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Having first watched a group of overweight athletes on "The Biggest Loser" program on television recently and noting the difference in candidates of 300 or 400 pounds and again after their weight loss, it was truly amazing. Seeing those results would have a tendency to make you think twice. Very often overeating or thoughts of eating can be such a threat to one’s health.

Many of the contestants had a feeling of inadequacy, loss, which started young by parents who served many of the wrong foods or too much food.

When one thinks of getting healthy and eating foods that are good for you, it is important to include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, low-fat dairy, and healthy fats in our diets. We should try to aim for five servings of fruits and vegetables in our diet every day. The more colorful the fruits and vegetables are, the more nutritious they are. One of the best nutritional vegetables you can eat are sweet potatoes. Those sweet potatoes are full of careotenoids, which are a good source of potassium and fiber. Other great sources are spinach, kale, carrots, peppers and oranges. Eating butternut squash is an easy way to get lots of vitamin A and C, as well as the fiber that we need. Leafy greens like kale, collards, spinach, turnip greens, mustard greens and Swiss chard are powerhouses for vitamin A, C and K, as well as folate, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, lutein, and fiber.

Broccoli is another great vegetable as it has lots of vitamin C, carotenoids, vitamin K and folic acid. And we can't forget the beans. They are rich in protein, fiber, copper, folate, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. Garbanzo beans stand out as they are very versatile, It is important to look for no-salt-added varieties in BPA-free cans.  You can add them to your favorite tossed salad, or stir them into your vegetable stews, curries or soups.

Mangos and watermelon are also great items to enjoy in our daily diet. The mangos help provide our daily needs of vitamin C and vitamin A, potassium and fiber. It is interesting to note that mangos are one of the fruits least likely to have pesticide residue. And watermelon is also a heavyweight in the nutrient department. A standard serving, which is about 2 cups, has one-third of our daily vitamin A & C needs. It also provides a healthy dose of lycopene and a nice shot of potassium.

We also need to start choosing lean meats, such as turkey or chicken, as well as low-fat milk, cheese and yogurt. We should aim to include two servings of salmon or tuna a week in our diets, which helps provide us with a healthy heart. It is also important to start using olive or canola oil instead of butter and lard when we cook.

It is also interesting to note that Greek yogurt has twice the protein of ordinary yogurt. And the omega3 fats we find in fatty fish like salmon helps reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Wild caught salmon are more sustainable for us than farmed salmon.

It is also important to include whole grain pasta, bread and rice in our diets too, which provides us the fiber we need. Whole-grain rye crackers, like RyKrisp, Kavli, Wasa, Finn Crisp and Ryvita are some of the best. Try them topped with tuna, chicken, or shrimp salad, hummus, or tomato with chopped basil.

It is also a good idea to start taking a multivitamin, which is close to 100% in daily value. It will help make sure that you are getting all of the nutrients that we need.

Magazines draw your attention with "diet" or "lose a lot" interest items on their front covers. But surprise — right next to that article inside the magazine you may find the most glorious sugar or calorie loaded recipes that will make the salvia in your mouth fairly drip with anticipation.

It was interesting to note that many bad eating habits start in our brains instead of the stomach. People often eat when they are lonely, bored, "hurt", are sad or put down by others. Finding a hobby, sport or activity helps, especially those that keep your hands busy so they can't hold a fork or a glass or can of liquor or soda. Habits often start by seeing. If it isn't out in plain sight or plastered in advertising, one is more apt to find something more healthful. Buy a good scale, a beautiful mirror and dig out a picture of yourself when you were young and youthful.  It may help your will power.

When my mother’s first great grandchild was born, she made a vow that she would never buy them candy or soda pop. That is a hard promise to keep and you would be surprised how it changes the way you shop and spend money for one thing. Keeping children from a sugar addiction is another. My mother can't say her great grandchildren don't get any candy or soda pop — but not from her. 

Would you give your children alcohol or drugs? No, of course not. It has been said that if sugar were first marketed today, it would be considered a drug. Allowing one a little freedom allows a small indulgence. It is really important to remember to read those labels. Sugars are sneaked into ever so many processed foods. 

While my mother worked for Head Start, they were never supposed to call "sweets" treats and dessert was a forgotten word. All food was put on the table to eat as desired — that is, "dessert" could be eaten first. But dessert was something wholesome, not a sweet. Rewards should not be food. A fat child or person should not be ridiculed.

Do we teach our children and grandchildren to overeat? Consider the size of a child's stomach.  Children should decide when they are full. If they later say that they are hungry, offer them apples, oranges, grapes — not a sweet “treat.” Small amounts of food on a plate is easier to consume. Food not eaten is not wasted as grandpas used to say. It is alright to eat less. Just a taste is permitted.

Food should not be a "treat" or a game. Consider the calories kids pick up from the street at a parade. Holiday candy is a habit. Halloween treats are always candy, but they can be something else. Pencils, crayons, small toys, small coins, also make good treats.

A diagram of how much sugar is in a can of pop, a piece of candy, or decadent brownie or bar can also carry a message. Think. I would have to walk X amount of miles, work out or run or play, for hours to be able work off all those calories. Putting it in perspective does get to the brain.

It is also very important to look at alcohol consumption. The recommendation of alcohol consumption for men is two drinks a day, while the recommendation for women is one. One drink is equal to a 12-ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 ounce of hard liquor. It has become a social thing, but people need to remember that wine does contain alcohol

People are able to reduce their risk of heart disease and gain a better quality of life, and more energy if they quit smoking. If you have tried to quit before, try again. Maybe seek out the help of a health care provider who may offer you different options.

We also need to start exercising. Aim for 20 minutes of moderate activity, such as brisk walking, 3-5 days a week. It helps promote a healthy weight, builds muscle and bones, lowers the risk of disease, as well as improves balance, posture and mood.

It is also important to give your brain a workout too. Start working on crossword or Sudoku puzzles. Join community or church groups to socialize. It is also a good idea to talk with a health care provider if you have been experiencing sadness, worry or find that you would rather be alone than with other people. Many times people suffer from anxiety or depression.

And last but not least it is also important to remember to try and get at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night, which also helps our body functions. Avoid taking naps during the day which will help provide you with a better night sleep.

Changing our habits gives us the opportunity to continue to live here. Neglecting to take care of our health isn't just important to you. It is important to your family. Less is more — more fun, more compliments, more energy, more activities and more years on the end of your life.

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Birthdays and anniversaries:

• Thursday, February 5th: Crystal Simonson, Blanche Kasper, Darrell Howell, Randy Reese, Ericka Johnson, Kylee Jace Wilson, Wesley Schoenrock

• Friday, February 6th: Jean Klocek, Carolyn Hanson, Dean Jensen, David Kelly, Martin Bartness, Colleen Borchert, Troy Haddy, Jean Clausen, Sonja Thompson, Megan Stephoni, Todd Nelson, Brooke Burns, Kay Swenson

• Saturday, February 7th: Cheryl Cornelius, Ted Pelzl, Kelly Simon, Emma Lorraine Klemmensen, Karissa Dolan, Dorothy Katz, Joel Radjenovich, Steve & Holly Glynn

• Sunday, February 8th: Lainee Ann Krohn, Erin Thompson, Terry Wacek

• Monday, February 9th: Emily Eder, John Warnke, Donnavon Eaker, Laura (Edwards) Baudoin, Brad Lerum, Howard Goette, Kelly Lageson, Heidi Nelson, Karen Knudson, Tami Sorenson Hansen, Jay Wangsness

• Tuesday, February 10th: Brooklyn Jo Baudoin, Brett Mitchell Kubiatowicz, Greg Hagen, Abbey Jensen, Tom Wayne, Dean Reiter, Michael Glienke, Wayne Osmundson, Rachel Strand, Judy Thostenson, Peggy Talamantes, Greg Nelson, Madison Johnson, Dick & Mary Ann Ewing

• Wednesday, February 11th: Megan Pence, Jet Wayne, Neil Douglas Schmidt, Donna Wilker, David Dunn, Julie Christensen, Rhonda Thompson Christensen, Steve Gallentine, Earl Cleven, Teresa Knudson Pratt, Nadine Berg

May all the good wishes that you receive on your special day bloom in your heart and bring you joy!

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