Essential vitamins, minerals and fiber not only provide you and your family with nutritional benefits, but may offer protection from obesity and reduced risk from chronic diseases such as stroke, heart disease and some types of cancer.
Celebrate National Nutrition Month®
Gardening as part of a healthy lifestyle
National Nutrition Month® is an annual campaign by the American Dietetic Association to help you make informed food choices and keep physically active.
As part of your healthy lifestyle, gardening rewards you with physical activity. Vegetable gardening gives you a double bonus: physical activity plus a bounty of nutrition from the fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, herbs, spices and edible blooms from your very own harvest. And you may find your family members inspired to join you in the pleasure of gardening.
Scientific studies have shown children who participate in gardening may have the added benefit of increased fruit and vegetable consumption.
Get Up and Get Gardening
Exercise and muscle movement are crucial for a healthy body and heart. Tilling, digging new beds, hammering in stakes, building pergolas, refilling bird feeders, mowing the lawn, trimming hedges, laying stone or brick for paths and borders, dragging around hoses, moving bags of mulch and dirt, weeding, hauling a wheelbarrow or just simple general gardening and strolling around the garden -- are all great ways to exercise, stretch and bend as you work your way around your garden.
Gardening Burns Calories!
Not all of us have to worry about burning calories, but many of us welcome the opportunity to trim off calories when we can. To assess your food intake or physical activity, visit Choose My Plate.gov . I was able to burn close to 200 calories in 50 minutes by 15 minutes of weeding, 30 minutes of general gardening and 5 minutes of walking and gathering tools. It all adds up; even just walking outside for 10 minutes gets you up and moving, exercising your body and heart muscle.
Are you eating enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and trying to curb vices such as smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages? Be honest with yourself...when it comes to our bodies we know what we probably should or shouldn't be doing to improve, but can't always bring ourselves to do anything about it. National Nutrition Month® is the perfect time to focus on you and your family's health and nutritional needs.Here's some more information on a Healthy Diet and Lifestyle.
Now is also a good time to help others less fortunate put some nutrition on their plates by planting a row for the hungry and donating your proceeds to your local food bank or soup kitchen.
In addition to increasing your physical activity, you can help yourself by eating a balanced diet. I find it difficult to eat enough servings of fruit daily. Maybe you find it easier to eat enough fruit, but vegetables or whole grains are more of a challenge. Everyone is different and has preferences and budget allowances; however, we are the same in that our bodies need the energy, fiber and nutrients--found in fruits and vegetables--to be at their best.
I like what Rachel Ray of the 30-Minute Meals Food Network show recommends: prewash your fruits and veggies, so they are ready to grab and go. Because of the convenience, not only will you prepare your meals faster, but you will be more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables like lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, apples and pears.
How much is enough?
The recommended amount of fruits, vegetables, grains, calcium and protein necessary in a healthy diet depends on your age, sex and body weight; everyone's needs are different. For a personalized recommendation and menu plan, consult with a nutrition professional or visit MyPyramid.gov and Centers for Disease, Control and Prevention (CDC). These sites offer a lot of great nutrition tips and information. MyPyramid.gov is fun for kids as well.
Nutrition Word Find Fun
(Remember to watch for correct spelling)
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Photo credits: Children thumbnail photo and U.S. Long Grain Rice photograph and Eat Right photo by Keith Weller, courtesy of USDA Agricultural Reseach Service. Get Up and Get Gardening photo courtesy of DGer and writer, Lee Anne Stark 'threegardeners'. Thank you!
 CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fruit and Vegetable Benefits. Accessed Feb.28, 2009.
 Plant a Row for the Hungry Campaign, sponsored by the Garden Writers Association.
 McAleese J, Rankin L, Garden-Based Nutrition Affects Fruit and Vegetable Consumption in Sixth-Grade Adolescents. J Am Diet Assoc. 2007; 107:662-5.
Nutrition Fact Sheet - American Dietetic Association (ADA),Vegetables Why You Should Get More
25 Healthy Snacks for Kids - ADA Nutrition Fact sheet
Calcium and Vitamin D Essential Nutrients for Bone Health - ADA Nutrition Fact sheet
Step up to Nutrition & Health Recipes National Nutrition Month®, ADA