Reina Hasting

Eat Right, Bite by Bite! That’s the theme of National Nutrition Month this year. Make March the month to try and focus on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.

We all have a busy schedule and sometimes the importance of food choices falls to the bottom of our list, but it needs to be at the top of our list. Why? Because we are what we eat. If we fuel ourselves with unhealthy foods, it’s not going to lead to a healthy outcome and we won’t feel as good as we could. Choosing a variety of foods from the food groups, eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables and drinking unsweetened beverages will help to ensure we are getting the nutrients our bodies need to function at its best so we can feel our best. Be sure to check the ingredient list on the nutrition facts label to know what you are eating. If the ingredient list seems overwhelmingly long, stop and think if it’s something your body needs. Reaching for a whole fruit as a snack can be cheaper and healthier.

We all know developing sound eating and physical activity habits takes planning and not giving up. Making healthy choices most of the time and then taking a break once in a while to savor your favorite dessert is OK. If you mostly make unhealthy choices and then once in a while you have a veggie, you may not feel like it’s making a difference. What you consistently eat and drink is what counts. Changing habits all at once can be challenging, but by just starting with one consistent change can make a difference. For example, reaching for water instead of a sugar-sweetened beverage. Making that one change will make a difference and can lead to more.

If you’ve mostly been sedentary, it is still possible to start being active again. Start at your own pace. It can be as simple as marching in place in the comfort of your own home or office. Don’t be afraid to try anything new especially if it peaks your interest. You never know, it might be the one thing that keeps you going. Our bodies were made to move, but if you have any concerns see your doctor first prior to starting an activity. There are many activities you can try in the community such as hiking, sledding, snow shoeing, skiing, swimming and much more.

Check out the following resources for group fitness class opportunities:

• Your local university. UAF Community & Technical College offers over 40 one-credit recreational classes like swimming, yoga, Zumba and rock climbing and you don’t have to be in a degree program to register. You can register now for summer courses that start May 18. Call 455-2800 for information. You can go to the following link to check out the recreational classes offered: www.ctc.uaf.edu/academics/course-schedule.

• Your local Cooperative Extension Service office offers Strong Women classes free to the community. Learn more about the program at www.uaf.edu/ces/foodhealth/strongwomen.

• Most gyms and/or instructors offer the first class or visit free before having to commit to buying a punch card or membership.

Explore making healthier food choices and have fun adding physical activity into your daily routine. Even if you miss a day or several days in attempting a change, it’s never too late to get right back at it. Change in behavior takes time and it varies per individual. Personally, I experienced almost needing a year to completely adjust to a new habit of getting up at 5 a.m. to work out. That was over nine years ago. Now it feels automatic, so don’t give up on starting a new healthy habit because one day it will become automatic for you too.

Reina Hasting is a coordinator with Extension’s Family Nutrition Program, which is administered by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For questions, she can be contacted at rhhasting@alaska.edu or 907-474-2437.