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March is National Nutrition Month

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Kathy Kolasa

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Dear readers: It’s the time of year the registered dietitian nutritionists, health educators and coaches celebrate National Nutrition Month.

Nutrition is now a very popular and most important subject, but it hasn’t always been. The first National Nutrition Week was in 1973. It became a monthlong celebration in 1980.

I hope you will join me on March 14 — Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day — in thanking all the local RDNs for encouraging our community to eat smart and move more. There may be events at your workplace, church, doctor’s office or school.

RDNs are committed to helping people enjoy healthier lives and tasty foods. They provide personalized nutrition advice to meet people’s lifestyle, preferences and health-related needs.

At Vidant Medical Center, Janie Owens, RDN, invites us to the main cafeteria and East Carolina Heart Institute café, which are both open to the public. Look for cooking displays, samples, a farmers market and a Mindful Meal of the Day feature. RDNs will be available to answer your questions.

The Pitt County Health Department, in addition to providing activities for employees and clients, will offer samples of healthy recipes using WIC foods from 2-4 p.m. March 29, RDN Jackie Sugg said.

Throughout the month, there will be healthy food drives both at Vidant Medical Center and East Carolina University to help stock the new emergency food pantry to provide healthy food for patients being discharged from the hospital. Brody medical students leading the ECU drive hope take in 2,621 pounds of food. That’s 100 pounds for every mile Dr. Kori Brewer from Brody’s Emergency Department will run in the Boston Marathon. Our community efforts will be highlighted on the marathon’s Year of Service campaign at #PassTheBaton. Look for donation boxes around the ECU and Vidant Medical Center campuses.

Pitt Partners for Health Nutrition and Physical Activity Group is providing tips on its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/​PittPartnersForHealth. The theme this year is “Go Further with Food.”

Mary Gaskins, RDN and chair of the group, encourages people to include a variety of healthful foods from all of the food groups in daily meals and snacks; shop local whenever possible; be mindful of portion sizes; eat slowly; and use good food-safety practices. Other tips include considering the foods on hand before buying more, buying only the amount that can be eaten or frozen within a few days and using leftovers wisely and creatively.

In terms of exercise, the group advises people to find enjoyable activities that will encourage physical activity and work gradually and safely toward the goal of 150 plus minutes of activity per week.

To celebrate National Nutrition Month 2018, Partners will again be offering Cooking Matters at the Store guided grocery store tours. This year’s funding is provided by Share Our Strength in a grant to ECU’s Medical Family Therapy program. Tours, which will begin in March, are designed to provide adults who have limited resources with more information and real-world tools to help make meaningful health behavior changes. If you know a group that would benefit from these tours, call 847-8265 for information.

Tour participants will be taught about reading food labels, choosing whole-grain products and shopping for healthy foods on a budget. They also will learn about factors such as building a healthy plate, controlling portion sizes and reducing sugar-sweetened beverages. At the end of the tour, participants will practice what they learned using a $10 gift card to purchase a healthy meal. And, yes, in the last several years we have had participants prove it can be done.

National Nutrition Month is now an annual nutrition education and information campaign by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which focuses on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. The month promotes the academy and its 100,000-plus members to the public as the most valuable and credible source of timely, scientifically based food and nutrition information. For more information, visit www.eatright.org.

Professor emeritus Kathy Kolasa, a registered dietitian nutritionist and Ph.D., is an Affiliate Professor in the Brody School of Medicine at ECU. Contact her at kolasaka@ecu.edu.