fruit-and-vegetables

Healthy eating for people with disabilities

by KERRY MAUGER AND PAMELA KATZ

Small Changes, Healthier Lives

It can be difficult to eat healthy. A lot of times, most people are confused by all of the information in the news and magazines about healthy eating and being more active. To help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities learn more about simple ways to improve their food choices and healthy eating, The Arc created the Health and Fitness for All program.Healthy eating woman

The Arc began implementing the program in two communities during 2015, including Advocacy Denver in Colorado and The Arc Gloucester in New Jersey. The organizations used the HealthMatters curriculum with small groups of people in a classroom setting for 12 weeks at a time. During the classes, people learned about their health, what foods are good and bad for them, portion control and how different foods can affect their bodies.

“The dairy group is good for my teeth and bones.”

Over time, small changes in diet and exercise routines helped class members create a better picture of health.

People started packing more fruits and vegetables into their lunches and swapped white bread for the healthier option of whole wheat. The classes also provided people with healthy snacks such as fruit smoothies, quinoa, green tea and brown rice. In total, 665 healthy meals and snacks were provided.

As classes progressed, people started to gain knowledge about healthy practices and were eager to teach their family and friends about what they learned in class. One participant, Deanna from The Arc Gloucester, told friends outside the program that “the dairy group is good for my teeth and bones,” and “carrots are good for my eyes.”

The program also made the community more aware about the importance of healthy eating and living. People who attended classes attended healthy events or grocery store tours to learn more about how to make better food choices. Family and friends were also invited to these events so that they can better support participants.

So far, 35 people participated in the Health and Fitness for All classes in Colorado and New Jersey. Together, the group lost a total of 34 pounds, and people also saw a decrease in their blood pressure and BMI, which is difficult to do. Twenty-two of the class participants said the information definitely increased their knowledge of healthy eating, and 16 people rated their health as “better” by the end of the class.

Five easy snacks that are healthy for you

Class participants discovered that eating healthy actually tastes good too. Below are five easy snacks participants enjoyed that are healthy and quick to prepare. Instead of grabbing a candy bar or cookie next time you have a food craving, try one of these healthier options:

  1. Hummus with carrots or apple slices

  2. Toast with avocado

  3. Kale chips

  4. Saltine crackers with peanut butter and jelly

  5. Crunchy baked chickpeas

Learn More

Please visit The Arc’s website at thearc.org/healthmeet/resources to learn more about how you can stay healthy and happy. The Walmart Foundation provided funding for Health and Fitness for All.

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