I recently had the priviledge of meeting an organization called Sisterbration at their Youth Obesity Summit. Their mission is to educate, empower and enlighten African-American and other women of color with the knowledge, tools and resources necessary to adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

I love this mission. I have spent my life learning about and living these principles which, by the way, is what my entire blog is about. Maintaining a lifestyle that finds fun and fulfillment in fitness and dining smart but eating well on and off the road. As a registered dietitian with experience in everything from media to medical nutrition therapy, I enjoy sharing the art of balance, variety and moderation to help maintain health and improve quality of life. My co-speakers at the summit consisted of a physician, Dr. Susan Sugerman, the president and co-founder of Girls to Women Health and Wellness, a multidisciplinary medical practice dedicated to the physical and emotional needs of girls and young women ages 10-25. Also, a school nurse joined the conversation who has helped to make many changes in the availability and appeal of nutrient-rich foods and physical activity in her district as well as a dairy farmer committed to producing safe, wholesome nutrient-rich dairy foods providing calcium, potassium and vitamin D, three nutrients called out as needing increase in American diets by the most recent dietary guidelines. Most Americans fall short of the needed three servings of dairy each day for good health. Lastly, a former NFL player spoke on need for 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

Among the speakers, a variety of themes were discussed but all centered on providing youth in our society with the knowledge, tools and resources necessary to adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle. It is a common theme today among organizations and health practitioners. At some point, our society got off track in realizing that having health maintains all other facets of a quality life. I, for one, am excited that so many reputable and powerful players are coming together to educate and empower youth in learning these principles.

The bottom line is that people need environments that provide opportunity for them to be successful in developing a healthy lifestyle. Education and empowerment may be all that is needed to make that lifestyle doable and fun. Even the smallest act can have a big impact on people’s nutrition, fitness and future health and thus, long-term quality of life.

National Nutrition Mom

March is National Nutrition Month. As a mom and a registered dietitian, I feel it is important when packing lunches for school or teaching your kids to select school lunch that the My Plate concept can serve as an easy visual to teach kids to eat healthy.

The new school nutrition guidelines should help make this simple by having more fruits, vegetables and whole grains available and serving milk with all meals.

Choose whole grains such as the white wheat bun with lean turkey and low-fat cheese. Those serve as your protein and grain. Then, fill your plate with fruits and vegetables like the pineapple and broccoli/cauliflower with low-fat ranch dip featured on the tray. The re-sealable container of white milk serves as the dairy serving. These fresh foods make this meal not only nutritious but entice kids to eat their food.

If packing lunch, choose proteins that are lean such as white meat chicken nuggets that are baked and breaded with whole grain. Serve with lots of vegetables and fruits such as the whole grain vegetable wrap with reduced-fat cheese and cherry tomatoes. Add the apple wedges and a container of flavored milk. Flavored milk is a great option for children who might not prefer plain milk and has the same nine essential nutrients such as calcium, potassium and vitamin D.

These three nutrients were called out by the dietary guidelines as nutrients of concern as they lack in the American diet along with Fiber. Fiber can be obtained from the fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The vibrant colors make this meal visually appealing and appetizing!

At the same time, adults and moms like me can watch our portions and ensure that we are eating for good health, energy and a productive day by following the same concept. The lean beef on the plate with seasoned brown rice comprise the protein and whole grain while the carrots and blackberries round out the plate with fruits and vegetables and served with milk as the low-fat dairy. In the breakfast scenario, the mushroom cheddar squares contain egg as the protein with a variety of vegetables in the dish which are accompanied with a baked pear topped with vanilla yogurt sauce and a whole grain blueberry bagel for the grain. The dairy serving is a fruit and yogurt parfait. Lots of fruits and veges here! This breakfast will fill you up with fiber and nutrients to get you through a busy day at work, in the car pool line or both!

The bottom line is that by “Getting Your Plate in Shape” the My Plate way, people can easily “Enjoy Your Food, but Eat Less” and watch portions in order to have more energy, enjoy good health and be more productive every day.

Walks and Worms

Life is about balance…just like the 2010 Dietary Guidelines state that we should balance the calories we eat with physical activity to manage our weight. This week, I went to O’Keene, OK to a school event. The night prior, I spent in Oklahoma City where I got to eat dinner with my colleague Susan Allen and her two children. We selected MiMi’s for the home cooking and “kid appeal”. Considering I no longer order from children’s menus, I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of healthy selections available. Audrey selected spaghetti with meatballs and tomato sauce, applesauce and milk while happily munching on the whole grain fruit bread that was provided upon seating. This provided the balance promoted by the MyPlate concept of filling your plate with fruits and vegetables with smaller portions of grain and lean protein. Dessert was a miniature serving of worm dirt pudding. Apparently, this was the first time she had experienced this dish and was quite overwhelmed. We watched intently as she gingerly tried the gummy worms in her pudding. Then, was ecstatic once she did and even ended up taking some worms home.
Of course, it is important to recognize that having a little dessert is perfectly acceptable when we eat our nutrient-rich foods first. In fact, that is one thing I like about MiMi’s is they offer petite desserts not only for kids but also adults or as MyPlate says, “Enjoy Your Foods, but Eat Less.” It is about balancing your nutritious calories with your less nutritious calories and the activity you do…So, you can literally have your bread pudding and eat it too!
Besides Susan and her kids, the other thing I love about visiting Oklahoma City is Lake Hefner. Every time I travel, my hobby has been finding a beautiful place to go walk and unwind. That is my balance. As Kenneth Cooper, MD, MPH once said, “It is easier to maintain good health through proper exercise, diet and emotional balance than to regain it once it is lost.” Walking is a great way to maintain fitness and burn calories thus, maintaining weight, helping to maintain inner peace and health.
So, whether it is walking or worms, it is all about finding something that you love that helps keep you healthy and balanced!