Monday, March 31, 2014

But what about the children?

     Now that National Nutrition Month is coming to an end we’ve touched upon almost all the topics of nutrition, all but one.
    The children. Children are our future, if they aren’t eating well does it impact their development? The answer is yes! Luckily for our state we are doing a lot to combat the hunger our children are facing and we’re starting with breakfast. A healthy breakfast helps students focus in class, score higher on standardized tests, when children are hungry they don’t concentrate as well and tend to do poorer in classes as a result. New Jersey schools are feeding breakfast to about 48,000 more low-income children each school day and are eligible to feed of 300,000 more! They’ve jumped to 37 nationally ranked school breakfast programs and don’t plan on stopping there.
    So how did they do this? One of the many ways they rose to 37 was by serving breakfast in the first few minutes of the school day or “breakfast after the bell” as they like to call it. Hunger is a major barrier to learning. The progress of more children enjoying breakfast before class means that more students have a better chance of succeeding in school. The NJ Food for Thought Campaign is working hard at making sure our children are getting a nutritious breakfast without jeopardizing class time. They have developed several models to ensure students are getting proper nutrition, from breakfast in class to grab and go. They are making sure that students who qualify for the free breakfast program get breakfast.
    “New Jersey can rise to the top of the school breakfast ranks,” LaTourette added. “All it takes is for school communities to come together and decide to serve breakfast in a way that is better for kids.  That is what’s most important, that it’s better for the kids. It’s been found that students who eat breakfast at school are more likely to consume a nutritionally substantive breakfast and to consume significantly more calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, fruit,and dairy products at breakfast, when compared to students from schools with a traditional school breakfast program. This is great becomes those minerals play a key role in bone development and overall growth.  Also school breakfast programs have show that children who eat breakfast have more  favorable weight-related outcomes, this means lower BMI and less likely to become obese. These are all great reasons to support the campaign for free breakfast. If you would like some more facts check out the fact sheet created by the FRAC.
    If your children’s schools are not offering free breakfast you can get started yourself, today, and now! First thing you should do is contact school nutrition director or cafeteria manager, and tell them you are interested in breakfast in the classroom. Next step is to build support within the school community, starting with teachers, school support staff, principals, and custodial staff. Their support will help you idea grow! The NJ Food for Thought Campaign has set a goal to increase school breakfast participation by 50 percent by June 2014 – and is well on the way to meeting that goal. In order to reach it they need your help so sign up with them, get involved, and let’s start feeding our kids to health. #nutritionforall


Friday, March 28, 2014

What is the deal with nutrition labels?

Since we talked about some pretty serious stuff yesterday I think it’s best with lighten up the mood with some nutritional news. There’s been a lot of chatter about those pesky nutrition labels we’ve all seen on the side of our food products. What are they all about? Today we’re going to over how to read these labels and understand what’s most important on them. As well we are going to discuss the changes the FDA is planning on making to the labels we’ve grown accustomed to.
To begin go grab a packaged food item in your house! The first thing you should look at is the serving size and serving per container, these two phrases are not usually the same. Instead the serving size is the amount of the container you should eat and the servings per container is how many servings are in the container. Not too bad, right? So, if your serving size is 1 cup you now know that the nutrition facts to follow are for that serving, 1 cup. This bit of information is important for your next step.
Take a look at the calories on your package, the number it says represents the calories for your serving size, not your servings per container. This is where a lot of us get mixed up, but after today you won’t! This number means that if you accidentally ate a whole bag of chips that had 2.5 servings per container you have to then multiply the calories by 2.5. PAUSE It’s getting a little confusing, right? Luckily for us the FDA is taking steps to lessen this confusion of calories per serving in the updated labels they have proposed. “By law, the label information on serving sizes must be based on what people actually eat, not on what they ‘should’ be eating.” If the proposal goes through that means that when you finish eating your whole bag of chips just by looking at the label you’ll be able to know how many calories you consumed, no math involved! But until then we will have to do either some measuring or some multiplication.
Next let’s go down to the next section with total fat, cholesterol, sodium, and total carbohydrate. These should be limited in your diet because too much of them can cause damage to our bodies. The DV is the daily value, and this tells you how much of the recommended daily value you’re getting from the one product. So if your label says the DV% of your total fat is 18% you know that 18% of your total fat has been consumed and you only need to consume 82%. However, these values are based on a 2000 calorie diet and most of us are not eating that much in a day. So it’s best to use the DV% as a guide to not over consume your nutrients. Especially these four because they are not always that great for you. But what about good carbs? Not all carbs are bad, and that is the biggest misconception in our society. Unfortunately the FDA is not making changes on this bit of information, instead they are changing “total carbohydrate” to “total carbs”. This really isn’t going to do much for your understanding of carbs, so I found this great link to help you understand which carbs you should be eating.
The next section we should focus on is on the dietary fiber, protein, and the vitamins and minerals. These are very important for us, especially fiber. It is recommended that men get up to 30 grams of fiber per day and women up to 25 grams. Protein is great for our bodies and we can get it from a lot of foods, such as beans, vegetables, legumes, and meat. Vitamins and minerals also play a huge part in our body as cofactors for many key reactions in our body. They help keep things running, developing, and functioning in our bodies, so it’s very important that we include and welcome them into our diet. The FDA even says that eating enough of these nutrients can improve your health and help reduce the risk of some diseases and conditions!
The last section on labels that most people ignore is the footnote, these just explain to consumers the daily value of nutrient that we should be consuming. Luckily for you I linked you up to the DV chart for all your nutrients! One more thing that gets overlooked in many guides is the ingredient list! The general rule I follow is to look at the servings, calories, and then the ingredients. And, if the ingredients list is more than five items long (especially five I can’t pronounce) I try my best to not eat it. This is just a general rule I follow, granted all rules are meant to be broken, but it really helps you stay away from processed foods and confusing nutrition labels.
Last bit of information, if the proposal gets accepted and the FDA makes the changes to the labels the FDA estimates it will cost the food industry $2 billion to implement these changes, but also forecasts a $20-30 billion public health benefit! If that isn’t motivating enough to encourage our government to make these needed changes, I don’t know what is. Until then, read your labels, eat smart, and eat clean. #nutritionforall


Sunday, March 23, 2014

How secure is food in Passaic County?

Food is life, food is medicine, food is fuel and most importantly food is good! With all that being said it is obvious that food is a huge part of our lives, it has been calculated that Americans spend two and half hours eating or drinking everyday! However, in this same study they found that as household income decreases so does the amount of time spent with food. That means the amount of time spent on shopping for food, preparing, serving, and consuming food all go down along with income, why is this? Is it because people with lower income don’t have time for food, or is it because there isn’t ample food readily available for them and their families. It has been found that it is a combination of the two. Families with lower incomes spend a lot of their time working and eat when they are at work, usually during a break or while they work. The foods they consume are relatively quick and mostly prepared. These families also spend less time grocery shopping, mostly because they don’t have the time, energy, or enough resources to reach a supermarket which will have fresh products with great nutritional value.
The Hunger-Free Committee did an assessment and found some alarming facts about the 32,000 food insecure households of Passaic County. In this assessment they found 17% of these household get most of their food from corner stores and bodegas. Let’s picture this for a moment. How much fresh and nutritional food can you really fit into a bodega? And, are bodegas really known for having the best quality of food, yes and no. My father used to own a bodega back in the day, and he was able to provide the staples to his customers. These included milk, eggs, and a lot of root vegetables like yucca, potatoes, and even plantains. However, this isn’t enough to feed a family, especially when some of the produce may be going bad or some items have gone past their expiration date. And, the households of Passaic County know this, 37% of them know this and admitted that they would but their food somewhere else if they could. So why can’t they?
It comes down to availability, availability is a great measure of how food secure you are. If availability isn’t stable then neither is the security of your food. Around 26% of Passaic County residents believe that safe and nutritious food is very unavailable to them and their families! They rely on farmer’s markets, community gardens, and food co-op programs. However, not all these get used throughout the year, mostly when they are in season. Once they are out of season household rely on the corner stores wishing they could go to other places to get their food. The reason they cannot get their food however is due to the distance they would have to travel to get to a supermarket. In the assessment they found 73% of people drive to the location, that leaves 27% of people without access to safe and nutritious food! These people who don’t have access to food do not have a car or are unable to drive and in turn would have to rely on public transportation, which isn’t always available. Elderly citizens are of most concern with transportation because they don’t have the resources to get their own foods, whether it be because they can’t get to the supermarket or because they can’t carry their goods home.
Programs focused on elderly care and their food insecurity would be a great help to the people of Passaic county, especially down-county. Another key factor in the unavailability of food is money. A lot of Passaic county residents experience food insecurity due to high food and housing costs, low wage, and unemployment. These are common in many households and severely impact their ability to find food that is readily available to them and their family. Families that have high housing costs spend close to half of their income on rent, the rest of their income has to be divided between food and other expenses. It is often difficult for these families to keep up with the demands of life and still put food on the table. What is normal in families experiencing these hardships is choosing other necessities over food that is nutritious. These families tend to get cheap processed foods because it’s convenient.
So what’s the solution? First and foremost, there needs to be education, education of food, budgeting, and wellness. These, when understood, are very effective and managing the hardships of hunger and security. Secondly awareness, not all residents of Passaic county are aware of all the county has to offer to help ease and end the danger of food security. The programs that are most used are farmer’s markets and pantries, but the county offers a lot more than that there are many community gardens that work to help families doubling their value of SNAP benefits to allow them to buy more produce. Lastly, there needs to be a change in the way our public policy handles food insecurity in the county. It is up to us and you to get involved with your community to make and demand for change. Asking the government to create more resources so people can get access to food as well as asking for use of land to create gardening spaces. The government is supposed to help you, but they can’t help you if they can’t hear you.


For more information on Food Insecurity please see the United Way of Passaic County PowerPoint here.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Why is my lettuce brown and my meat green?

On site at one of City Green’s market a customer spoke to a staff member about the issues she was seeing in her community. The customer spoke of how she wished she could buy fresh produce closer to home and she enjoyed trying new vegetables like kale. It has been estimated that 37% of Passaic county residents like her would buy their food somewhere else if they could. The City Green employee asked her why she wasn’t able to purchase or find fresh produce in her hometown. The reply was simply stated,  “the lettuce is brown and the meat is green”.
So why is the lettuce going bad? Is it because 17% of Passaic County residents buy most of their foods from corner stores? Is it because it is so hard for communities dependent on SNAP benefits, or any other government benefits to purchase fresh, healthy, and nutritious foods in their own home? A go to answer is always “ because eating healthy is so much more expensive than eating unhealthy”. To further understand that issue I did some research on the topic and found that there was a lof of discussion on the issue. Firstly, when comparing the availability of fresh foods to processed foods, which has the longer shelf life? Not the fresh produce, these spoil, cannot be purchased in bulk, nor stored. Because of these reasons people with little money to spend on food tend to sway away from foods they know will go bad in a few days.  Another reason fresh produce is so expensive comes down to the government. The government does not subsidize produce because they cannot mass produce it. Unlike, high fructose corn syrup which has been found to generate $16.9 billion in federal subsidies sharing the profits with other companies and organizations in the business of producing and distributing corn syrup, corn starch and soy oils.
However just lowering the price of produce and fresh goods isn’t enough. Habits need to be formed, from the people and the government. People need to understand why they should incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into their diets. The government should create incentives to buy healthy foods, suggestions to help create these incentives include placing taxes on foods with low nutritional value, and linking the purchase of fruits and produce to SNAP benefits. In an article by Carla Williams she proposed using the taxes collected from the foods with low nutritional value to subsidize fruits and vegetables. This is an amazing proposal that needs government intervention and policy implementation. The government also needs to educate the people. They need to be educated about the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables, about the connection of nutrition and overall health, and the importance of developing budgeting. Learning how to budget will help people spend the right amount of money on nutritious foods in turn saving them money in the long run because they will be healthy and won’t need medical care. That’s a great save that is worth all the Swiss Chard on the planet! But it’s not that simple, the biggest issue we’re facing is "both food stamps, now SNAP, and health insurance for the poor are government subsidized programs; the government is paying people to eat poorly and then is paying to deal with the health consequences.”  says Keith-Thomas Ayoob, associate professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. This is a cycle and a connection that has been going on for years and can only end with proper education, of the body, food, and health. 
Now that we’ve found out why the lettuce is turning brown, why is the meat turning green? It has been estimated that the average American spends about 10-15% of their income on food. This estimate is a little low in comparison to Passaic County residents who have been found to spend about 30% of their net income on food and about 30-40% of their income on rent. That is a lot of their money that gets taken up too quickly to survive and feed a whole family. Especially with prices of meat increasing now more than ever “Retail beef prices have risen by an average of $1 per pound since 2007. Prices for cattle have jumped by as much as 25% in the past two years”. This is an that will hurt the producers and cause people to drive away from consuming meat because it is too costly. So what food does that leave the average family? Processed junk, not at all!
There are many ways to get your belly full at a low cost, there are many articles online about finding ways to eat well on a low budget, but the easiest method is to reduce meat consumption and increase grains, legumes, and beans into your diet. These are cheap, versatile, can be stored, and most important filled with nutrients!  Other nutritious foods that should be incorporated into your diet, and are cheap, are “yogurt, eggs, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, citrus juices and fortified cereals offer high nutrient density.” Incorporating these foods and skills will not only help keep you healthy, but it will also help you save some money. So give it a try, because with these changes you won’t be seeing too much brown lettuce or green meat (and if you need some help getting started, the Huff Post had a good article with some useful tips on eating well on a low income.)

Monday, March 17, 2014

How you can get involved in your community.

In our previous post we spoke of the many organizations around Passaic county that help to promote and alleviate hunger awareness. Now that you are all fully trained in what organizations are within your reach now you’re ready to know how you too can help.
  1. Donate, donate, donate. There are several pantries in Passaic county and while they are many they are not always full. Most pantries like CUMAC have a list of items they need. This makes it easier for you to know what to bring. However before you come in with an armful of goods check in with the pantry to see if they have specific drop off times.This will ensure that your goods get to their destination at the right time.  
  2. Plan a food drive. Yes it is great for you to gather up your goods to donate to a pantry, but wouldn’t it be better if you got a group to help you? If you work in an office, a frequent at a library, involved in your children’s school then you’re in a prime location for a food drive. Post a list and acquire a box  to collect your goods. Make sure you contact the pantry you plan to donate to so that they are aware of the gifts they are about to receive. If possible make it a competition! Everyone loves to be a winner at something, and better yet if they are winning by helping others.  
  3. Donate your clothes too. The issues of nutrition inequality is not solely related to food. inequality with food and nutrition is also a socioeconomic problem.1 in 4 people in New Jersey struggle to meet their basic needs, which often forces individuals to choose between food and other essentials. If you’re fortunate enough to have an abundance of clothing donating them is a good way to make way with them and get a head start on your spring cleaning. There are many organizations, like Habitat for Humanity Restore, that accept clothing and sell them at an affordable price, or give them away for free. These organizations strive to help people struggling in these times. If you can’t get to a donation center there are many organizations like Big Brother Big Sister that will pick up your donation from your house! Some of them also take furniture, this is a great way to give back to organizations that do so much for the community.
  4. Contact your government officials. The most pressing issue in the topic of nutrition equality is SNAP. Currently debates are being held to discuss the SNAP budget cuts. People are not happy about the decision they made to cut SNAP funds and these same people need to make sure their voices are heard. Ways to ensure your voice is heard is by contacting your local government representative, through phone call, email, or a snail mail letter. There are templates all over the internet that help you get started if you don’t know what to say or how. There’s also several petitions online that you are encouraged to sign. To find out who your representative it follow this link.   When you go to contact your representatives, try and motivate everyone you know to follow suit. The more attention is brought to the issue the more likely your voice will be heard.
  5. Volunteer. If you have some time spare, spend it with all the wonderful organizations that are close to you and trying to make an impact.There’s a lot of them, each catered to your preference. CUMAC has many opportunities, from helping in the pantry to preparing meals and baskets for participants of the organization. Soup Kitchens are plentiful and are always looking for volunteer to help prepare and serve food to their patrons. Schools as well are seeing the importance of nutrition and most are implementing a garden into their programs, organizations like City Green are working hard to ensure that there is early presentation of food and how it is important for our bodies.
  6. Contact your local grocers. Most of us get all of our food from a grocery store and if we’re lucky a supermarket. However, if that supermarket isn’t supplying you with the items you want or you don’t know what healthy choices you could make there, speak up. Talk to the manager, ask questions, and if there is a nutritionist or a registered dietician on board (The Shoprite in  Passaic and Little Falls do) ask them if they can give you a supermarket tour.  All these tools will help you become an informed consumer and allow you to spread your newly gained knowledge to others. Most grocers also have abundance of produce and food items that usually end up in the garbage. Instead of taking it upon yourself to go dumpster diving ask them if they would like to donate those items to the local pantry.
  7. Be Informed. There is a lot going on in the news of nutrition and food security. What is most important about these issues is that they are tied to many other issues, specifically socioeconomics. Gaining knowledge of these issues helps you become aware of trends, allows you to become and active citizen, and prepares you to help in all of the previous steps mentioned. Ways to be informed include watching and reading the news, attending press events, arranging meetings with representatives, and signing up to email lists like NJAHCs which provides you with advocacy updates and action alerts. Find a source that works for you and stick with it.  
Now you’re officially ready to go out and serve your community. There’s many ways to help and most take less than a day’s effort. If you have the time to dedicate to the community you live in or neighbor then you need to make the leap and become a volunteer, an advocate, or anything you want to be, so long as you’re helping others! As you begin your journey as a helper, remember the goal of your journey #nutritionforall. 


Friday, March 14, 2014

What are local organizations doing for you, nutritionally?

For National Nutrition Month here at City Green we are going to be focusing on nutrition and how it relates to you and your community. One of the most important parts of the community is understanding how local organizations are working to aid in ending nutrition inequality, hunger, and increasing food access to those around you. After doing some digging I was able to find a bunch of organizations that are close to home and are working hard to resolve these important issues. A few of the most recognized ones are listed below, take some time to read about their story and maybe you’ll be able to benefit from or help them continue it.

The United Passaic Organization is located in Passaic and serves to enhance the quality of life for the people of Passaic. The organization has many programs, each aimed at helping the people in the community. UPO offers,emergency food and temporary shelter programs. They also have homelessness prevention, utility and weatherization assistance, job training, case management, community organization, early intervention for at-risk youngsters in terms of mentoring and academic assistance and community wide health related initiatives.

St. Paul’s Community Development Corporation is located in Paterson and has been running for almost 25 years. They work to serve the community with what it needs. Currently they offer a food pantry accompanied with an Emergency Men’s Shelter, Next Step and several other programs. The organization started off as an outreach from St. Paul's Episcopal Church. Since then that have grown to serve the population of Paterson with purpose to alleviate the conditions of hunger, homelessness, unemployment, poverty, and illiteracy. Together these issues need to be resolved to end the cycle of hunger and St. Paul’s is doing a great job trying to end it! Follow them on Facebook to see what they are up to @stpaulscdcnj

The Hispanic Multi-Purpose Service Center is located in Paterson and is a community based and community operated facility that provides free social and educational services to the people of Paterson. They host a wide range of programs including a food pantry which distributes a bag of donated goods to families facing hunger. Their pantry is open three days a week and they work very hard to ensure that they can help feed suffering families. Alongside the pantry they also have a clothing distribution that is also free and available three times a week. The center has been running for over 35 years and they are only getting started! See what they are up to @HMPSC

The New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition, NJAHC is an organization whose goal is to end hunger in New Jersey through education, advocacy and activism. They do this by providing assistance to food pantries, soup kitchens, and emergency food providers throughout the state. They also educate about public and private policies, working to increase poor people’s access to adequate food for healthy living. They work best to connect people to food as well as informing people about the happening of policies that impact them and their ability to live. The organization is up to date on all current issues that address nutrition inequality, they encourage visitors to get active on a congressional level. Currently they have a petition up fighting against the SNAP cuts. If you have some time to sign the petition here is the link. To keep up with their news and updates follow them on Twitter @NJAHC1.

The Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey, APN is an organization focused on ending poverty through means of housing, economic empowerment, and most importantly hunger. It is estimated that more than a million New Jerseyans lack food security that’s approximately an eighth of the population! Of these million, almost half are children.  APN works on raising awareness and gaining support for SNAP, School Programs, and Food Pantries. They are advocating for expanded access to SNAP as well as the expansion of the School Breakfast program.  Follow them on Twitter to see an up to date list of how you can get involved! @anti_poverty_nj

Center of United Methodist Aid to the Community, CUMAC aims to feed people and change lives. They do this primarily by being the biggest pantry in Passaic county. Most of their food gets donated throughout the year they have several fundraisers to help fund their programming and staff to run the pantry. In the past year they were able to feed over 34,000 people. CUMAC does a lot to help alleviate hunger problems in their area and each year they grow in awareness and need. While they wish to decrease the amount of people needing them they know that working together with people like you will assist them in meeting demands and gaining awareness of hunger and food security. To find out how you can get involved check out their website, it’s filled with an extensive list of events, also follow them on twitter @CUMACfeeds.  

The Community Food Bank of New Jersey works similar to NJHAC, they work to end hunger in New Jersey through engaging, educating, and empowering all sectors of society. They aim to fill emptiness with food, help, and hope. To do this they offer several programs that supply food to those that need it. these programs include the Backpack program, Community Kitchen, Kids Cafe, Mobile Pantry, and Emergency Assistance Pantry. These programs all aim to fill people with hope while simultaneously filling their bellies. Make sure to visit their website to find out more information about their programs and how you can put them to use.  Alongside their programs they also have an extensive database of organizations that offer food for those that are food insecure. Follow them on Twitter to see what they are doing for you on the go @CFBNJ.

As you can see there’s a lot going on in the world around us and we are not alone. There are a lot of people volunteering their time, love, and passion. They are all working toward the same goals, ending hunger and educating others of the impact hunger has on people. Nutrition should be a right to us all, and with the help of these organizations and the many others like it, it just might become one. #nutritionforall  


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Seven Ways to Celebrate National Nutrition Month

City Green is Kicking off National Nutrition Month with 7 tips to stay healthy all month long.

1. Cut the meat Meat has become a huge part of the American diet, it has been drilled in our brains that it is the best source of protein and that we need it to live. When you take a step back and do some research on the subject you see that it isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. In studies across the globe they have found that those who live a lifestyle apart from meat, mainly vegetarians and vegans, live longer. (Check out some reports about them living longer and living in Blue Zones). Benefits of a meat free diet include: decreased rates of cardiovascular disease, low incidence of cholesterol (because it’s found in animals), and increased consumption of fiber. Excluding meat from your diet also helps you save money, it costs more to buy meat than it does to purchase whole grains in bulk, fruits, and vegetables. Besides living longer and saving money cutting meat spares our environment and the animals. It is estimated that factory farms, where our meat is made, are responsible for 173,000 miles of polluted water and streams, due to run off. So go ahead, give it a try if not forever at least once a week. (Source: Vegetarian Times).

2. Record what you eat. A lot of you may have made resolutions to lose weight or become more active, a great way to keep you going on your 2014 resolution is to keep a food journal or diary. It’s a great way to keep track of what you’re eating and help you see if you’re keeping up with what you should be eating. There’s some pretty useful tools that you can download on your phone to help make the task of recording a little easier, these include: My Fitness Pal, My Food Diary,  Lose it!, and Livestrong Calorie Tracker. If these apps are too much for you, simply using the notes application on your phone works too! Studies have shown that keeping a food journal of six days a week can lead to twice as much weight loss as keeping a journal for one day a week. So if you’re ready to start recording here’s some tips for success. The most important tip to help you keep you on track, log food items as you eat them. It is easier to quickly take a second or two to write down what you ate  than trying to recall a whole day of meals and snacks (they count too). This will also help you record more accurately. Another tip is to get familiar with portion sizes, this will help you estimate your amounts when you are eating out and not at home. Last but not least, cook at home! It’s much easier to record when you know what is going into the food and how much you’re eating.

3. Go outside. Spring is right around the corner and what better way to enjoy it than by being outside! Go for a walk, play with your children, smell the fresh air, and get some Vitamin D. The sun is the greatest supplier of Vitamin D, our body takes the sunlight and converts it into the vitamin. It then plays an important role in bone health because it aids in the absorption of Calcium and Phosphorus in our bodies. Those minerals help make our bones strong. The best and cheapest way to soak up the sun is to get at most 15 minutes of sun exposure, with no sunscreen. Besides the sun Vitamin D is naturally found in oily fish such as salmon and tuna and fortified in orange juice and some dairy products. So go ahead, get your Vitamin D on.

4. Grow some of your own food. While you’re outside don’t forget you can grow your own food in the littlest of spaces. Gardening inside of small spaces is something people have been doing for quite some time, there are many self help guides on the internet but the best that I found was, from Urban Organic Gardener, showing you how you can start a mini garden with some homemade containers, soil, and some seeds. Common things to grow in your small spaces are: tomatoes, herbs, and salad greens. However there is a new wave of “regrowing” that uses the left over parts of food and with just some water they will regrow into themselves, these include: scallions, romaine lettuce, celery and potatoes. Once you get the hang of your mini garden check with your township or town garden club to see if they have public plots where you can grow your own food outside with a lot of space.

5. Eat your fiber! Fiber is an essential part of the human diet that a lot of us are missing out on. It is recommended that men get 38 grams of fiber a day and women 25 grams. In the United States our usual intake is 15g/day, that is well under the recommended amount. So why are we missing out on this amazing part of our diet, is it because of bran? Surprisingly enough fiber is not only found in bran it’s also in fruits like pears, apples, and strawberries, and in vegetables like, lentils, beans and peas (which has 3.5 more grams of fiber than your good old fashioned wheat bran). The health benefits of fiber include: protection against the risk of cardiovascular diseases, helps with diabetes, weight control and most importantly bowel movements. So before you go, remember to eat the skins of your fruits because they hold the most of the fiber.

6. Eat clean. Clean eating is the newest food movement, which focuses on eating foods in the most natural state. Straying away from processed foods and coming back to grains, plants, and getting meat straight from the butcher. Eating clean is not a diet; instead it is a lifestyle change that has a few simple principles that should be followed. The most important is to eat frequently, people who eat clean eat about five to six small meals a day, this is believed to keep your body energized and burning calories all day long. Other principles of the lifestyle include drinking a lot of water, abstaining from alcohol, avoiding “white” this includes, white flour, white sugar, white bread and white pasta, and getting familiar with labels, this will help you choose foods that have few ingredients listed in turn meaning, closer to its natural state. For more tips on starting to eat clean visit this site.

7. Be prepared, always. Body builders and clean eaters love to “meal prep” it’s a day of the week, usually on Sunday where they cook all their food for the week or half of the week. This is to ensure that they never go hungry and continue to feed their muscles while they workout. Now, I’m not telling you to becoming a bodybuilder nor am I telling you to prepare your meals like crazy but I am advising you to be prepared. On the weekend cook a bigger portion of your dinner so that it can be frozen and reheated at a later date, when you don’t have time to cook. Meals that work best for batch cooking are chilis, soups, stews, and casseroles. Prepare your snacks, this will help prevent you from snacking on bag of chips or a bar of candy. (Healthy tip: season some kale with a little salt and olive oil, bake in the oven at 350 until crispy, kale chips!) Instead have a couple of fruits ready, or the power peanut butter celery couple. You could even try making your own trail mix. Do what it takes, but be prepared!

Now that you’ve been fully informed with tips and tricks to get healthy for the month of March, get out there and start applying them! Good luck and have a healthy and nutritious month. #nutritionforall

-Zariel Grullon