Dec. 24--As the time draws near for families to congregate around the dinner
table, officials encourage healthy eating this holiday season.
Kevin Concannon, deputy under secretary for food, nutrition and consumer
services, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, says the agency is promoting
a holiday eating program called MyPlate Holiday Makeover, designed to urge
people to eat healthier and practice moderation during the holidays.
"During the holidays, the central part of the American experience is eating,"
Concannon said. "This program is to encourage doing things in moderation and
trying simple adjustments to your meal. You'll feel better and you won't have
added the extra pounds."
The program suggests some basic, simple steps that households can take to not
overdo it such as tweaking the intake of sweets by using more fruits, as opposed
to a lot of sugar or heavy cream, drinking more water rather than
sugar-sweetened beverages and baking healthier by using spices instead of sugars
Local food pantries also encourage healthy decisions while preparing holiday
Justin Cripps, communications director with Alma Community Outreach, says the
organization strives to provide balanced, healthy meals to the people it serves.
"We're funded by churches and rely private donations from places like the River
Valley Regional Food Bank, but with anything we take in, our goal remains to
provide nutritional meals," Cripps said, mentioning the agency has provided more
than a million pounds of fresh produce this year to its patrons.
"We aim for proteins, meats and cereal to include in our meals and we give out
fresh produce, while occasionally providing dairy products and biscuits," Cripps
said. "We served close to 1,500 people last month and our service numbers
continue to rise. We want people to have healthy options here and try to give
them four to five boxes of balanced meals."
Charlotte Tidwell, director of Antioch Consolidated Association for Youth and
Family, said the organization serves about 8,000 people a month and said
providing healthy options is a priority.
"It's so important because of the obesity we see in America," Tidwell said.
"It's easier and cost-efficient to buy rice or potatoes than it is to buy fruits
and veggies, but it's nutritionally imbalanced. A primarily carbohydrate diet
causes you to miss essential vitamins and minerals you need, so it's important
to us to provide those essential items to people."
Concannon agreed, adding consumers don't have to give up some of the traditional
holiday staples, but encouraged using alternatives to reduce calorie count.
"Food is more accessible these days, but we consume too many calories and there
are health risks involved with that," Concannon said. "We're trying to promote
alternatives, by using a moderate approach, and not overindulging to lessen the
overall calorie count at the end of the meal. You don't have to put on a
hairshirt on the holidays, just use moderation."
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