Healthy living in the New Year

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Six months after participating in a four-week program on healthy eating, a group of employees at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford are still following the program’s regimen of eating more green foods, exercising regularly and avoiding the candy dish in the office.

A group of employees from the government and community relations department were selected to participate in the program. The idea of the program came from a team at the hospital’s Pediatric Weight Control Program, who wrote the proposal and was awarded a $500 grant from the Employee HealthySteps to Wellness program to develop the sessions.

The lunchtime sessions followed the same principles that are taught to parents and children to help them change their eating and exercise habits for the long term. The eight employees learned strategies to avoid junk food, eat a healthy and balanced diet and incorporate exercise into their daily lives.

Cindy Zedeck, program manager for Pediatric Weight Control at Stanford, said employees were first given journals and taught about the benefits of keeping record of their eating habits.

“One of the most important ways to make changes in your lifestyle is to get a sense of where you are starting from and track your progress,” she added.

The employees followed a tailored version of the “traffic light program,” which breaks down foods into different colors. Red lights include foods such as desserts, sodas and snack foods (foods that aren’t necessary in one’s diet but still nice to have once in awhile.) Yellow lights foods include whole grains, lean meats and fruits – the bulk of our diets. Green lights are vegetables that can be eaten with no limits.

“We categorize all the food into these colors to help set goals,” said Zedeck. “Once you know how many red lights you eat, you set goals around these type of foods.”

Zedeck said employees quickly learned that making even small changes to their diet and environment made a big difference. For example, moving the candy jar out of the main traffic areas made it more difficult to indulge.

“This program did more than just move our M&M jar to a back shelf, it also brought us together in a fun way as a team around a common interest of being more healthy,” said Felice Stonestrom, Manager Community Relations.

Melissa Burke, director of community relations, said it was rewarding to see the employees in her department motivated to improve their eating and exercise habits as well as bond over this shared endeavor.

“Some employees started walking as a group and going to the gym together,”

Burke said. “After the program ended, once a week people would take turns bringing in a meal that they prepared at home to share with everyone. It really enhanced camaraderie and they supported each other as they worked toward improving their health.”

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