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Local health program inspires a change of diet

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The hidden fat in fast food meals has prompted a group of Freeporters to find healthier alternatives on March 6, at the Freeport Memorial Library’s Eat Smart New York event, which helps families eat more fruits and vegetables, drink less sweetened drinks and practice healthy lifestyles.

This event, presented by Cornell University Cooperative Extension of Nassau County, is a five-week program open to Nassau residents who wanted to learn about the five food groups and how to incorporate them into their daily meal planning.

Heart disease has been the leading cause of death in Nassau County in recent years. According to the New York State Department of Health, there have been over one million heart disease-related deaths between 2013 and 2015.

“I just learned that orange juice is not good for you, a lot of sugar in it,” Freeporter Gwen Watson said. “I drink it every morning. I love orange juice.”

Watson said she is trying to bring her high blood pressure and cholesterol to better reading. She never eats in fast food restaurants for fear of the salt content and the fats.

ESNY’s nutrition educator, Karen Novoa-Sorante said that Freeport is one of their targeted areas when looking for people who may not be well educated in healthy eating.

“I try to teach them different lessons that they can take into practice,” she said. “I want them to see it’s not so bad to have a healthier version of a pizza or a quesadilla.”

Novoa-Sorante demonstrated how to make an English-muffin veggie pizza by using whole-wheat english muffins, pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, and chopped broccoli. She also instructed workshop attendees to list fast food menus and choose a meal they would usually have. The attendees then calculated the total fat content in the fast food.

The group surprised by the fat and sugar content of a typical hamburger meal. Novoa-Sorante used small cubes to provide a visual look of the sugar content in each meal and used scoops of lard onto a paper plate to represent the fat.

“Sometimes [people] don’t know how to read nutrition facts,” Novoa-Sorante said.

Although Watson fears eating fast food, she said Freeport has good restaurants in the south shore and acknowledged she needed to learn how to choose from the menus wisely.

Novoa-Sorante also referred back to “MyPlate,” the current nutrition guide published by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. “MyPlate” is a food circle that charts the place setting with a plate and glass divided by the five food groups. According to Novoa-Sorante, following “MyPlate” was a helpful way to create new eating habits and reminded the group that their plates should contain fruits and vegetables.