By Wendy Coschignano Ford
For Positively Osceola
March is recognized as National Nutrition Month®, an annual campaign focused on nutrition education. Created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the observance focuses on the importance of developing good eating habits, making informed food choices, and providing education on the importance of a regimented physical activity schedule.
Nutrition is a critical component to health and longevity. Balanced nutrition is linked to a stronger immune system while lowering the risk of non-communicable illnesses (such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease). A major component of the Osceola Council on Aging is providing nutritional services.
The OCOA’s programs include Meals on Wheels (MOW), Congregate Dining services, two Community Food Pantries (Kissimmee and now St. Cloud) and a Mobile Food Pantry (volunteers who deliver food to families who are transportation disadvantaged). The OCOA’s nutritional outreach programs are the most requested of all service programs administered by the agency. These initiatives are designed to improve health-related outcomes, reduce the risk of hunger and malnutrition while allowing recipients to retain more of their fixed household incomes to increase their financial self-sufficiency and decrease the chances of becoming homeless.
Good nutrition includes eating fruits and vegetables; fresh, frozen, or canned. Eat dark green vegetables such as leafy greens or broccoli and orange vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes. Vary protein choices with fish, beans, and peas. Eat at least three ounces of whole-grain cereals, breads, crackers, rice, or pasta every day. Choose whole grains whenever possible. Have three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy (milk, yogurt, or cheese) fortified with Vitamin D to help keep bones healthy. Eat polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats and switch from solid fats to oils when preparing food.
As OCOA celebrates National Nutrition Month, we will continue to work to provide nutritionally balanced meal offerings to our seniors in hopes of keeping them well fed and healthy. Meanwhile, no matter the age, let us all focus on making informed food choices, developing healthy eating habits, and keeping physically active for better overall health.
For more information on the nutrition programs offered by the Council, contact Wilda Belisle at 407-847- 2144. For information on volunteering for our nutritional assistance programs, call Nora Ghazi at 407-846-8532, ext. 1238.
In closing, don’t forget to register for our annual March for Meals fundraising event to support our local Meals on Wheels efforts on March 12 at Kissimmee Lakefront Park, go to https://osceolagenerations.org and see ‘March for Meals’ under Fundraisers.