Good Life

Helping Hands: Nutrition Links offers resources to change obesity trends

It’s no news that obesity continues to increase in the United States.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this epidemic affects 78.6 million adults and 17 percent of children and adolescents — triple the rate from a generation ago. It is not only the stigma of being overweight that is a problem but also the weight-related risk factors for chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke, as well as certain types of cancer.

Obesity also has placed an increased financial burden on America’s health care system. In 2008, the estimated annual medical cost of obesity was $147 billion.

Environmental factors such as mass marketing and advertising of processed foods laden with hidden added fats and sugars, less physical activity and overconsumption of convenience foods have been identified as contributors to the prevalence of obesity. The good news is through education and empowerment we can work toward making changes and even reverse these trends. Gradual lifestyle changes can have a huge effect on the health of Americans. Understanding the balancing act of calories in/calories out, increasing physical activity, learning how to compile a healthier plate and being equipped to decipher food labels can all lead to a healthier lifestyle of which weight loss is merely a byproduct, not a goal.

Since 1969, Nutrition Links, a federally funded program administered in the state by Penn State Extension, has provided free nutrition education to limited-resource families and youth within the Centre County community. Lessons on topics such as food safety, portion distortion, reading nutrition labels, making smart drink choices are offered. Each class provides education, hands-on cooking instruction, food tasting and practical ways to plan meals ahead while saving time, money and calories, and eliminating dinnertime stress.

Realizing that there is a link between health and nutrition means we have more control of our bodies and our well-being than we may have realized. Instead of radical or fad diets it is better to set realistic and attainable goals. This often means being patient with small but consistent changes that last a lifetime. Healthy, home-cooked meals cross all socio-economic barriers for improved health. Incorporating movement in our day, finding ways to de-stress and include a daily dose of fun, as well as getting enough sleep all add up to a happier, healthier you.

For more information, please visit our website or contact us to partner in bringing this outreach program to the clients you serve.