Q: I know we all want to live healthier lives, but I get confused with all of the nutrition information out there. How do I decipher it all?
A: Tufts University studied health and nutrition research from 2005 and compiled a list of eight tips to improve your health in 2006:
¢ Don't skip breakfast: Start the day with whole grains. Whole grains should be listed first on the ingredient statement. Instead of adding sugar to cereal, use the natural sweetness of fresh fruit.
¢ Get up and move: Even if you only exercise on a weekend, that's better than nothing. It is recommended to do a minimum of 30 minutes exercise each day. About 60 minutes a day may be needed to prevent weight gain.
¢ Milk is mighty: Consume low- or nonfat dairy products for calcium and vitamin D. The recommendation is three servings each day to meet calcium needs and reduce osteoporosis.
¢ Include vitamin D: Typically found in dairy foods, vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. It helps increase muscle and bone strength. Recent research shows vitamin D helps reduce onset of aggressive forms of prostrate cancer.
¢ Add the rainbow: This refers to the many colorful fruits and vegetables. Produce helps reduce risks for heart disease, pancreatic cancer and arthritis. The recommended intake is two cups of fruit and two and a half cups of vegetables daily.
¢ Go green: Dark leafy greens pack a punch. Current research with these vegetables shows evidence of preventing cataracts, reducing memory loss and risk of stroke.
¢ The fat dilemma: While all fats have about 120 calories per tablespoon, vegetable fats are still the better choice with higher mono- and polyunsaturated fats.
¢ Fish is fine: Salmon and tuna continue to rank high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Other research shows fish can slow the progression of mental deficiencies.
Q: Is "Walk Kansas" going on this year?
A: What a timely question, especially after getting (and possibly consuming) all of that Valentine candy on Tuesday. Did you realize that it takes one minute to walk off one milk chocolate M&M? If knowing that doesn't motivate you, perhaps Walk Kansas can.
Walk Kansas will begin March 11 through May 5. Last year, Douglas County had 78 teams with 469 individuals participate so it definitely a great way to motivate yourself and others to "get moving."
For those of you who haven't heard of Walk Kansas, here's a bit of information about it: Walk Kansas is a statewide program designed to improve the health of all Kansans by increasing the amounts of physical activity each person gets each week. It is an eight-week walking/physical activity program to encourage co-workers, friends, neighbors, family members, and schoolmates to come together as a team to motivate each other to increase physical activity.
Participants form six-member teams with one person selected as a team captain.
Each team, collectively, is challenged to walk/run/bike/swim, etc. a total of 423 miles (the distance across Kansas) during the eight weeks. The goal is approximately 30 minutes a day or 1.75 miles for five days a week. To encourage Walk Kansas participants to consume a healthy diet, fruits and vegetables can also be documented along with physical activity. In addition, if the team desires, they can keep track of weight loss/gain. The "Biggest Loser" will be announced at the end of the eight weeks, along with those teams with the most miles and the highest consumption of fruits and vegetables.
Teams will choose a name and a team captain who will turn in mileage via the phone or e-mail to K-State Research & Extension-Douglas County weekly. After Walk Kansas gets started, participants also will be able to log onto the K-State Research and Extension Web site to compare the progress of their team to other teams in the county and state.
The registration fee is $5 per individual or $10 per household, plus $5 for each Walk Kansas T-shirt. The registration fee covers nine newsletter mailings, a celebration event and incentives.
Q: How do individuals or teams sign up for Walk Kansas?
A: All you need to do is contact K-State Research & Extension-Douglas County at 843-7058, or stop by at 2110 Harper St. (located on the Douglas County Fairgrounds), or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for a Captain's Packet. The packet includes information about Walk Kansas and registration forms for each team member. If you are interested, but you're not sure whether you can get five more people to make up a team, just contact me so we can get your name on a list. Once we have a group of six interested participants, we will randomly select a captain who will coordinate the team.
Registration is requested by March 1; however, we will accept registrations through March 11.