Surprise, even birthday cake is allowed during National Nutrition Month — in moderation, of course. According to Denise Parker, lead nutritionist at the TSN/WIC program in Green Valley, the occasional cake is a treat, but nothing — not even birthday cake — is a substitute for good nutrition.
“Moms often ask me what foods are best for their children and I tell them the foods that are best for their children are the same foods that are best for themselves such as lean proteins, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy in child-sized portions and limited amounts of juice,” Parker said.
For 15 years, Parker has been working with families and children in Mercer and surrounding counties. She teaches nutrition and certifies participants in the WIC program.
“I assign their food packages and help them set reasonable nutrition goals,” Parker said.
March is National Nutrition Month, a yearly nation-wide campaign sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to focus attention on making good food choices and developing good eating habits. The theme this year is “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.”
“This month-long campaign is so important because it offers sound scientific information from a reputable source that is fun and easy to understand to help keep our loved ones health and strong,” Parker said.
In Mercer County, she believes families are headed in the right direction.
“Our county is blessed with dedicated teachers, health care professionals and parents who have a vision of a healthy future for our children,” she said.
A part of that plan includes using WIC as nutritional support. Participation in Mercer County varies year to year and from season to season. It depends on the weather, the economy and jobs.
“Most adult WIC participants are employed and some have more than one job,” Parker said. “Currently Mercer County fluctuates between 1,500 and 1,800 individual participants.”
It is difficult to calculate because one family might have one WIC participant while another family has four to five participants. Parker said more could be done for families in the area.
“Many families don’t realize they qualify for WIC participation because they believe they earn too much money. Our limit is $3,631 gross monthly income for a family of four,” she said.