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Wellness Warriors Summer Operation

Linda Bohman (left) and Jan Bertino are on a mission to teach Suffolk County youth how to choose nutritious foods and make good overall decisions daily to achieve their optimum health.

Suffolk County’s Wellness Warriors troop has deployed its educators to Suffolk County parks, beaches, camps, and recreation centers this summer to teach children and parents about healthy life choices, adding two new educational campaigns to this summer’s agenda — the “ChooseMyPlate” promotion and the “iChoose600” obesity prevention campaign. This new drive is a local response to state and national initiatives addressing the nation’s growing obesity epidemic.

The ChooseMyPlate promotion is based on the USDA’s new nutritional guidelines. The promotion introduces young residents to the new MyPlate icon and reminds them to make healthier food choices. Using magnetic toy plates and foods, educators help youngsters to construct a meal that is half fruits and vegetables and half lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy items.  Participants are encouraged to choose low-sodium foods, to avoid oversized portions, and to choose water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages.

After filling their imaginary plates, youngsters and their parents are given the opportunity to guess the number of calories in a typical fast-food menu item. The person with the best guess is given a prize. The activity is part of the iChoose600 initiative, which encourages consumers to choose lower calorie foods at fast food restaurants. The contest is a fun way to introduce residents to calorie posting on menu boards and inform them about how their choices affect their daily caloric intake.

“We introduced the Wellness Warriors program in the summer of 2009 to reinforce lessons that students learn during the school year through the county’s HealthSmart program,” said County Executive Steve Levy.  “The program has reached more than 1,000 children each year at local day camps and recreation programs and hundreds more at local parks, beaches, and libraries.”

“Prevention is the key to wellness, and the best time to teach our residents good health practices is when they are young,” said Dr. James Tomarken, Commissioner of the Department of Health Services. “The Wellness Warriors program is fun and informative and has been very well received by the community. We encourage residents to stop by when they see us at the parks and beaches this summer and see what it is all about.”

The Division of Preventive Medicine has designed a brochure entitled “Help Get the Word Out…Tips for Choosing Healthy Meals and Healthy Portions When Eating Out.” The brochure will be distributed to local libraries and will be offered at presentations by the division’s Office of Education. To download a brochure, visit http://www.suffolkcountyny.gov/departments/healthservices.aspx

For more information on the USDA’s ChooseMyPlate food guidelines, visit www.choosemyplate.gov.

To learn more about the New York State Department of Health iChoose600 program, contact SCDHS at 852-4588 or visit: http://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/obesity/ichoose600; or the iChoose600 Facebook page: (http://www.facebook.com/ichoose600).

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