TRENTON — March is National Nutrition Month, a time to call attention to the importance of healthy eating. In keeping with this year’s theme, “Eat Right with Color,” Health and Senior Services Commissioner Dr. Poonam Alaigh encourages New Jerseyans to include a colorful variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and dairy products in their daily diet.
National Nutrition Month is sponsored by the American Dietetic Association (ADA) to increase public awareness of the basics of healthy eating and help consumers apply this information to their everyday lives.
“Nutrition plays an important role in health promotion and disease prevention. Eating well can help reduce the risk of chronic disease and obesity,” said Dr. Alaigh. “In addition to making healthy choices in their own lives, I encourage parents and caregivers to work harder to make sure that our children get the nutritional foods they need to grow strong and healthy.”
In New Jersey, 24.5 percent of high school students are obese or overweight, according to 2009 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Chronic disease risk factors such as glucose intolerance and hypertension, once unheard of in childhood, are now increasingly common. Additionally, Type2 Diabetes now accounts for up to 50 percent of new diabetes cases among youths. One in 400 youths will have Type2 Diabetes by the time they are 20-years-old.
“While New Jersey has one of the lowest adult obesity rates in the nation, it’s vitally important for all of us – health care providers, teachers and parents to work together to encourage our children to get more exercise and eat healthier,” noted Alaigh.
The Commissioner said she is particularly concerned that New Jersey’s low-income 2-5 year-olds have that nation’s highest rate of obesity (18%) among the 45 states that participated in the CDC’s 2009 Pediatric Nutrition Survey. The Department is working to educate parents about nutrition and to help stores in underserved neighborhoods stock more fruits and vegetables. The Department is also working with the state’s child care agency and the New Jersey Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies on new rules that would require kids to move more, eat healthier foods and watch less TV while in day care.
“By making a more concerted effort to educate our children about healthy eating, we will set the stage for a lifetime of healthy living,” Dr. Alaigh said.
The Department’s Office of Nutrition and Fitness created “ShapingNJ” to help New Jersey residents make informed food choices and develop healthy eating and physical activity habits. ShapingNJ, a partnership with more than 100 organizations with expertise in nutrition, physical fitness, health care, education, transportation, community and environmental planning, and agriculture is implementing strategies to improve nutrition and fitness in schools, childcare settings, worksites, communities, and health care facilities.
For information on New Jersey’s ShapingNJ program, visit www.shapingNJ.gov. The site includes educational nutrition and fitness games for kids and “tweens” as well as adult consumer information, resources for professionals and grant opportunities.
To learn more about good nutrition and eating habits, visit the ADA’s National Nutrition Month website at http://www.eatright.org/nnm/ and www.kidseatright.org, a new ADA website for children and families.
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