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Back-To-Basics For Smart Nutrition And Fitness

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Eating right and exercising can feel complicated these days - especially if you pay attention to food advertising or visit a brand new fitness center. Many so-called experts would have you believe that staying in shape require tons of fortified foods, sports beverages, expensive supplements, and fancy exercise equipment. In fact, the truth about getting healthy and staying healthy is much easier to swallow - and not nearly as difficult or time-consuming as most people think.

“Simple, everyday choices are the cornerstones for the long, healthy, high-energy lives that we all want to enjoy,” says Ginny Furshong, program manager for Comprehensive Cancer Control at the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. “The healthy habits that reduce the risk of diabetes, stroke, and heart disease may also help reduce the risk of cancer. And, these same smart choices also help children and adults achieve and maintain healthy weights.”

A balanced approach to food and fitness forms the foundation of all Montana healthy lifestyle programs, including Cancer Control, Cardiovascular Health, Diabetes Prevention, and the State Plan to Prevent Obesity. The smart everyday choices for promoting health and preventing chronic diseases are the same across the board: Eat a variety of nutrient-rich foods from all food groups. Focus on whole grains, vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, and beans. Enjoy at least 30 to 60 minutes of fun physical activity daily. Get plenty of sleep (7 to 8 hours a night for adults, more for children).

During the fall months, it’s easier than ever for Montana families to make nutrition and fitness choices for optimal health. Eat Right Montana (ERM), a statewide coalition promoting healthy eating and active lifestyles, suggests these three ways to maximize your family’s health and enjoyment this autumn.

* Stock up at a Farmer’s Market: Most of these community events in Big Sky country are open through late September or early October. All of them are filled with delicious nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables at reasonable prices. Fall is the perfect time to enjoy fresh produce - and to fill your freezer with local items to enjoy during the winter months.

* Serve some Montana wild game: Looking for healthier, local food options? Wild game may be just what the chef and the nutritionist ordered! While all meats are important sources of protein, iron, and B-vitamins, wild game (venison, elk, and antelope) have the added benefit of being low in fat and lower in saturated fat than most domesticated red meat.

* Enjoy fall in Big Sky country: There is no better time to enjoy the great outdoors than autumn - clear blue skies, crisp days, and cool nights without those summer crowds. This is the ideal time of year to explore the treasures of Montana parks and recreation sites - for biking, hiking, walking, boating, fishing, hunting, and wildlife photography.

“Montana’s Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan starts with prevention,” notes Ms. Furshong. “In terms of the lifestyle risk factors for cancer - tobacco use, poor nutrition, inactivity, obesity, and ultraviolet light exposure, establishing daily habits is the most important step that families can take. It does make a difference to keep your long term health in mind.”

Delicious Ways to Maximize Your Health with Fruits and Veggies

In terms of health, all fruit and veggies are not created equal. Different items have different nutrients in varying amounts. For optimal health and lots of energy, your body needs the right balance of nutrients from the right mix of produce. Focus on getting 3 to 4 different fruits per day; then vary your vegetables throughout the week.

* Fruits: Children need at least 1? cups of fruit per day, while most adults need 2 or more cups daily. Go easy on fruit juices and focus on brightly colored fresh, frozen, and canned choices, such as apples, apricots, bananas, berries of all types, grapefruit, grapes, kiwi, mangoes, melons of all varieties, oranges, peaches, pears, pineapple, plums, and tangerines.

* Dark green vegetables: Aim for about ? cup per day - or about 3 cups per week. Enjoy them fresh and raw in salads, as cooked side dishes, or stir-fried with lean beef, pork, or chicken. Go for dark leafy greens, such as spinach, beet greens, arugula, and kale, as well as Romaine and leaf lettuces. Enjoy lightly steamed or microwaved broccoli, broccoflower, and Chinese cabbages.

* Orange vegetables: Serve bright orange vegetables several times per week - at least 1 cup per week for kids and 2 cups weekly for adults. Carrots - raw or cooked - are always a popular choice. Sweet potatoes (quick to oven-bake or microwave) are a nutrient-rich alternative to white potatoes. Winter squash (acorn, butternut, and pumpkin) are tasty and versatile choices.

* Starchy vegetables: The recommendation for this sub-group - corn, green peas, fresh lima beans, and potatoes (except sweet potatoes) - is 3 or more cups per week for adults and 2? cups or more for kids. The concern about potatoes is how they are prepared. The healthiest methods are baked, microwaved, boiled in their skin, and mashed - with minimal amounts of added fat.

* Other vegetables: This includes all the veggies that do not fit into the categories above: asparagus, beets, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, mushrooms, onions, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, and others. This group should make up most of your veggie choices - 4 to 5 cups per week for children and 6 to 7 cups for adults weekly.

* Beans and other legumes: Most of us are not getting enough beans, which are higher in protein and fiber than other veggies. Adults need 3 cups per week, while the goal for children is 1? to 2? cups weekly. Black, garbanzo, kidney, navy, and pinto beans work as side dishes and additions to entrees (casseroles, tacos, salads, etc.). Lentils, split peas, soybeans, and tofu also count here.

Smart Ways to Get Fit for Successful Hunting

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Hunting is a mentally and physically demanding activity - where strength, stamina, focus, and concentration are as important as having the proper equipment and the right location. Being out of shape can ruin a long anticipated hunting trip - and lead to serious injuries, heart attacks, and even deaths. Getting fit beforehand will improve your physical endurance, your mental concentration, and your enjoyment. Bottom line: Don’t put yourself - or your companions - at risk during hunting season. Think ahead and put the necessary time and energy into improving your physical fitness level. That way, you can be successful and feel great during your entire hunting trip.

* Allow six weeks (minimum) to get into better shape. If you are significantly overweight or have any health concerns (high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, shortness of breath, etc.), talk to your health provider before beginning any new exercise or fitness regimen. This is especially important if you are over 40 years old and/or use tobacco products. If you are currently in poor physical condition, it will take concentrated effort for a minimum of six weeks to reach a reasonable level of physical fitness.

* Start slowly, increase gradually, and be consistent. Although you may be tempted to rush out and try to recreate the physical exploits of your youth, that is exactly the wrong way to approach getting fit. Slow and steady is definitely the way to get in shape most effectively - especially if you are currently a confirmed couch potato. Gradually add moderately intense activity (where you sweat but are able to carry on a conversation) until you are active for 30 to 60 minutes on most days of the week.

* Focus on flexibility, endurance, and strength. Safe hunting requires all types of fitness: endurance to hike over rough terrain; flexibility to climb tree stands or kneel in the field; and strength to carry equipment and dress meat. Choose a workout program that emphasizes all aspects of fitness: Aerobic activity (walking, biking, etc.) to build endurance and cardiovascular fitness, weight lifting for strength (3 days per week), and daily stretching (after a 5 to 10 minute warm up) to improve flexibility and balance.

* Find a workout buddy. Fitness experts know that being accountable to another person can be one of the most important keys to success. If you know that someone else is counting on you for an early morning walk or trip to the gym, you are much more likely to stick with the plan. A workout partner can be anyone who has the same basic fitness goals as you - your spouse, a child or grandchild, a friend from work, or one of your usual hunting companions.

Assiniboine Game Stew

Along with ongoing healthy eating and active lifestyle tips, ERM is adding a new monthly feature for 2008 - an easy, delicious recipe. Our September recipe-of-the-month is Assiniboine Game Stew. All the It’s All About Balance recipes will meet the following criteria:

* Require 8 ingredients (or less) that are easy to find and affordable
* Involve minimal preparation time and use common kitchen equipment
* Include a complete nutritional analysis and lots of delicious flavors


* 1/4 cup vegetable oil
* 2 pounds elk, deer or moose, cubed
* 1/3 cup maple syrup
* 4 cups water or stock
* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 4 turnips, peel and chopped
* 4 medium potatoes, chopped
* Salt and pepper, to taste


1) Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat.
2) Add cubed meat and brown on all sides.
3) Add remaining ingredients. Simmer over low heat about 1 hour, or until meat is tender. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
4) Serve in bowls.

Yield: 6 – 1? cup servings

* Use a crock pot to cook the stew.

* Substitute or add other fall veggies, like carrots, yams, sweet potatoes, rutabagas, or winter squash (cubes of peeled acorn, butternut, Hubbard, or other varieties).

* Serve with corn bread and a fresh spinach salad.

Nutrition Analysis

* Serving Size: 1? cup
* Calories: 423
* Total Carb: 42 g
* Dietary Fiber: 4 g
* Protein: 38 g
* Total Fat: 11 g
* Calories from Fat: 16%
* Zinc: 4.5 mcg
* Iron: 6.7 mg
* Sodium: 142 mg