Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Guest Blog: Growing "Earthly Delights" - Natural Obesity Prevention

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We're revisiting these terrific guest blogs from the 2011 Texas Health Champion Award winners.  The Award is given to an individual or organization who has mobilized the community in efforts to prevent and reduce obesity through research, policies, marketing, interventions, or other venues.  Nominations for the 2012 Award are open through July 2nd!  For more information or to submit a nominee visit www.texasobesityweek.org

I still remember holding a huge, beautiful, speckled butter bean and being so excited that my dad was going to finally let me plant with him that day. I was 3 years old. Now that I know a bit more about plants, I understand that children sometimes push the seeds in the ground too far and they don’t always germinate. That is why he gave me such a big seed. It certainly had more chances of survival, under the care of a 3 year old, than a lettuce seed would have.

I was blessed to be raised by a farming family and to have parents who were tuned into the cycle of food production from preparing the land, growing the crop, harvesting and preparing for consumption. We ate what we picked and we canned for times when crops were out of season. Fig preserves tasted so good on a cold January morning with a warm biscuit. The hot, sweaty, sticky fig harvest of July totally forgotten with every bite!

Today, as we face staggering statistics about our obesity, its toll on society and productivity, and the loss dreams of children due to diabetes and heart disease caused by obesity, I am reminded of how easy it was for my family to be healthy. Although we raised cattle and chickens, meat was usually served at lunch on Sunday; fish we caught were eaten on Friday, and for special occasions, like birthdays, my grandmother made turtle soup. My brother, my cousins, my parents and aunts and uncles worked in the family vegetable garden together after school. As young children, we got excited when crops were developing for harvest. “What is it going to taste like?” and “How soon can we eat this?” were common questions. Today, I love to visit school gardens and hear the children asking the same questions. The young children are a natural part of the cycle, just as I was and am today.

The easiest way to control weight is to be part of the cycle. As you get involved in the physical process of growing the crop and caring for it, you start thinking about how you are going to prepare the crop and how good it is going to taste. Filling a plate full of vegetables becomes a reward for your hard work and it cannot get better than when you share this experience with a child. As they get older, children also enjoy being part of the planning process and will look at the seed catalogs for ideas. Let it happen.

The more vegetables you put on a plate the less room you have for things that need to be eaten in moderation, like meat and French fries (even biscuits!). The taste of freshly harvested vegetables is wonderful! And, as you develop your gardening skills and harvests become more and more plentiful, you will find there is not much room for the fattening foods. Keep a garden diary, take photos of your garden and harvests, make note of how you prepared your vegetables and note what varieties produced the best or tasted so great that the whole family noticed. These are the true “Earthly Delights” and you and your family deserve them.

Written By
Barbara Storz, MS

Barbara Storz is an Extension educator for the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, part of the Texas A & M University system. She can be reached at their Hidalgo County office at (956) 383-1026 or by e-mail at b-storz@tamu.edu.

Barbara Storz is a winner of the 2011 Texas Health Champion Award. For more information about the award or to submit a nominee for the 2012 Award, visit www.texasobesityweek.org