Health & Wellness

Let’s talk nutrition!

March is National Nutrition Month, and it’s a good time to start exploring local options for healthy produce as the Farmer’s Markets get underway. It’s also a great time to think about what can be planted or raised in a personal garden, for those who have that option, or get together with a neighbor or two and start a community garden.
Oregonians are blessed to live in a region with mild weather and plenty of space to produce abundant crops, even in a backyard. As a fitness instructor, gym owner and involved with Be Your Best – a South Lane community organization that uses a collective impact approach to improve family and community health – this article will touch on the different ways that nutrition affects our lives and the lives of those around us.
Fitness and nutrition go hand in hand. The best personal training program will help you build muscle, lower your body fat percentage, improve circulation, mobility and balance, and much more; however, you are in charge of how you fuel your body.
As with fitness, nutrition has become a buzzword in the marketing industry, because it is very appealing for people struggling with body image and self-confidence to buy into a product or diet that promises energy, weight loss, muscle gains, bloat reduction and a date with your dream lover. While it may seem easy to make drastic changes to your diet that will finally bring the results you think you are looking for, it’s really a much better idea to rethink your relationship with food. As well as make small changes that are more compatible with your lifestyle, and seek nutritional support for some ideas about what your body (and your mind) need to make you feel energized and satisfied.
This is not to say that you should feel discouraged or guilty if you don’t cut your favorite foods out of your diet entirely, but it is essential to find a balance. Everyone has different goals, and there are many resources available in-person and online for nutritional guidance and support in reaching those goals. I will be compiling a directory of local nutritionists in the coming weeks for those looking for further guidance.
It is much easier to plan and shop for healthy meals when you have the means to support a weekly or monthly food budget for your family. Unfortunately, Lane County is tied with several other counties in Oregon for the second-highest rate of food insecurity in the state. The referenced article points to increased housing costs and stagnant wages leading to higher levels of food insecurity for families in Lane County.
Having consistent access to nutritious meals is important for all of us, but in particular for children and older adults, to support healthy immune systems and provide energy to sustain active bodies and minds. Healthy food is relatively easy to find in Creswell and Cottage Grove, even on a limited budget, but convenience has gotten the best of us over the past 30 years.
Fast food and grab-and-go snacks are tempting because they appear to be less expensive and save time, and because kids love them. But these products are filled with sodium and artificial flavors and colors, making them taste delicious without providing very good fuel for our bodies. Choosing items that don’t come in packages is a better bet and often less expensive in the long run.
Now, what to do with the food we have? How do we prepare meals that everyone will eat and how do we fit preparation into our busy schedules? One of the best ways to tackle this might be to browse your local library, thrift store or bookstore and find a cookbook with recipes that appeal to you – not just because they look tasty, but because they look like you might actually make them. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, so start small.
Two of my favorite cookbook authors are Marcella Hazan and Maryanna Volstedt (the latter is local). Recipes are straightforward with few ingredients and are easy to make. There are many ways to involve your family in meal prep. Kids can peel, chop and add ingredients. Get together with friends and join a food preservation course, spend an afternoon prepping meals for the week or write a plan for the week’s menus if containers or storage space aren’t available.
For those of you with time and ability, try volunteering at one of the locations in your area offering free groceries and meals for those with more limited resources. You may find that planning and cooking will not only improve your relationship with food and eating, but will lead to greater family and community connections. Buon appetito!



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