EXTENSION CORNER: Modifying diets to fit individual lifestyles, not the other way around
SNAP-Ed New York offers tailored nutrition education to balance health benefits with personal preference
This year, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is urging Americans to personalize their plates for National Nutrition Month. From a young age, people are taught to celebrate their individuality. Unique dietary habits should be no exception. Whether based on age, sex, culture, ethics, or taste, everyone has different nutritional needs and preferences. The Academy recognizes that to prescribe a universal dietary solution to health would be unrealistic. In addition to individual preference and characteristics, there are also a variety of social and economic barriers to consider when examining food intake choices. Encouraging personal modifications to the recommended Dietary Guidelines for Americans is an effective compromise to balancing nutritional needs with dietary preferences.
National Nutrition Month was developed in March of 1973 as a mechanism to deliver nutrition education teachings. With nutrition as its cornerstone, the SNAP-Ed New York-Southern Finger Lakes Region team uses the month of March to invigorate its goals and teachings. This year, the team intends to collaborate with vital community partners to find effective ways to help residents across the region personalize and enrich their diets in a manner that fits within their lifestyles.
“This month is an important opportunity for the SNAP-Ed New York-Southern Finger Lakes team to emphasize community partnerships in determining resident-specific barriers to healthy eating,” said Justine Cobb, SNAP-Ed New York Project director. “Right now especially, community members are facing unique hardships. Through working collaboratively with partner agencies, we are hoping to target and reduce these obstacles by offering nutrition education programs that can be personalized from participant to participant.”
In line with the theme of Personalize your Plate, the Academy is advocating for eating right through the life stages, consuming nutrient-rich foods, and putting personal touches on traditional dishes. As humans grow and evolve, so do their nutritional needs. It is important to make dietary choices according to age to improve immunity and prevent chronic disease. Both immunity and disease prevention can also be optimized through using food as the primary source of nutrients. Evidence shows that diet is a more reliable source of vitamins and minerals than pills or supplements. Through making subtle, nutrient-dense swaps to favorite recipes, it is possible to maximize both nutritional value and joy from eating.
“In program delivery, SNAP-Ed New York-Southern Finger Lakes nutritionists emphasize eating a variety of healthy foods from each food groups, offer age-specific curriculums, and encourage participants to make personal modifications to recipes. Through reinforcing these themes during program education, our team consistently aids community members in individualizing the Dietary Guidelines in a way that works for them,” commented Olivia Dates, senior nutritionist of SNAP-Ed New York-Southern Finger Lakes Region.
For more information on available SNAP-Ed New York programs in the Southern Finger Lakes Region, tips on healthy eating, or recipes, visit www.snapedny.org. Ideas on how to participate in National Nutrition Month and information on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics can be found at www.eatright.org.
About Cornell Cooperative Extension & SNAP-Ed New York:
Cornell Cooperative Extension and its partnerships provide programs for residents on youth and family development; nutrition, health, and food safety; community and economic vitality; and agricultural sustainability through Cornell based research.
Locally, SNAP-Ed New York in the Southern Finger Lakes region operates under Cornell Cooperative Extension Steuben County, in partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chemung County, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Schuyler County, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tioga County, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Yates County. The SNAP-Ed New York – Southern Finger Lakes region supports residents of Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins, and Yates Counties.
SNAP-Ed New York is a federally funded evidence-based program that helps people lead healthier lives. SNAP-Ed Nutrition Education is FREE to all individuals who qualify for and/or receive benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP-Ed teaches people using or eligible for SNAP about good nutrition, how to make their food dollars stretch further and the importance of being physically active. SNAP-Ed New York provides nutrition education lessons, materials and sponsors education events and classes in communities across New York State. Visit www.snapedny.org to find a program in your community.