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Take 12 Steps for Health

Take 12 Calendar


February 2016

Step 2: Get a FOOD Education

Familiarize yourself with food lingo – labels, ingredients, and daily dietary recommendations – for a more streamlined understanding of nutrition.

Making Healthy Strides

Gradually phasing out unhealthy foods. Cut back by starting in your local grocery store’s organic section to find more natural alternatives to your favorite packaged snacks. Look for fewer ingredients and less processing. Cutting out junk food “cold turkey.” You could experience a detoxifying process as your body rids itself of all the chemical ingredients that includes fatigue, irritability and upset stomach. Better to make the switch gradually, and drink plenty of water to flush out your system.
Plant-based sources of protein Consider soy and quinoa, which contain complete proteins. This is the same as what is found in animal sources, without the bad fats and heavy conscience. Other good plant sources are broccoli, lentils, tempeh and black beans. Red meat It’s high in protein and other nutrients, but also high in saturated fat, a known disease-causer.

Sources:I Told You I Was Sick, The Iron You, WebMD

Nutrition Lingo

You probably are familiar with this scenario that takes place daily at your local café, “I’ll take a triple grande, sugar-free vanilla, no foam, nonfat latte.” It’s the language of café-speak, which can be very complicated and confusing, all just for ordering a cup of coffee. You can run into similar confusion when it comes to food products nowadays as well. From the packaging to the nutrition label, and down to the ingredients, it can be hard to know what is healthful. Here are some commonly used terms (in alphabetical order) and their meanings:

Calorie free: Less than five calories per serving

Certified Naturally Grown (CNG): Products are certified by an independent nonprofit organization (not USDA) as having been produced in approximate accordance with national organic standards, a program involving fewer paperwork requirement and lower certification fees for farmers than the USDA’s National Organic Program.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): Consumers buy a share in a local farm or garden, usually paying before the beginning of the season—in return, they receive a weekly supply of fresh, local produce that is harvested throughout the growing season.

Conventional: Refers to standard agricultural practices that are widespread in the industry. Can (but does not necessarily) include the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, mono-cropping, antibiotics, hormones, and other chemical approaches. Conventional farming in the U.S. may also include the use of GMOs.

Farm-To-Table: Signifies that the food on the table came directly from a specific farm, or a meal prepared and served at the farm where the food was grown. Also emphasizes a direct relationship between a farm and a restaurant or store.

Fat free/sugar free: Less than ½ gram of fat or sugar per serving

Free-Range: USDA regulations apply only to poultry and indicate that the animal has been “allowed access to the outside.” The USDA regulations do not specify the quality or size of the “outside” or the duration of time an animal has “access to the outside.”

GMO (Genetically Modified Organism): GMOs are plants and animals whose genetic make-up has been altered to exhibit traits that they would not normally have, like longer shelf-life, different color, or resistance to certain chemicals. In general, genes are taken (copied) from one organism that shows a desired trait and transferred into the genetic code of another organism. Genetic modification is currently allowed in conventional farming.<</p>

Grass-Fed: Refers to livestock, especially cattle or sheep that have been fed grass instead of corn or soy (grains).

Good source of: Provides at least 10 to 19 percent of the Daily Value of a particular vitamin or nutrient per serving<</p>

High in: Provides 20 percent or more of the Daily Value of a specified nutrient per serving

Local: Food that is grown close to where you live. This is connected to a broader philosophy of environmental sustainability and supporting the local economy.

Locavore: Someone who eats food grown or produced locally.

Low calorie: 40 calories or less per serving

Low cholesterol: 20 milligrams or less and 2 grams or less of saturated fat per serving

Low sodium: 140 milligrams or less of sodium per serving

Natural: The product does not contain added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances. USDA allows the use of the term "natural" to be used in meat and poultry labeling on products that contain no artificial ingredients or added color, and only minimally processed.

Organic: As defined by the USDA, organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic plant foods are produced without using most conventional pesticides, fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge, bioengineering or ionizing radiation. A government-approved certifier must inspect the farm to ensure these standards are met. In addition to organic farming, there are USDA standards for organic handling and processing. There are three levels of organic claims for food:

  • 100% Organic. Products that are completely organic or made of only organic ingredients qualify for this claim and a USDA Organic seal.
  • Organic. Products in which at least 95 percent of its ingredients are organic qualify for this claim and a USDA Organic seal.
  • Made with Organic Ingredients. These are food products in which at least 70 percent of ingredients are certified organic. The USDA organic seal cannot be used but “made with organic ingredients” may appear on its packaging.

Processed: Refers to food that has undergone a "change of character." Examples include roasted nuts, tofu, and cut, pre-washed spinach. Though this term tends to have a negative connotation, processed food is not necessarily unhealthful.

Reduced: At least 25 percent less of the specified nutrient or calories than the usual product

Seitan (also called wheat gluten): A vegetarian replacement for meat, made of protein (gluten) extracted from flour.

Sodium/Salt free: Contains less than 5 milligrams of sodium per serving.

Soybean: A legume, which is an excellent, inexpensive vegan source of protein and iron. Soybeans are used to make a number of vegetarian and vegan substitutions for meat, dairy and eggs.

Tempeh: A replacement for meat, made from fermented soybeans

Unprocessed: Refers to food that is raw and in its original state. Examples include raw nuts, edamame, or a head of lettuce.

Vegan: Foods with this label contain no animal products such as meat, dairy, eggs, gelatin, or honey.

Very low in sodium: Provides 35 milligrams of sodium (or less) per serving.

Whole: generally refers to foods that are not processed or refined and do not have any added ingredients. This include fresh produce, dairy, whole grains, meat and fish; meaning any food that appears in its most pure form with minimal processing.

Sources: Eatright.org (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics), Gluten Free for Good

Food Rules

Michael Pollan, a writer about food, has a unique and simplified way of looking at the way we nourish ourselves. He has several rules centered on the idea of food not only as vehicle for nutrients, but as a social, emotional and physical part of our lives. Pollan says that these seven words, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants,” are the simple sum of all of his knowledge. He has seven rules that can easily be applied to daily life for a healthier and more real food experience.

  1. Don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food. "When you pick up that box of portable yogurt tubes, or eat something with 15 ingredients you can't pronounce, ask yourself, "What are those things doing there?" Pollan says.
  2. Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can't pronounce.
  3. Stay out of the middle of the supermarket; shop on the perimeter of the store. Real food tends to be on the outer edge of the store near the loading docks, where it can be replaced with fresh foods when it goes bad.
  4. Don't eat anything that won't eventually rot. "There are exceptions -- honey -- but as a rule, things like Twinkies that never go bad aren't food," Pollan says.
  5. It is not just what you eat but how you eat. "Always leave the table a little hungry," Pollan says.
  6. Families traditionally ate together, around a table and not a TV, at regular meal times. It's a good tradition. Enjoy meals with the people you love.
  7. Don't buy food where you buy your gasoline. In the U.S., 20% of food is eaten in the car.

Source: WebMD

Ingredients for Living

Stock your pantry with these healthful ingredients and you’ll be ready to put together a quick, well-balanced meal in no time.

  • Extra virgin olive oil [Benefits: high in healthy monounsaturated fat and antioxidants]
  • Vinegar [Benefits: adds significant flavor with very few calories and little to no fat]
  • Canned tuna packed in water [Benefits: convenient, inexpensive, and healthy—it’s high in protein and vitamin D and can be a good source of omega-3 fatty acids]
  • Canned tomatoes [Benefits: rich in flavor and lycopene – a cancer-fighting antioxidant]
  • Steel-cut and old-fashioned oatmeal [Benefits: helps manage cholesterol and prevent heart disease]
  • Whole-wheat pasta [Benefits: nearly three times as much fiber as regular pasta]
  • Brown rice [Benefits: abundance of nutrients and gluten free]
  • Whole-wheat flour [Benefits: contains fewer calories and carbs, but packs more protein, calcium, insoluble fiber than white flour]
  • Barley [Benefits: a simple high-fiber cholesterol fighter]
  • Quinoa [Benefits: this herbaceous plant is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids and can be as satisfying as meat]
  • Lentils [Benefits: this legume, low in fat and packed with protein and fiber, cooks quickly and is affordable]
  • Beans [Benefits: choose dried for a more affordable option, or choose canned with no salt added and rinse well for a more convenient option]
  • Nuts [Benefits: large amount of protein, fiber, calcium, and other nutrients make nuts a delicious, energy-boosting snack]
  • Nut butter [Benefits: natural nut butter has a high level of protein and monounsaturated fats]

Source: RealSimple


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Take 12 Steps for Your Health

Download Your

Take 12 Steps for Your Health in 2016 Calendar

Download 2016 Calendar

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!

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Download Take 12 Pledge Poster

Download Take 12 Pledge Card

2016 Healthy Strides Community 5k/10K, Burke Lake Park, April 23, 2016
2015 Healthy Strides Community Expo, Burke Lake Park, April 25, 2015

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.


Healthy Strides Race, Expo Presented NACo Award

Achievement Award Winner

The Fairfax County Park Authority's Healthy Strides Community 5k/10k Race and Healthy Strides Expo will receive a 2015 Achievement Award next month at the National Association of Counties (NACo) 2015 Annual Conference and Exposition. NACo's annual awards program is designed to recognize innovative county government programs, and the Healthy Strides event is being honored in the Parks and Recreation category.


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 Take12@fairfaxcounty.gov.


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 Take12@fairfaxcounty.gov.


Take 12 Newsletter


Email: Take12@fairfaxcounty.gov
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 www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/rec/take12/ 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.

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