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Take 12 Steps for Health

Take 12 Calendar


March 2017

Step 3: Put Your Best Fork Forward

You have the tools to make healthier food choices!

Making Healthy Strides


Start a vegetable or herb garden to help with your fresh produce supply.

Plan the week’s meals, and cook together as a family. It’s a great way to make healthful foods fun to eat.


Family meal preparation and dinner time can be great family bonding time! This can also teach healthy habits to children and show them how easy it is to make delicious meals. The following steps can help ease family meal time.

  1. Plan: Look at the family calendar and designate a time where everyone is available to help plan meals. This gives everyone a say in what they’d like and can help you create a meal that will satisfy everyone’s desires. Use this time to make a grocery list of all the ingredients you will need.
  2. Prepare: Take your kids grocery shopping with you, if it isn’t too chaotic. Involve your kids in the preparation of the meal. Younger kids are able to set the table, fold napkins, pour beverages, or helping place ingredients where they belong. Older kids can help tossing salad, washing vegetables, and mixing/stirring pots. If you have teenagers, you can assign them a night to cook for the family, with supervision of course.
  3. Bon Appetit: Enjoy the meal you worked hard to put together! Don’t focus on having to clear the table or wash dishes after dinner. Spend the time at the table talking about everyone’s day and relieving stress. You can also use this time to plan other meals or family time.
  4. Clean Up: Involve your kids in cleaning up the table. Have little ones put dishes in the sink or dishwasher and have older kids help with the cleaning assembly line. Wash, dry, put on drying rack. This will not only allow the family to spend more time together but also speed up the dishwashing process!

Source: Kid's Health, "Family Meals"


Many of us have bad memories of school lunches growing up, so we choose to send our kids to school with homemade lunches. School lunches have been in a negative light because of the thought that they have a higher fat and sodium content making them worse for our children. However, with the many regulations that have recently been implemented, school lunches provide more of certain nutrients than do packed lunches. School cafeteria lunches provided more protein, fiber, calcium, fruits, and vegetables. Home-packed lunches were found to have higher fat, sugar, and calorie content and were more likely to include sugary drinks. Have no fear, you can still pack healthy lunches for your kids with the following tips:

  • Choose diverse foods: Include foods from all food groups. Choose skim dairy products like milk or yogurt, include fruits and vegetables. The more colors the fruits and vegetables are, the more nutrients your child is receiving.
  • Portion control: Children don’t need the portions that adults do. Scale back on the amounts you include in your child’s lunch. has great tips on how to scale back portions if you are unsure how to do so.
  • Plan ahead: Sit down with your kids to plan out the week’s lunches. This way they can have a say in what they are getting, but also give them healthy food choices. Instead of giving them the option of cookies or chips as a snack, offer them carrots or cucumbers and let them choose. This teaches kids how to make healthy food choices.
  • Steer clear of sugary drinks: Instead of juice pouches or soda, include water or skim milk with your child’s lunch. Sugar-filled drinks do not satisfy thirst as much as water and do not hydrate our bodies as well. Start your kids off young with adequate water intake that they can carry with them throughout their lives.
If the morning rush is too hectic one day and your kid(s) have to purchase lunch from school, packing them healthy lunches can help them make healthy food choices when left on their own in the school cafeteria.  

Source: Cooking Light, "Brown Bag Vs. School Lunch: Which is Healthier?"


Laughter, fun times, and memories being made can all come from cooking together as a family. Children learn to make healthy food choices and are more likely to eat foods they have helped prepare. There are also many benefits to cooking together as a family, here are a few:

  • It reduces the time kids spend in front of the TV or doing other sedentary activities
  • Kids aren’t eating junk food
  • Kids are encouraged to try new foods
  • New family traditions can be made as well as memories
  • Gives kids ownership of the food they are eating
  • Makes children more likely to make healthy food choices in the future

Start slow and give your kids a responsibility in preparing the family dinner so they have a purpose and role. Enjoy the time you spend with your family and get some good laughs out of it!

Source: WebMd, "Cooking with Your Children"


Americans are eating, on average, 300 more calories per day. Portions have greatly increased in the past few decades. Restaurants also serve much greater portions than is recommended. Below are the serving sizes of some popular foods that we usually get too much of:

  • Meats: 3 oz. = a deck of cards
  • Seafood: 3oz. = a checkbook
  • Nuts: ¼ cup = a golf ball
  • Fruit: ½ cup = a light bulb, ¼ cup = a golf ball, 1 cup = a baseball
  • Banana: 8 inches = the length of a standard pencil
  • Fats & Oils: 1 tbsp. = 1 poker chip,
  • Bread: 1 slice = 1 cassette,
  • Sweet Treats: 1 slice of cake = 1 deck of cards, 1 oz. of chocolate = 1 package of dental floss, ½ cup of ice cream = 1 light bulb, 1 cookie = 2 poker chips

Practice portion control at home. Measure out cereal for breakfast and don’t just pour till the bowl is filled. Also, using smaller plates can help with portion control because you fill your plate with smaller quantities. At first it will seem tough and you may feel hungry, but in the end you are doing yourself and your family a favor!

Source: WebMD, "Portion Size Plate"

Get Info for the 50+ Crowd at the Park Authority’s 50+ Web Portal

50+ Connect, Engage, PlayThe Fairfax County Park Authority has launched a website specifically for residents age 50 or older. The 50+ Engage-Connect-Play portal provides one-stop shopping for information on Fitness & Wellness, Arts & Learning, Gardening & Adventure, Giving Back, and more that’s geared toward Baby Boomers and active seniors.

Learn More at Fairfax County Park Authority - Fifty Plus.


Fairfax County Park Authority Take 12 Sponsors
Take 12 Steps for Family Health
Take 12 Steps for Your Health in 2017 Calendar

Download Your

12 Months, 12 healthy goals. Don't miss out on this year's great wellness opportunities in the Fairfax County community! The calendar contains fitness and wellness tips, ways to improve your nutritional habits, and better health ideas for kids, teens and adults. Also, the calendar contains coupons to use throughout the year. STEP UP to better health!

The Take 12 program is free and anyone can participate at any time. This program is designed to:

  • Help you accomplish healthy goals each month, with tips to keep you going for the duration.
  • Give you access to information - free workshops are available each month on different healthy topics and bulletin boards loaded with information are posted at all the RECenters.
  • Provide an opportunity for you to experience fitness and wellness programs offered across Fairfax County.
  • Empower you to make important lifestyle changes... you can do it!
  • Plus, sign-up to receive the monthly e-newsletter, packed with recipes and healthy tips, upcoming events, and opportunities to achieve your Take 12 goals!

pledge card

Download the Take 12 Pledge


Take 12 Newsletter

2017 Healthy Strides Community 5k/10K, Burke Lake Park, April 22, 2017
2017 Healthy Strides Community Expo, SpringFest, April 30, 2017

We are seeking support from local businesses and organizations for Take 12! Steps for Community Health in 2015. Our participants are the same people your business is looking to attract. Take advantage of this opportunity.


Achievement Award Winner

Healthy Strides Race and Expo are
2015 NACo Award Winners


Healthy Workshops and Events are always being added!
Check our events calendar often for great opportunities in the community.

All events are free (unless indicated with a "$") and require advanced registration.
To register, please email


We are looking for people who have used the Take 12 program and found better health as a result of their participation. We are also looking for any kind of feedback about the program - the calendar, events, workshops, tips, articles - anything that you want to tell us, we're listening! Email us at


Phone: 703-324-8423

Mailing Address:
Fairfax County Park Authority
Attn: Take 12 Program
12055 Government Center Pkwy, Suite 425
Fairfax, VA 22035-1118

All content within is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. Always consult your doctor if you are concerned about your health. Always consult your physician or health care provider before taking any new medication, beginning any program of exercise, or following any health or wellness advice contained herein.

Contact Fairfax County: Phone, Email or Twitter | Main Address: 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA 22035
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