It’s no secret that obesity is an issue with the Centers for Disease Control reporting that more than one-third of U.S. adults as being overweight.
With help from a $35,000 grant from Wal-Mart, the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank is hosting classes focusing on nutrition and helping the next generation of adults to eat healthier and break the trend.
Colleen Sonnevil, a retired Cooperative Extension Service nutrition educator, is teaching the free classes at the Food Bank Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 a.m.
“What we’ve done is turned into a society that accepts eating at any time of the day and to feed our children at any time of the day and anywhere,” Sonnevil said. “And because of that, our children are suffering from a disease that will shorten their lives.”
While Linda Swarner, executive director at the Food Bank, said nutrition classes previously held by the organization where well-attended, no one showed up for the first class held yesterday. However, the classes will continue until March 20.
Sonnevil will also be bringing her nutrition knowledge to the Kenai and Soldotna Boys and Girls Clubs.
At the first class, Sonnevil had planned to talk about and healthy eating in the home and cutting out processed food that is filled with salt, sugar and fat to extend the food’s shelf life. She recommended looking at the food’s number of ingredients and whether or not the ingredients are recognizable; if not, it’s probably not very healthy.
“Companies have prioritized short-term profits over the long-term health of our children,” she said.
Making meals at home allows people to have more control over what they’re eating, she said, but people also need to watch their portions for each food group. She suggested using salad plates instead of dinner plates because many people try to fill up their large dinner plates, which results in overeating.
In 2011, the Unites State Department of Agriculture adopted MyPlate, a graphic of a plate and glass divided into different sections representing serving sizes of different food groups, as the current nutrition guide. Along with following the MyPlate guidelines for portion sizes, Sonnevil said for people to get a variety of vitamins in their diets, they should eat different colored fruits and vegetables.
She said many people think they don’t have enough time to make a homemade meal, but she said when you add up the time it takes to drive to an eatery, order and get the food, it sometimes can be faster to cook a meal at home.
“Basically what it boils down to is time to get out our pots and save our children from what is truly a terrible epidemic,” she said.
Along with providing information about healthy eating, Sonnevil was going to prepare a couple quick, nutritious, breakfast options. The first was a yogurt-based smoothie. She recommended to always use real fruit and plain yogurt because yogurt with fruit in it usually has more sugar in it.
The second choice was what Sonnevil calls “egg-in-a-blanket.” It involves using a cookie cutter to remove the center of the bread and cooking vegetables, an egg and cheese in the hole of the bread. She said the meal can be made on a stovetop or in a microwave.
Locally, according to an Alaska Department of Health and Social Service report of Kenai Peninsula School District students in kindergarten through twelfth grade during the 2012-2013 school year, 37.1 percent of the 7,837 students surveyed were overweight or obese.
The district has been sending information home with students about good nutrition, adequate sleep and exercise, school district spokesperson, Pegge Erkeneff said. Most of the schools have encouraged the 5210 plan, she said.
She explained the plan calls for students to get five servings of fruits and vegetables, less than two hours of screen time, one hour of physical activity and zero sugared or sweetened drinks daily.
“So that’s something that we’re working with and we’re definitely looking at healthy weights,” Erkeneff said.
The body mass index survey is done annually, but Erkeneff said the most recent results represent the highest percentage of students ever surveyed at 85 percent of the total number enrolled. At the end of this year, Erkeneff, wrote in an email, the district will submit students’ weights and heights to the state to prepare a report. The district can then use the information to track trends and see if programs and changes are making a difference, she wrote.
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.