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March is National Nutrition Month

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Margo Kerrigan, M.P.H., Area Director
Indian Health Service California Area Office

March 2006 - March is National Nutrition Month and the theme from the American Dietetic Association is "Step Up to Nutrition and Health." I think all of us in Indian country know that healthy foods and physical activity play positive roles in our health. Nutritious foods and daily exercise are part of a "healthy lifestyle." This is what we promote for prevention of chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity - diseases that affect Indian people disproportionately. A healthy lifestyle can also help prevent kidney disease. Happily, maybe we are improving our habits, as the rate of severe kidney disease requiring dialysis is decreasing in American Indian/Alaskan Native populations.

Since the National Nutrition Month message emphasizes taking steps, let me suggest some starting points:

Step 1: Think about your eating and activity habits. Do you eat five servings of vegetables and fruits a day? Do you rely on fast food for several meals a week? Are you getting daily exercise? Do you smoke? Are you ready to make a change?

Step 2: Make an appointment with the Registered Dietitian at your clinic. This nutrition and fitness expert can devise a healthy plan that will work for your lifestyle.

Step 3: Get support. Get your family involved, set up a walking club, or a healthy lunch group. No (wo)man is an island - we all need support to make difficult changes.

Step 4: Keep a journal of what you eat, everything that goes into your mouth for a few days. When you review it, you'll see where you can make some changes. For example, do you really need to drink two regular sodas a day (300 calories)? How about that daily cookie habit at three p.m.?

Step 5: Five servings or more of vegetables and fruits daily will provide super nutrition and make you feel full so you don't eat empty calories. How to do it: one small banana at breakfast, one cup of carrot sticks and green pepper strips at lunch, an apple mid-afternoon, and two cups of green salad at dinner. See the website www.mypyramid.gov Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov for more ideas.

Step 6: Literally start taking steps. Get a pedometer and set a daily step goal for yourself. One mile is approximately 2000 steps. It's fun to compete with yourself. Many clinics have walking clubs, or get together with friends or family.

Remember, ANY spring-time step you take makes a difference to improve your health now and in the future!

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