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March is National Nutrition Month. With increasing emphasis on "eating healthy" to live longer and stronger, it’s a good time to talk about what that means and how to get there. A great place to start is eatright.org from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This site is full of useful information and easy and helpful ideas for adults, kids and seniors. If you are still unsure about what healthy eating means for you, it’s always a good idea to speak with your physician or licensed dietitian.

Babies and health eating

Eating healthy right from birth starts babies on a road to better health for their whole lives.

Breastfed babies have a reduced risk of SIDS, ear infections, upper respiratory infections, childhood leukemia, obesity, gastrointestinal issues, diabetes, asthma and more. Breastfeeding also improves maternal health. Go to HealthyLincoln.org and click on Initiatives- Healthy Babies to find helpful information and a list of local resources to support the breastfeeding journey in your family.

Fresh and local

There’s nothing better than fresh produce from your own garden. Get a jump on spring with great tips about growing different types of produce year round, inside or outdoors, from Nebraska Extension (lancaster.unl.edu).

Want to garden and love fresh local produce but don’t have the space to grow your own? Contact Community Crops to share a garden with others. You can be part of one of their many community gardens across Lincoln, or they can help you set up a community garden. They also offer tips and educational workshops to hone gardening and farming skills. Find more info at CommunityCrops.org.

Grow more than you can eat or share with friends? Local nonprofit Produce From The Heart collects edible produce from farmers and gardeners in southeast Nebraska to supply food pantries, homeless shelters and soup kitchens. More at: ProducefromtheHeart.org.

At your store

Many grocery stores now host special tastings, events, and some even include classes and health screenings. Just ask your market next time you visit. If they don’t have something, make a request.

Don’t have a traditional market in your neighborhood? Even smaller food retailers, such as some convenience stores in Lincoln, will have healthier food options thanks to a Nebraska Extension program called Choose Healthy Here. With extra grant funding from the Community Health Endowment of Lincoln, the program strives to improve healthy food access to high-need areas, leaving fewer neighborhoods in “food deserts.” To learn more about the program, go to food.unl.edu/CHH. To learn what areas of Lincoln are most in need of healthy food options, check out an interactive mapping tool at chelincoln.org.

It takes a community

Organizations across Lincoln are also stepping up to help educate people of all ages and backgrounds on healthier eating.

One example is Growing Great Beginnings through Community Action Partnership of Lancaster and Saunders Counties' Early Head Start and Head Start programs. The project focuses on nutrition and wellness education for children and parents, including cooking and gardening lessons. Learn more at: communityactionatwork.org.

Nutrition and chronic disease

Good nutrition can help keep a number of chronic diseases at bay. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, “About half of all Americans have one or more preventable chronic diseases, many of which are related to poor eating patterns and physical inactivity.” These include diabetes, high blood pressure, poor bone health and some cancers.

While even the healthiest person can get colon cancer, eating a low-fat and high-fiber diet, lowering your weight and lessening your chance of diabetes will help reduce your risk of colon cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Yet, the best defense is screening, especially if there is a family history of colon cancer. During March and April, the Lancaster County Crusade Against Colon Cancer works to increase awareness and screening across the county, offering coupons for free screening kits from March 1-31.

For more information, visit lincoln.ne.gov, keyword: colon cancer.

'In the kitchen'

Looking for some quick and easy ideas online? Check the “In the Kitchen” video playlist from LNKTV Health, including simple and tasty ways to add greens to your March. Available at LNKTV Health’s website: LNKTVhealth.lincoln.ne.gov or YouTube channel @LNKTVhealth.

Toss in some exercise

Nothing goes better with good nutrition than some physical activity. The F Street Recreation Center currently has several free exercise programs available throughout the week. Or head out to Pioneers Park Nature Center for a guided moonrise walk March 2 at 6:30 p.m. Find more information about Lincoln Parks & Recreation events and programs at parks.lincoln.ne.gov.

Health and the City is a monthly column that examines relevant community health issues, spotlights the local organizations whose work impacts the wellness of our community, and highlights fun, useful and important health, nutrition, and active living opportunities.

Health and the City appears on the fourth Saturday of every month and is brought to you by Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln (visit them at HealthyLincoln.org) and LNKTV Health. Send questions or comments to jpearsonanderson@healthylincoln.org.

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