Eat Healthy, Be Active workshops help prevent obesity
by Becky Hardy | Editor-in-Chief
Apr 03, 2013 | 2092 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With Alabama being ranked the fourth most obese state in the country, Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Disease and Health Promotion of Alabama developed the ‘Eat Healthy, Be Active’ workshops available throughout the state.

Each workshop lasts six weeks. Each work- shop addresses the foods people should eat to stay healthy, how to cook those foods, along with types of exercise people should do three or more times a week.

“The main goal of the workshop is to teach people how to eat healthy and become or maintain physical activity that is based on the dietary guidelines of Americans and the 2008 physical activity for Americans,” said Onikia Brown, assistant professor of nutrition and extension specialist at the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. “The workshops are done through science-based advice that help prevent obesity and the risk for major chronic diseases.”

Participants of the workshops will learn what types of food to buy at the store as well as easy- to-grab snacks that are still nutritious.

“For example, there are snackable peppers, which may seem off putting, but there’s small peppers that can be found in the produce section that all you need to do is rinse them off and pack them up,” said Valerie Conner, extension specialist at the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. “People pop grapes in their mouths all the time, but you can also pop cherry tomatoes in your mouth too.”

The beginning sessions focus more about what to eat and what not to eat.
“One of the first sessions we’ll have people try different types of spices because we’re trying to move people away from sodium,” Conner said. “We’d rather them season their snacks with herbs and spices and let them see how it would fit in their food preparation. We’ll let them go in and try different foods, so they don’t go out wasting their money purchasing it if they don’t like it.”

Along with people throughout the communities of Alabama, these workshops also target students.

“College students are also at a very transient time and this workshop would really help (them),” Brown said. “It would equip them with tools that would give them a higher quality of life as they move onto the next phase of their life. It would also help them in their current phase of life, just to keep them actively thinking about eating healthier and keeping them physically active.”

The workshops also address healthy choices at restaurants for students to choose from.

“Also, if you’re living in your own apartment preparing your own meals, one of the workshops it shows you how to make healthy recipes with a slow cooker,” said Helen H. Jones, extension specialist at the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. “It can teach them how to make healthy meals at a low cost and have more time for studying.”

Although there has not been enough data to see actual changes within diet and amount of weekly exercise of the participants, Brown said that participants have come up to her to show heir gratitude for the program. 
“By the end of the six-week workshops we’ve found that people have changed the way they shop, the way they prepare their meals, the way they think about physical activity,” Brown said. “Participants would come up to me and say ‘I’m so glad I’m here. I’ve learned so many things.’”

Brown offers some tips on eating healthy and staying active for students looking to keep motivated.

“When you plan out your day it should include your planned eating and physical activity,” Brown said. “If you plan out your meals, you’ll know what you are going to eat, when you are going to eat, so it’s not a mad dash to the vending machine where you’ll be eating a high calorie, low nutrient snack.”
With appearance being a huge part of a young person’s life, Jones said eating healthy and staying active is the way to keep that part of their life in check.

“Another thing young people like to do is look good and be able to dance and move around if they eat healthy and stay active then they can do that,” Jones said.

All Upcoming workshops are on Saturday from 9–10 a.m., and dates include March 30, April 13 and 27 and May 25. All sessions are located at True Deliverance Holiness Church in Auburn.

For more information call Helen H. Jones at (334) 201-6775.

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