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May is National Employee Health & Fitness Month

May is National Employee Health and Fitness Month. The goal of National Employee Health and Fitness Month is to promote the benefits of a healthy lifestyle to employers and their employees through worksite health promotion activities and environments. Worksite health and wellness programs improve the overall health and productivity of a business and its employees. Worksite wellness programs have been shown to improve health care cost management, enhance employee productivity, decrease rates of illness and injuries, and reduce employee absenteeism. The benefits for employees include lower levels of stress, increased well-being, improved physical fitness, reduced body weight, and increased health awareness.

Now is the time to bring new life to an existing wellness program or start a new program at your workplace. A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report in 2002 revealed that at worksites with physical activity programs, employers have:
 
  • reduced healthcare costs by 20 to 55 percent
  • reduced short-term sick leave by six to 32 percent
  • increased productivity by two to 52 percent
A new study published in the January 2014 issue of Health Affairs suggests that workplace wellness programs can help cut healthcare costs and reduce hospital admissions for employees with chronic illnesses. The study analyzed the PepsiCo’s Healthy Living wellness program and found their return on investment, over a seven year period, to be a savings of $3.78 for every $1 the company invested in its wellness program.

During the month of May, employers should consider bringing an activity to their workforce that encourages movement, offers a health message, is fun, and that anyone, regardless of their current fitness level, can participate in.  Some ideas include:
 
  • Bike to work day – Businesses can plan a bike-to-work event and reward employees who participate. 
  • Fitness trail – Set up a fitness trail within the office or building encouraging employees to use the stairs.  Designate stretching areas and water stations.
  • Wellness route – Map out a 30-minute walk route for employees.
  • Dance demos – Invite an instructor to move your employees through simple dance steps such as a Zumba class.
  • Chair exercise – Learn an exercise routine that involves your arms and legs from a chair!
  • Giant salad bowl – Have employees bring in a different item to put into a giant salad.
  • Stretch breaks – Implement stretch breaks throughout the work day. Give employees example stretches to do each day.
  • Snack attack – Have the employees create teams to prepare and share healthy snacks.
  • Community Garden – Create a garden at your worksite for employees to take care of and eat from.
  • Race for Wellness – Stage a 3K, 5K, or 10K event for your employees to participate in.
  • Splash and Dash – Teams compete with two runners and two swimmers for best time.
A systematic review from the American Journal of Health Promotion of 56 published studies of worksite health programs showed that well-implemented workplace health programs can lead to 25 percent savings on absenteeism, health care costs, and workers’ compensation and disability management claims costs.

For more ideas on how to implement worksite wellness programs, or to create a program for National Employee Health and Fitness Month, contact the Oshkosh YMCA at 236-3380.

Safe Cycling

Like a grizzly bear peering out of his den at the first hint of spring, the warmer weather and blue skies tend to bring Oshkosh out of hibernation. Our community seems to bloom each spring along with the plants and trees. We start seeing our neighbors again, walking, biking and doing yard work. It’s no coincidence that May is National Bicycle Awareness Month.

If you haven’t already figured it out, riding a bike is a blast! It’s good for your health and it’s good for your community. Riding a bike to work, for example, means one less car added to the morning commute and less pollution. After a long winter where much of our time is spent indoors, it’s so beneficial to your body and mind to get outside and get some exercise! It’s also crucial that everyone learns how to ride their bike safely.

As part of a community service project, the Oakwood 5th Grade Girl Scout troop would like to share some important tips for keeping our cyclists safe this spring and summer.
  1. Always wear a helmet.
  2. Wear reflective and bright colored clothing so you are visible.
  3. Don’t listen to music or talk on the phone while cycling. Stay alert!
  4. Bike in the direction of traffic and ride single file and in a straight line. If you are swerving or riding unpredictably your chances of being hit by a vehicle increase.
  5. Obey all traffic laws and lights. Act like a car and follow normal traffic patterns.
  6. It’s a good idea to carry some form of identification and or a cell phone in case of emergency.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation website, bicycles are considered "vehicles" on Wisconsin roadways. That means bicyclists must obey the rules of the road like any other vehicle and must be treated as equal users by all other vehicles.

For motorists, please remember that bicycles have a right to use the road too and we all have to work together to keep our roads safe for everyone. If you are driving a car and are approaching a cyclist in your lane, wait at least two car lengths back from the bike until there are no approaching cars in the other lane. Then pass the cyclist slowly and with a wide berth.

In partnership with the East Central Wisconsin Regional Safe Routes to School program, the Oakwood 5th Grade Girl Scouts are organizing a Walk-and-Roll to Oakwood event on May 19th for all Oakwood students, parents and staff. The goal of the event is to encourage kids to get some exercise and discover how fun it is to ride or walk to school!   

Now go dust off that old two-wheeler, and hit the road!

Written by: Josee Berg, Jenna Freiberg, Laina Hammen, Keagan Potter, Chloe Tritt and Josie Weber (Oakwood 5th Grade Girl Scouts).
 

May is Water Safety Month

As the season turns from winter to spring, the Oshkosh YMCA encourages children and parents in Oshkosh to explore the many benefits of swimming, while also keeping safety top of mind. In Y swim programs, participants can enjoy water sports, enhance or learn new techniques, meet new friends and develop confidence, while also learning safety skills that can save lives. 
 
“Swimming is not only a fun, healthy activity, but an important life skill for all children,” said Tracy Gilles, Downtown Aquatics Director at the Oshkosh YMCA. “Learning basic water safety skills is a great introduction to the world of swimming that often continues with swim lessons and competitive swim programs, and can even lead to a career.”
 
As part of National Water Safety Month in May, the Oshkosh YMCA encourages parents to take an active role in fostering a relationship between their children and swimming—beginning with water safety. Following are safety tips to practice when in and around the water:
 
  • Only swim when and where there is a lifeguard on duty; never swim alone.
  • Adults should constantly and actively watch their children.
  • Inexperienced or non-swimmers should wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket. 
  • Parents or guardians of young children should be within an arm’s reach.
  • Children and adults should not engage in breath holding activities.
 
In addition to learning lifesaving water safety skills, children can increase their physical activity by swimming. Swimming also motivates children to strive for self-improvement, teaches goal orientation and cultivates a positive mental attitude and high self-esteem. It also teaches life lessons of sport and sportsmanship, so that children can learn how to work well with teammates and coaches and how to deal with winning and losing.
 
As a leading nonprofit committed to youth development, the Y has been a leader in providing swim lessons and water safety for more than 60 years. The Oshkosh YMCA continues to help youth and adults experience the joy and benefits of swimming, so they can be healthy, confident and secure in the water. There are a variety of programs to choose from including Parent/Child lessons (ages 6 months – 3 years), Preschool swim lessons (ages 3-5), Youth swim lessons (ages 6 and up) and Adult swim lessons (ages 18+). The Oshkosh YMCA also offers Adaptive Aquatic programming for individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities. The goal of the program is to provide all ability levels an opportunity to learn new things or improve existing aquatic skills. The Oshkosh YMCA also offers private swim lessons for those that are interested in one-on-one instruction; this is offered for all ages. American Red Cross Lifeguard Training is also offered to individuals aged 15 and older who are interested in becoming a lifeguard.  Re-certification classes are also available. To ensure that everyone has an opportunity to participate in all YMCA aquatic programs, financial assistance is available to those in need to help cover the costs.
 
To learn more about the Oshkosh YMCA’s swim programs, please contact Tracy Gilles at tracygilles@oshkoshymca.org or Lisa Bifano at lisabifano@oshkoshymca.org.


 

Charging Up for a Healthy Summer!

Summer is just around the corner and with it children’s break from the routine—mornings spent sleeping in, afternoons spent watching television or playing video games in the cool air conditioning and evenings enjoying a nice ice cream cone before bed. It may sound great, but a summer spent like this can have lasting negative effects.
 
Kids are less physically active and engaged in learning during the summer months and research shows that children gain weight two to three times faster than during the school year. In addition to that, kids can fall behind academically because they don’t have access to out-of-school learning opportunities. 
 
With this in mind, on Saturday, April 29 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. the Oshkosh Community YMCA, 20th Avenue location, is hosting YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day®, an annual, national initiative to improve the health and well-being of kids and families. When a child is healthy, happy, motivated and excited, amazing things are bound to happen. Healthy Kids Day is a powerful reminder not to let children idle away their summer days but instead, focus on physical and mental play. Across the nation nearly 1.2 million participants will partake in games, healthy cooking demonstrations, arts and crafts and more. Here at the Oshkosh YMCA families and children will get to participate in a variety of classes and activities to motivate and teach families how to develop a healthy routine at home. For a complete schedule of Healthy Kids Day activities, visit www.oshkoshymca.org.
 
“At the Y, we believe charged up kids really do achieve amazing things, and there are no days off for a child’s developing mind and body” said Lisa Nething, Family and Special Events Director. “Through our strong presence and reach with children during summer months, the Healthy Kids Day platform is a great opportunity to educate families and engage kids to stay physically and intellectually active over the summer.”
 
In celebration of YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day, the Y offers the following tips to help families develop healthy habits:
 
  • High Five the Fruits and Veggies – Make sure kids get at least five servings a day, the minimum number nutritionists recommend to maintain healthy childhood development. And to keep kids’ taste buds evolving, have everyone in the family try at least one bite of a new fruit or vegetable at least once a month.
  • Foster an Early and Ongoing Passion for Books – Read to and with your kids. Help children read at every age and every stage of their development.
  • Team Up for Athletic Events – Set a family goal of great health by teaming up for community or charity events like races, walks, fun runs, bike rides, etc.
  • Volunteer Together – Find a cause that matters to the kids. Open their eyes to a world beyond themselves and the rich rewards that come from making a difference.
  • Make sleep a priority – Doctors recommend 10-12 hours of sleep a day for children ages 5-12 and 7-8 hours per night for adults. Sleep plays a critical role in maintaining our healthy immune system, metabolism, mood, memory, learning and other vital functions.
 
All kids deserve the best summer ever, and Delta is proud to be the national sponsor of Healthy Kids Day, which kicks off a healthy, active and engaged summer for kids throughout the country. 


 

Sleep Better. Feel Better.

National Sleep Awareness Week is April 23-29, 2017. Sleep is a basic necessity of life. It is as important to our health as food and water. When we get adequate sleep, we feel refreshed and ready to take on daily activities. When we don’t get enough sleep, it can have a major impact on our feelings, daily performance, and overall quality of life. Dr. Michael Duffy, Aurora Health Care, states, “People need sleep. For good brain health, we need a good night’s sleep. It’s a way for the brain to rest and recover.”

How much sleep do we need? The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following guidelines: Infants and babies (0-2 months) need 10.5 to 18.5 hours per day, and infants and babies (2-12 months) need 14-15 hours per day. Toddlers (12-18 months) required 13-15 hours per day, and toddlers (18 months-3 years) need 12-14 hours per day. It is recommended children aged 3-5 years get 11-13 hours per night, and children 5-12 years get 9-11 hours per night. Adolescents should get between 8.5-9.5 hours per night, and adults, on average, should get 7-9 hours per night. “Everyone’s sleep needs are different,“ says Dr. Duffy. “It’s important to wake up and feel rested.” Dr. Duffy also recommends people stay on a regular sleep schedule, meaning going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, including weekends.

As we sleep, we pass through many states and stages. Our sleep follows a pattern of REM (rapid-eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement) through a typical 8-hour period, which alternate every 90 minutes. NREM accounts for about 75 percent of the night – as we begin to fall asleep we enter NREM which has four stages. Stage one is light sleep (between awake and entering sleep); stage two is the onset of sleep (become disengaged with the environment, body temperature goes down and breathing and heart rate are regular); stage three and four are the deepest sleep (blood pressure drops, breathing becomes slower, energy is regained, and hormones are released for growth and development). REM sleep occurs for about 25 percent of the night about 90 minutes after falling asleep and increases throughout the night. REM sleep is necessary for providing energy to the brain and body. This part of sleep is when the brain is active, dreams occur and eyes dart back and forth. During this time, your body becomes immobile and relaxed, muscles shut down, and breathing and heart rate may become irregular. REM sleep is very important to daytime performance.

There are some illnesses that can affect sleeping including insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, depression, restless legs syndrome, sleepwalking, and sleep terrors. Research also shows the poor sleep can contribute to obesity because when we are sleep deprived, we feel the need to eat more, which can lead to weight gain. Dr. Duffy recommends people consider seeing a doctor if they have any of the following symptoms: nighttime restlessness, not sleeping soundly, not happy with your quality of sleep, persistent insomnia, or excessive daytime drowsiness. 

The National Sleep Foundation recommends people who are having sleep problems or regular daytime sleepiness use a sleep diary to record sleep patterns and the amount of sleep they are getting. Dr. Duffy also recommends the following tips for good sleep: avoid caffeine close to bedtime (coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate), avoid nicotine, avoid alcohol (leads to disrupted sleep), exercise regularly (but complete your workout two to four hours before you go to sleep), establish a regular bedtime routine, and create a sleep-conducive environment (dark, free of electronics, quiet).

“Sleep is the golden chain that binds health and our bodies together.” Thomas Dekker
 

Thank A Volunteer

The Oshkosh Community YMCA is encouraging community members to use National Volunteer Week (April 23-29, 2017) to take a moment and thank the volunteers in their lives.
 
“Without volunteers, the Y wouldn’t be the same; they’re the heart and soul of our organization and without their hard work, dedication, and selflessness we couldn’t do the work we do every day to help kids, families and communities thrive,” said Tom Blaze, President and CEO of the Oshkosh Community YMCA. “By bringing people together from all walks of life around a shared purpose to do good, the Y is creating a stronger, more cohesive community.”
 
As one of the leading nonprofits and volunteer organizations in the country, nearly 600,000 people volunteer at the Y each year and here in Oshkosh more than 800 give back through activities such as mentoring teens, coaching youth sports, serving on our boards and spearheading fundraising drives. These opportunities also help volunteers enhance their personal well-being and develop meaningful relationships – all while making an impact in communities they care about.
 
Here in Oshkosh, Y volunteers help the Oshkosh YMCA raise money for the Y’s Annual Campaign through selling beverages at EAA and Waterfest. Mark Zuehlke joined the Oshkosh YMCA in early 2014 after losing his wife to a very rare type of cancer. Mark’s friends in a men’s grievance group encouraged him to join knowing that it would help him meet new people and get him back into a routine. Shortly after joining, Mark began volunteering for various fundraisers that help support the campaign. He goes above and beyond, contributing countless hours to the Y throughout the year. For the last 3 summers, Mark has helped at EAA AirVenture working the YMCA Beverage Carts. He has also volunteered at Waterfest the past two years.

In 2016, Mark, along with several other volunteers, helped the Y raise nearly $12,000 selling water and soda at EAA AirVenture. Shortly before the event, Mark was diagnosed with bladder cancer. After undergoing two surgeries, one during the week of EAA, Mark revealed his strong commitment to his volunteer role. His dedication to the Oshkosh YMCA, and the community, is truly remarkable. Many more opportunities exist for others to help make a difference.
 
National Volunteer Week is a great time to get involved and give back. Here are four ways individuals can take an active role at the Y and in their community:
 
  1. Help with Y fundraising efforts to ensure those in need can access essential programs and services to reach their full potential.
  2. Get involved with a Y mentoring or tutoring program to help youth learn new skills, build confidence, and achieve their goals.
  3. Coach a sports team, teach a class, or ask Y staff about other ways to get involved with a program of interest.
  4. Invite friends and neighbors to join you in contributing to a stronger community. 
 
To learn more about volunteer opportunities at the Oshkosh Community YMCA, contact Siri Smits at sirismits@oshkoshymca.org
 

National Alcohol Awareness Month

April is National Alcohol Awareness Month. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. states that alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States with 17.6 million people, or one in every 12 adults, suffering from alcohol abuse or dependence. More than half of all adults have a family history of alcoholism or problem drinking, and more than 7 million children live in a household where at least one parent is dependent on alcohol. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 79,000 deaths per year are attributed to excessive alcohol use. Alcoholism is the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the nation and up to 40 percent of all hospital beds in the United States (except for those being used by maternity and intensive care patients) are being used to treat health conditions that are related to alcohol consumption.

Excessive alcohol use can lead to numerous health problems such as dementia, stroke, cardiovascular problems, psychiatric problems such as depression or anxiety, social problems such as unemployment and family problems, increased risk of cancers, liver diseases, and gastrointestinal problems. Common signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse include: neglecting responsibilities at home, work or school; using alcohol in dangerous situations; experiencing legal problems due to drinking, for instance, getting arrested for drinking and driving; continued drinking during relationship problems with friends, family or a spouse; drinking to de-stress, for example, getting drunk after a stressful day.

What is alcohol? Alcohol that is typically consumed is ethyl alcohol and is produced by a fermentation of yeast, sugars and starches. It is a central nervous system depressant drug found in beer, wine, and liquor. Alcohol, once consumed, is rapidly absorbed by the stomach and small intestine into the bloodstream and then circulated to every organ in the body, including the brain. Once the alcohol is absorbed in the bloodstream, five percent is eliminated through the kidneys in urine, the lungs exhale five percent, and the liver breaks down the remaining 90 percent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women tend to absorb more alcohol when they drink, and take longer to break it down and remove it from their bodies compared to their male counterparts. Even when men and women drink the same amount of alcohol, women tend to have higher levels of alcohol in their blood than men, and the immediate effects of impairment occur quicker and last longer.

Alcohol is metabolized by the liver at the average rate of one standard drink per hour. A standard alcoholic drink contains 14 grams of pure alcohol (0.6 ounces) such as: 12-ounces of better, 8-ounces of malt liquor, 5-ounces of wine, or 1.5-ounce shot of hard liquor. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend that if you choose to drink alcohol, do not exceed one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men. The Dietary Guidelines also recommends the following people not consume alcohol: children and teenagers under the age of 21, individuals who can’t limit their drinking, women who are pregnant or who may become pregnant, individuals who plan to operate a car or machinery, people taking prescription or over-the-counter medications that might interact with alcohol, people with certain medical conditions, and people recovering from alcoholism.

Drinking too much alcohol is dangerous at any age. We can all do our part to prevent alcohol abuse in our community. Make a difference by spreading the word about strategies for preventing alcohol abuse and encourage people to seek support if necessary. 

        

Diabetes Alert Day 2017

You Can’t Afford to Ignore Prediabetes
 
Tuesday, March 28, is American Diabetes Association (ADA) Alert Day®, and the Oshkosh Community YMCA wants residents of Oshkosh to know their risk for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, as well as preventive steps they can take today to reduce the chances of developing the disease.
 
In the United States alone, diabetes affects nearly 29 million people; another 86 million Americans have prediabetes, yet only about 10 percent are aware of it. These statistics are alarming, and the impact on the cost of health care (in 2012 alone, the ADA estimates that diabetes cost the health care system $245 billion) makes preventing the number of new cases of type 2 diabetes more important than ever before.
 
The nation’s struggle with obesity and type 2 diabetes is no surprise but the number of people with prediabetes is a growing issue, especially when so few people realize they have the condition. Prediabetes is a condition in which individuals have blood glucose levels that are higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. Often preventable, people with prediabetes can reduce their risk for developing type 2 diabetes by adopting behavior changes that include eating healthier and increasing physical activity. People with prediabetes are at risk for not only developing type 2 diabetes, but also cardiovascular disease, stroke and other conditions.
 
As the leading community-based network committed to improving the nation’s health the Oshkosh Community YMCA encourages all adults to take a diabetes risk test at www.ymca.net/diabetes. Several factors that could put a person at risk for type 2 diabetes include family history, age, weight and activity level, among others.
 
“Studies show that people with prediabetes can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes by making simple lifestyle changes that include eating healthier and increasing physical activity,” said Dan Braun, Active Aging and Special Initiatives Director at the Oshkosh Community YMCA. “Steps taken now to prevent developing diabetes not only makes good health sense; it makes good economic sense.”
 
The Oshkosh Community YMCA is helping people make healthier choices that can help reduce the risk of developing prediabetes or type 2 diabetes by encouraging community members and businesses to participate in the YMCA’s National Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). 
 
Some basic lifestyle changes that contribute to weight loss and an increased focus on healthy living can decrease the risk for type 2 diabetes. Among these are:
 
  • Reduce portion sizes of the foods you eat that may be high in fat or calories.
  • Keep a food diary to increase awareness of eating patterns and behaviors.
  • Be moderately active at least 30 minutes per day five days a week.
  • Choose water to drink instead of beverages with added sugar.
  • Incorporate more activity in your day, like taking the stairs or parking farther away from your destination.
  • Speak to your doctor about your diabetes risk factors, especially if you have a family history of the disease or are overweight. 
 
To learn more about the DPP at the Oshkosh Community YMCA, contact Dan Braun at danbraun@oshkoshymca.org or 920.230.8915.

              
 

Poison Prevention

National Poison Prevention Week is March 19-25, 2017. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, children under the age of six accounts for half of all poison exposure calls to the poison center. Adults account for 92 percent of all poison related deaths reported to the poison center.  There are many different ways people can come in contact with poison such as poison ingestion, inhalation, and absorption through the skin. Some common poisons include medicines, cleaning supplies, pesticides, anti-freeze and even energy drinks.

At a young age, children tend to put things in their mouth; this is where poisons found within the household can be dangerous. Children tend to be eye level with poisonous products found in the kitchen and bathroom. Keep household poisons out of reach of small children.

In order for children to be safe from different poisons located throughout the house, here are some simple tips that can be done to prevent poisoning:
 
  • Keep medicine in the original container with a child proof lid.
  • Buy safety locks for cabinets that contain poisonous products.
  • Have a carbon monoxide alarm located throughout the house.
  • Don’t tell children that medicine is “candy” in order for them to take it. Children can get the wrong impression and actually think the medicine is candy and ingest more than what is recommended.
Here are some additional tips to keep adults safe from household poisons:
 
  • Read and follow directions and warnings on medicine labels before taking any medicine.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist what you should be aware of when taking medicines, some medicines don’t react well to other medicines. Make sure your doctor knows everything you are taking including all prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins and herbal remedies.
  • Turn lights on to take medicines so you are aware of what you are taking.
  • Never share prescription medicines.
  • Keep potential poisons in their original containers.
  • Do not use food containers such as cups or bottles to store household and chemical products.
  • Store food and household chemical products in separate areas.
  • Never mix household chemical products together; mixing chemicals could cause poisonous gas.
  • Turn on fans and windows when using household chemical products.
  • Make sure spray nozzles on household chemicals are directed away from the face and other people.
  • Wear protective clothing when spraying pesticides and other chemicals and stay away from areas that have recently been sprayed.
  • Don’t sniff chemical containers if you don’t know what is inside.
  • Discard old or outdated household chemical products.
Poison centers offer free, private, confidential medical advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can reach your local poison center by calling 1-800-222-1222.
 

Happy National Nutrition Month!

March is National Nutrition Month, which makes it a great time to review healthy eating habits for the entire family. The American Heart Association gives the following suggestions for families to eat better: Make it fun for kids to try new fruits and vegetables. Let them pick out a new fruit or vegetable in the grocery store each week, and figure out together how to cook or prepare it in a healthy way. Choose whole-grain foods, such as whole-wheat bread, rye bread, brown rice, popcorn, oatmeal and whole-grain cereal. Help your children develop healthy habits early in life that will bring lifelong benefits. Be a good role model, make it fun, and involve the whole family in lifestyle changes.
 
Chicken, fish and beans are good choices for protein. Remove skin and visible fat from poultry. If you do eat red meat, limit it to one time per week, keep portion size small and choose the leanest cuts. Eat fish high in omega-3 fatty acids. Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout, and albacore tuna are good choices and high in protein. Try a meatless meal each week. Vegetables and beans can add protein, fiber, and other nutrients to a meal.
 
Cook at home with your family so you have more control over ingredients and portion sizes. For snack time, keep fresh fruit and pre-chopped or no-chop veggies on hand. Your family is more likely to grab fruits and vegetables over other items if they’re readily available. A small handful of nuts or seeds can be a satisfying and healthy snack. Look for unsalted or lightly salted nuts. Almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts are all good choices. Package your own healthy snacks; put cut-up veggies and fruits in portion-sized containers for easy, healthy snacking on the go, without the added sugars and sodium.
 
Read food labels  and pick healthy foods that provide nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber but limit sodium, added sugars, saturated fat, and trans-fat. Vegetables and fruits are loaded with nutrients and fiber, and typically low in calories and sodium. Eat the rainbow, it’s a fun and delicious way to make sure your family is eating a good variety of fruits and vegetables. Eat as many different colors as you can each day. Fresh, frozen, or canned produce can all be healthy choices, but compare food labels and choose wisely. 
 
Use fresh or dried herbs and spices or a salt-free seasoning blend in place of salt when cooking. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime to add flavor to cooked foods. Cook vegetables in healthy ways that will help bring out their natural flavors, including roasting, grilling, steaming and baking.  Instead of frying foods – which can add a lot of extra calories and unhealthy fats– use cooking methods that add little or no solid fat, like roasting, grilling, baking or steaming.

Try sparkling water, unsweetened tea or sugar-free beverages instead of sugar-sweetened soda or tea. Add lemon, lime, or berries to beverages for extra flavor. Enjoy fruit for dessert most days and limit traditional desserts to special occasions. Try a delicious smoothie or a mixed berry and yogurt parfait for dessert instead. Watch out for added sugars. They add extra calories but no helpful nutrients. Sugar-sweetened beverages and soft drinks are the number one source of added sugars for most of us.

Grow fruits and veggies in your own garden. Kids are more likely to try something they’ve grown themselves. Schedule time each week to plan healthy meals. Encourage your kids to be active in the kitchen. They’ll be more excited about eating healthy foods when they’ve been involved. Give them age-appropriate tasks and keep a step-stool handy. Keep your recipes, grocery list and coupons in the same place to make planning and budgeting easier. Eating healthy on a budget can seem difficult, but it can be done! Many fruits, vegetables and legumes (beans and peas) cost less than one dollar per serving. 

Eating a healthy diet may lower the risk of your family developing many diseases such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. Use National Nutrition Month to review your family’s nutrition habits and create new healthy ones together.

              
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