand#8217;s what you eat over several days and#8212; not just one day or one meal. Develop a personal fitness plan that fits your lifestyle. The key is to find a variety of activities you enjoy. They can be as simple as walking to the store or beach instead of driving. You donand#8217;t need expensive equipment or complicated fitness program. All in all it comes down to using good common sense, moderation and a little discipline.

and#8220;Weand#8217;re being supersized into obesity; people are eating more and more food because thatand#8217;s the better business model,and#8221; says obesity specialist, Dr. Low Arone, of the Weill Cornell Medical Center.

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How do we advocate for healthier food choices for school lunch and and#8220;nutrition breaksand#8221; without making the food providers feel like they are under attack? How do we get our children to make that choice? How do we get parents to stop sending their children to Head Start or pre-school with a candy bar or bag of chips for breakfast?

Education and being an example to our children is a start. This is an area where we feel we can make a difference through our nutrition education program in the elementary schools. Being an example is recognizing that we are role models for our children. Health consciousness and choosing to eat healthier foods is a lifestyle not a diet.

and#8226; Overweight children need support, acceptance, and encouragement from their parents.

and#8226; Be a good role model for your child. If your child sees you enjoying healthy foods and physical activity, he or she is more likely to do the same now and for the rest of his or her life.

and#8226; Plan family activities that provide everyone with exercise and enjoyment.

and#8226; Reduce the amount of time you and your family spend in sedentary activities, such as watching TV or playing video games. Limit TV time to less than two hours a day.

and#8226; Guide your familyand#8217;s choices rather than dictate foods. Experiment and find out what kind of fruits or vegetables your child will eat and always make them available.

and#8226; Donand#8217;t place your child on a restrictive diet.

and#8226; Avoid the use of food as a reward.

and#8226; Avoid withholding food as punishment.

and#8226; Children should be encouraged to drink water and to limit intake of beverages with added sugars, such as soft drinks, fruit juice drinks, and sports drinks.

and#8226; Even with extremely overweight children, weight loss should be gradual.

and#8226; Weight lost during a diet is frequently regained unless children are motivated to change their eating habits and activity levels for a lifetime.

As food providers we cannot tell our clients what to eat. But we can do our part to combat the obesity epidemic by promoting good nutrition. We can also limit the amount of fatty foods given out at our distributions and make sure we provide fresh produce, whole grains and dairy products. Healthy eating can be fun.

and#8226; Change the perception of overweight and obesity at all ages. The primary concern should be one of health and not appearance.

and#8226; Educate expectant parents about the many benefits of breastfeeding. Breastfed infants may be less likely to become overweight as they grow older. Mothers who breastfeed may return to pre-pregnancy weight more quickly.

and#8226; Continue to find ways to incorporate nutritious foods into our food distributions. Fruits, vegetables and milk are always available as well as staples such as rice and beans.

and#8226; Continue with our nutrition education programs in the elementary schools and with our adult programs in the community.

and#8226; Ensure that low-income families are connected with WIC.

and#8226; Most importantly, understand that the low-income need food and good nutrition not only to prevent hunger and promote health, but also to prevent obesity.

and#8212; George LeBard is the executive director of Project MANA. He e-mailed this article to Community Editor Amy Edgett at