“Eat, Love, Sway!” – How a Nutrition Education Program is Tackling Obesity

Eat, Love, Sway! That’s the message Catholic Charities of the Central Coast in the Diocese of Monterey, California, is sending to the people in its new Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention (NEOP) program. They hope participants will learn to make healthy choices about food, nutrition and exercise.

The core of the Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention (NEOP) Program is a family strengthening program designed to raise awareness about the principle of “choices.” The concept of promoting choices as a way to a healthy lifestyle is a gold mine that has yet to be tapped: destiny is not written, but created by the choices we make. The program aims to strengthen the abilities of each participant by affirming and acknowledging each in their own role of a parent/guardian or student. Through small changes one may, and can, develop a healthy lifestyle.

The NEOP Program includes three sessions of instruction on the major components of a healthy lifestyle-nutrition education, healthy food, and physical activity.

  • “My Plate”-Participants learn how to eat balanced meals with the right portion sizes. The program’s approach is to develop respect and appreciation for the culture and traditional foods of each participant’s place of origin, highlighting alternative healthy options that maintain the flavors of traditional dishes.
  • “ReThink Your Drink”-Participants are encouraged to examine the harmful impact of sugary drinks and learn about the choice of excellence-water!
  • “Family Zumba”- Families come together for Family Zumba fitness events and are encouraged to incorporate fun, physical activities into their weekly routine. Participants learn that physical activity is good for the body and the soul; it is fun and promotes community involvement, improves mood and temper, aids with digestion and sleep, and increases self-esteem, thus positive feelings start flowing from within, leading to a desired state of wellness that transfers to all aspects of one’s life.

In presenting these sessions to participants, bilingual facilitators use extensive role modeling and role play, resulting in lively, engaging, fun and educational sessions. The program is funded through a multi-year grant from the California Department of Social Services, as part of a network contract facilitated by Catholic Charities of California.

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