Each day during National Public Health Week, Public Health Newswire will feature guest commentary from our members focusing on the day’s theme. Here are a collection of vignettes promoting Thursday’s theme, “Eat well.”

Approaches to eating healthier

Brittny Wells

Brittny Wells

by Brittny Wells, APHA Health Administration Section, Public Health Promotion and Education Section Member, Black Caucus of Health Workers

As a student myself I am well aware of the barriers associated with being able to maintain a healthy diet on a strict student budget. As an adjunct faculty member at Tallahassee Community College I am faced with tons of questions related to my students’ newly acquired knowledge of what they should be eating and financial constraints that seem to make it impossible for them to live the textbook “healthy lifestyle.”

My first approach: suggesting alternatives. Every day I enter class with a bottle of water and healthy snacks. Each Friday I bring in samples, known as “snack of the week.” The purpose of this is to allow students to try food items that are delicious, price-conscious and nutritious. My main goal here is sugar replacement and I am proud that I can provide healthy alternatives that fit my students’ tight budgets.

My second approach – SuperTracker. To show students how the items they call “snacks” negatively impact their diet I assign the use of SuperTracker for a three-week period — while the course covers nutrition and physical activity topics. At the end of the assignment they prepare a brief written statement on how their diet changed (or did not change) using the Health Belief Model or Transtheoretical Model as their framework for decision-making and behavior change.

It is important to offer students financially feasible, healthy alternatives to their usual “on-the-go” dietary patterns. Additionally raising consciousness on the negative health effects of their current diet should act as a cue to action to prompt positive behavior change.

Healthy mouth, healthy body

Naveed Sadiq

Naveed Sadiq

by Naveed Sadiq, APHA Oral Health Section, Student Assembly

A healthy mouth is essential to a healthy body. Eat well for good health by consuming a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy foods, lean meat, fish, and poultry, beans and nuts.  These foods help ensure healthy teeth and gums, and contain important nutrients that keep our mouths and bodies healthy. In contrast a diet containing refined carbohydrates and non-nutritious sugary foods, including sweetened drinks, can put you at risk for tooth decay, the most common chronic childhood disease. The germs found naturally in our mouths feed off of sugary foods and create an acid that can put a hole or cavity in unprotected teeth.

The good news is that dental decay is preventable!

Control the amount of sugary foods you eat. Read nutrition labels and choose foods low in sugar for snacks and mealtimes. High-sugar foods include sodas, juices, cookies and cakes. Low-sugar foods include fresh fruits, vegetables and water. A healthy diet can provide the nutrition your mouth needs to fight infections, including gum disease.

Protect your teeth! Community water fluoridation has proven to be effective in preventing dental cavities. Fluoridated water not only helps your children’s developing teeth be healthy from the inside, but it also protects everyone’s teeth through a topical effect — like a fluoride mouthwash.

Remember to eat well, drink fluoridated water, brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, floss once a day and visit your dentist regularly.

Prevent foodborne disease

Wendy Johnson-Askew

Wendy Johnson-Askew

by Wendy Johnson-Askew, APHA Food and Nutrition Section

The CDC reports that every year approximately 48 million people — 1 in 6 Americans — get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die each year from foodborne diseases that are largely preventable.

On Jan. 4, 2011, President Obama signed into law the Food Safety and Modernization Act to better protect public health by helping to ensure the safety and security of the food supply. It is said to be the most sweeping reform of our food safety in 70 years. This long-awaited legislation will hopefully redirect our system of food safety from a reactive system to one where we are able to prevent foodborne illness.

As work continues on developing policies and procedures to support the legislation public health professionals can refer clients with questions to the Federal Food Safety website that is filled with food safety information, as well as an ask the expert section for additional questions.

Spread the word. Help us to prevent foodborne disease.