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Nitro expands community wellness program

To promote healthier lifestyles for the citizens of Nitro and its surrounding areas in Kanawha and Putnam counties, the City of Nitro is expanding its ongoing Get Out and Move physical fitness campaign with an upcoming program that combines good choices with great-tasting options.

Beginning later this month, a six-week nutrition and exercise class will be introduced in Nitro, offered at no charge to members of the community.

Led by West Virginia University Extension Service Adult Nutrition Outreach Instructor April Simpson, the class will be conducted on Thursday evenings, May 30, June 6, June 20, June 27, July 11 and July 18.

Each of the classes will be held from 6:30 until 8:30 p.m. on those Thursdays at the Nitro Public Library, 1700 Park Ave. in Nitro.

Class participants will learn to choose and prepare healthy foods for their family, save money at the grocery store, become more physically active, enjoy cooking demonstrations and food tastings and receive free kitchen gadgets, recipes and other incentives.

“The program is evidence based,” Simpson explained. “It’s based on the diet guidelines for Americans, called MyPlate. MyPlate is divided into five different food groups. Each week, we’ll go over each of the groups, such as as increasing your fruit and vegetable consumption, how many fruits and vegetables you need to have in a day, based on your age, because requirements are different for kids under age 9. Obviously, it also depends on how old you are, if you’re male or female, how much you weigh, how tall you are.

“We talk about protein, how much protein is required on a daily basis, and we’ll talk about portion size, how to read food labels on packaged food, grains, the importance of calcium in your diet — how to incorporate all that into healthy cooking for your family and how to keep costs down.

“We struggle to have the mentality that healthy food is affordable,” Simpson said. “It seems to be a part of the conversation nearly every single week in the group. The class is designed to encourage and help them see the barriers we face with our busy lifestyles today and/or our limited time and show you can actually jump over those hurdles.

“It has a lot to do with planning. We just had a class that focused 100% on how to plan dinners for the entire week. Introduce something new every week. Get the kiddos involved in planning the food, so they’ll be more interested in trying the zucchini or the asparagus. We talk about preparing food at home, which can save you money.

“We talk about buying in season. Right now, strawberries are about to come in season and prices are about to come down. Often, they’re too expensive. We really address all of those challenges.

“We walk away hoping our program influences positive changes for a healthy lifestyle. The goal is to make healthier lifestyles that are sustainable. It takes time, practice and motivation,” Simpson said.

“A lot of times, I don’t have to do the work,” she added. “Participants come together and lift one another up. It’s participant-centered interaction where they get to come and talk about their struggles and battles with whatever it has to do with the food in their home and their families.”

The weekly sessions will also advocate regular physical activity and putting it into practical practice, Simpson said.

“The exercise component is just promoting getting up and moving. I’m not a physical fitness expert. We have some guidelines we’ll discuss, watch a video and march in place, for example,” she said.

Calling herself, with tongue in cheek, a “mobile kitchen,” Simpson said she sets up a kitchen at each class. “They chop the broccoli, sauté the zucchini and create dishes together. And then we sample them and they they go home with the goodies and items such as measuring cups and cutting boards. They get a cookbook when they graduate the class.”

Limited seating is available for the class; registration should be made no later than Thursday, May 23, to secure a space.

Simpson noted that the program to be presented in Nitro is also modified for youth audiences and presented at schools throughout the region.

The WVU Extension Family Nutrition Program’s work is supported by the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program from the USDA National Institute of Food and agriculture.

For more information about the nutrition and exercise class or to register for the series, contact April Simpson at 304-741-7327 or April.Simpson@mail.wvu.edu.

Metro reporter Clint Thomas can be reached at cthomas@cnpapers.com or by calling 304-348-1232.

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