September is “Fruit and Veggies, More Matters Month.” Established by Produce for Better Health foundation (PBH), the purpose is to raise awareness about the important role that fruits and vegetables play in developing and maintaining a healthful diet. A healthful diet along with physical exercise is vital to maintaining a healthier weight.
The changes that have occurred in most diets and exercise patterns in the United States during the past 30 years play a significant role in the growing number of obese and overweight people. The childhood obesity rate has also tripled over the past 30 years.
Excess weight and obesity in children threatens the health and survival of a third of U.S. kids. It is possible that for the first time the life expectancy of today’s youth will be less that that of their parents.
Experts tell us that making changes in the habits learned early in childhood can reverse this epidemic. The earliest decisions regarding healthy food choices and physical activity occur in the home. The food choices that a child is exposed to by parents or guardians at a young age may remain with the child for a lifetime. The longer an unhealthy behavior remains entrenched, the harder it is to change that behavior.
People who include ideal amounts or who increase the quantity of fruits and veggies as part of a healthful diet are more likely to reduce their risk of developing chronic diseases. The most common chronic diseases include heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis and cancer.
In spite of past efforts, American diets are still lacking enough fruits and veggies to make a difference, especially in children’s diets. Again we can turn to the experts for advice on ways to improve the consumption of healthful food choices.
Make it easy to choose healthful foods by storing fruits and veggies prominently in the refrigerator. Increase the variety and types of produce available for your family. Provide individual servings, making selection and serving easier, especially for younger children. Decrease or eliminate unhealthy choices from your pantry and refrigerator.
Studies continue to show that children will choose healthier selections in school cafeterias if the healthier choices are more prominently displayed and when foods full of sugar and fat are eliminated. The Kenton County School District in Northern Kentucky is an excellent example of putting the child first in education and nutrition.
According to Dr. Kim Banta, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources and Community Engagement, it is all about teaching kids to make healthier choices on a daily basis.
“Kids have so much junk available to them outside of school that we don’t need to be giving it to them during school,” Banta said. French fries are being replaced with seasoned potatoes, grilled chicken patties will replace the deep fried version and only white milk will be offered. Sugary soft drinks, a leading contributor to obesity, are not available at schools.
The Franklin County Health Department encourages community members to make use of excellent nutrition sites such as MyPlate.gov and pbhfoundation.org during “Fruits and Veggies, More Matters Month.”