March is National Nutrition Month 2020, an annual campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to raise awareness on the importance of nutritionally balanced diets for all ages and cultures; the importance of developing sound eating habits, while companioning physical activity to support overall strength and physical health.

This year’s theme is “Eat Right, Bite by Bite.’”

As we celebrate this month, it’s important to note the Osceola Council on Aging has always recognized and educated on making healthy food choices at all ages, but especially in the senior years; and why we provide multiple, nutritionally balanced meal offerings and programs for Osceola’s senior residents. This month, let’s all focus on the importance of making informed food choices, developing healthy eating and physical activity habits for better overall health.

The U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services release updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans every five years. Each edition reflects the current body of nutritional science and research on what to eat and drink to promote health, while reducing the risk of chronic disease. According to these guidelines, eating right doesn’t need to be complicated:

  • Eat fruits and vegetables. They can be fresh, frozen or canned. Eat dark green vegetables such as leafy greens or broccoli and orange vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes.
  • Vary protein choices with fish, beans and peas.
  • Eat at least three ounces of whole-grain cereals, breads, crackers, rice or pasta every day. Choose whole grains whenever possible.
  • Have three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy (milk, yogurt or cheese) fortified with vitamin D to help keep your bones healthy.
  • Make the fats you eat polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Switch from solid fats to oils when preparing food.

Additionally, it’s important to balance a regimen of physical activity with a healthy diet for the best outcome. Set a target to be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day, which can be broken down into three ten-minute sessions. For someone who is currently inactive, it’s a good idea to start with a few minutes of activity such as walking, while gradually increasing the timeframe when stronger. It is important to always check with a health-care provider before beginning any new physical activity program.

The council’s nutrition programs are the most requested of all services administered by our agency. These programs reduce the risk of hunger and malnutrition, which in turn results in improved health outcomes. Nutrition assistance also allows disadvantaged recipients to retain more of their household income, supporting their ability to avoid homelessness and progress toward self- sufficiency.

As a result, nutrition programs have the potential to prevent homelessness, stimulate local economies and promote healthy communities.

Food distribution conducted through the Emergency Food Pantry is crucial to helping disadvantaged Osceola County residents avoid hunger and malnutrition. Fresh foods are leveraged with an equal amount of shelf stable foods to assemble nutritious food packages for distribution.

Disadvantaged families and individuals may also request a case managed assessment through the Council to determine their eligibility for other human services. Partnerships with a variety of local organizations, farmers and funders enable the council to obtain funding and food donations for the preparation of meals and food packages supporting optimal nutrition.

To address the specific nutritional needs of our clients, nutrition education is offered teaching the basis for sound nutrition, instructs on special diets for those suffering from illnesses such as diabetes, and incorporates ethnic and cultural food choices for our diverse clientele.

Even healthy older adults experience changes as aging occurs, influencing the performance of each person’s body, which in turn influences our eating, nutritional intake, and overall health.

Additionally, the council offers exercise options such as Silver Sneakers to support older and disabled residents improve and maintain a healthy fitness level appropriate for their age and ability.

So, don’t forget, in trying to “Eat Right, Bite by Bite,” focus on eating a variety of foods from the many food groups listed which will help supply the nutrients needed as we age.

Always add fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat or fat-free dairy to your daily menu; include lean meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts, low in saturated fats, trans fats, salt (sodium) and added sugars.

In line with National Nutrition Month and the council’s work in offering nutritionally balanced meals, don’t forget to register for the KUA St. Patrick’s Day March for Meals event on Saturday, March 14. The annual St. Patrick’s Day event hosts a 5k Run/Walk to support the Osceola Council on Aging Meals on Wheels program.

To register, go to

For more information on the many nutritionally balanced meal options offered by the council, call Wilda Belisle at 407-847-2144 or Camy Hernandez at 407-846-8532, ext. 222. Anyone needing food supplies or information regarding exercise options may also call the council at 407-846-8532.

In addition, call the numbers above for more information on volunteering for our various Nutrition Assistance programs.

To see more guest columns by Wendy, go to
Published Thursday, March 5, 2020