Building a plant-based healthy community

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One of the problems that people run into when trying to be healthy comes not from their own lack of willpower but rather from their surroundings and the environment in which they live.

If people go out to eat, but can't find anything healthy to eat on the menu, they are faced with the dilemma of having to choose between unhealthy options or eating too little to fully satisfy themselves.

If you have children and you send them to school where classrooms and cafeterias are places where unhealthy options are the rule, then no matter how hard you try, your children might not end up eating as healthfully as you would like.

There are steps that a community, a school, a business or a community association can take to rectify these situations and to make it easier for people to choose healthy options - not just in their eating habits, but also in their ability to exercise - and to offer space for stress reduction and other healthy habits.

One example of an ongoing effort, started by Ross Glatzer of Sun City's Eat Smart Live Longer Club, has been to meet with restaurant owners and talk to them about how they can offer at least one whole food, plant-based option on their menu.

Since the club has approximately 500 members, those business owners have an incentive to do so. And when a restaurant agrees to do that, then Glatzer provides them with an ESLL sticker that the restaurant can then place on its window to show that it offers at least one whole food, plant-based option on its menu.

Blue Zones, based in Minneapolis, is another organization that is promoting healthy environments for people. They started with Albert Lea, Minn., and turned that small community into a Blue Zones community. Then they moved on to covering the entire state of Iowa.

There are currently community leaders on Hilton Head Island, in Sun City and in Savannah who are initiating plans to potentially bring the Blue Zones communities concept to the local area. While each is still in very preliminary stages, it will be something to watch and become involved in over the next few years.

Blue Zones communities take a community-wide approach, working with worksites, schools, restaurants, faith-based communities, grocery stores, governmental leaders and individuals to create healthy environments for its citizens.

One other organization trying to change the environment we live in to a healthier one is PlantPure Communities, which is focused on three major areas: community gardens, restaurant offerings and serving "food desert" areas with healthy plant-based foods.

At the current time, I am not aware of a local effort in that arena, but it would be one for someone to consider taking up.

J Lanning Smith is a local freelance writer focused on healthy lifestyles.

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Health & Wellness
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