Healthy stew of topics – just don’t eat too much

So many choices to write about – the new requirements for school lunches, the La Plata County Fair (in full swing), food preservation, recent fitness findings. ... Today, it will be a collage.

School lunches: When our students return to school in 12 days and go to the cafeteria, they will find the meals served will be bit different. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has made new stipulations by which school cafeterias must abide. For starters, be sure to fill out the requested document to apply for free or reduced lunches. It can help not only those families with tight budgets, but also provide for additional school funding overall. Information gathered is confidential, and each child’s confidentiality is certainly respected.

As a result of new USDA requirements, there will be twice the amount of fruits and vegetables at breakfast as well as lunch; more whole grains and number of servings required will be more grade-specific. This year, high school students will receive at least two servings daily for lunch (10 to 12 servings per week), while the younger students will receive at least one serving per meal (eight to 10 servings per week). Meat or meat equivalent has now dropped to 1 ounce per day (it was 1˝ to 2 ounces), and for high school, the requirement is now a minimum of 2 ounces daily for lunch. Milk will now be fat-free or 1 percent and must be unflavored. There will definitely be some creative work being done to feed the children.

County Fair: Not much to say on that other than enjoy the variety of opportunities and skills of our community residents.

Food preservation: Classes will be given later this month. With all the produce that is coming on right now there can be many ways to take advantage of it. Not everything needs to be canned, though there are some great alternatives. Check out www.laplataextension.org for details. Prices at national groceries are forecast to rise an average of 4 to 5 percent this year, and beef will dip before the prices start going up after the holidays. Any way savings can be achieved certainly helps in the long run.

Fitness findings: Is fit and fat better than skinny and unfit? Researchers are now finding that being fit trumps overweight or lean. People who were overweight and fit were two times less likely to die than lean and unfit people.

Routine exercise strengthens heart and lung function, bones and muscles, as well as processing oxygen. Overall, the greater the efficiency of these functions, the greater one’s fitness. What experts are agreeing on is where the excess fat is located. Abdominal (visceral fat) is the concern and tends to increase. Men with a waist circumference larger than their hips experienced a 75 percent increase in death rate. For women, risk increased gradually with every inch of increased waist size. The reference numbers for greater concern are men with a waist circumference greater than 40 and women with waist circumference greater than 35.

The bottom line, however, is what one does with his or her body. Beginning in September, we will again offer the Strong Women, Strong Heart program as well as the Healthy You program. These are both excellent programs that result in significant health changes. Watch for details.

ricekw@co.laplata.co.us or 247-4355. Wendy Rice is family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office.