Eating healthier is usually among the top New Year’s resolutions as the holiday season comes to an end. So, to make a bit easier for you, we spoke with local health and food experts to provide you with tips. 89.1 WEMU’s Jorge Avellan has the story.
A 2015 Washtenaw County Health Improvement Plan Survey revealed that only about 22% of adults in our county eat five or more fruit and vegetable servings a day.
"Here at the Washtenaw County Health Department," we have programs to help support people."
Susan Cerniglia is a spokesperson for the health department. She says the same survey helped identify some of the obstacles that may be preventing residents from eating healthier.
"Within a lot of that data, we can often see disparities by income, education, or where you live even geographically. Because that is one of the other things that we’ve learned about healthy food access, is that it can vary physically depending on where you live. How close is that, near a store, and is that a convenient store or is actually a full service grocery store that provides you all the option items that you need to eat more healthy. Do you have transportation to get there or is there accessible public transportation? So sometimes we can see that basic information on who is eating healthier, but we can also see those differences across the county."
To help get you on the right track, the county offers a free program called Wise Choices. County health educator Kim Collom explains.
"Which provides health intake screenings, goal setting, and planning, and it helps work with individuals to set small goals that they’re able to obtain. We look at settings small goals and not big ones because those tend to be more attainable and more successful."
When it’s time to go grocery shopping, it’s recommended that you don’t do it while you’re hungry because you may end up buying food you don’t need. Mary Vandewiele is Vice President of Administration at The Better Health Store. I met up with her at the Ann Arbor store.
"Always have a list. Know what you’re coming in for."
Vandewiele adds that you should also keep the store’s layout in mind when you’re doing your shopping.
"In general, the rule of thumb is to always shop the perimeter of the store, because that’s where all of the fresh products are. So we’re standing here in the fruit and vegetable aisle and, as they say, no one ever got fat eating all fruits and vegetables. When we get in trouble is when we start advancing into the middle aisles where there is process food and things that you clearly want to avoid if you’re embarking in a diet or health journey."
Now, if you think that fruits and vegetables are boring on their own, Vandewiele says you have options.
Mary: "I would take that apple, cut it up, and then go down this aisle right here to the ground nut butters, and nothing tastes better than freshly ground peanuts or almonds. And I would pair that with a serving of almond butter, and that is a snack that will keep you satisfied and good for you."
Jorge: "So you’re not just eating, I don’t want to say the plain apple, but the apple on its own, you’re kind of mixing it up to give it a little bit more flavor…"
Mary: "Yeah, and you’re cutting it up. A lot of people don’t even like biting into a whole piece of fruit, but once you cut it up and expose the inner part of it, it looks more appetizing."
Washtenaw County Health Department dietitian Jennifer Seidel Ellsworth recommends to try to motivate others in your household to eat healthy as well.
"It’s very important to make the changes for the whole family. It’s usually difficult if it’s just one of you, who wants to improve how you’re eating, compared to everybody. And it’s a good way to pass on healthier habits that you are doing. So starting from the age of two or three, children can help with washing things in the kitchen. Once they’re four, they can help with some chopping, stirring, and tossing a salad together, things like that."
For low-income residents, the Washtenaw County Health Department also offers a free monthly food distribution service through their WIC program.
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— Jorge Avellan is a reporter for 89.1 WEMU News. Contact him at 734.487.3363 or email him firstname.lastname@example.org