Eat Well – 7 ways to increase your fruit and veg intake

Most health-conscious people agree that eating a lot of fruits and vegetables is a good habit. Plants provide a cornucopia of nutrients your body needs to function properly. Plus they are colorful, delicious and provide endless opportunities for cooking creativity. For a variety of reasons though, few of us get enough of them in our daily diets.

How many servings do you need each day? That number depends on the number of calories you need per day, along with other factors. An easier guideline to follow is this: whenever you have a meal or snack, make at least half of it vegetables, fruit or a combination. That likely means increasing the amount you currently eat, and you should do that at your own pace. Start by adding just one more fruit or vegetable per day or one more per week. Here are some tips to help you get going.

7 ways to increase your fruit and veg

1. “A goal without a plan is just a wish”*

Create a weekly menu, or at least a menu outline, that includes a fruit or vegetable at every meal and snack. Using this menu, make your grocery list and go shopping.

  • Choose a variety of fruit and veggies, across the whole spectrum of colors.
  • Please eat real fruit and veggies. Chips and other products containing vegetable powders or concentrates don’t count.
  • Frozen produce can be more convenient than fresh. It’s easy to keep some on hand all the time, so you can add a boost of nutrition to any meal or snack. Also, you can use as much as you need and leave the rest in the bag, creating less waste.
  • Canned foods tend to be a less nutritious choice than fresh or frozen, and most people are not fond of their soggy texture. With beans and tomato products, however, the canned version is far more convenient and still relatively healthy. If you do buy canned vegetables, choose low-sodium or no-salt-added options.

2. Be prepared

It’s a motto not just for scouts! On a day when you have extra time, do some preparation for the coming days.

  • Cut up fresh produce, so it is ready for snacking or for use in recipes later.
  • Cook a batch of something that can be refrigerated or frozen, then reheat and eat later.

3. Double, sneak and boost

Add vegetables to things you already regularly eat. For example:

  • Boost that breakfast by adding spinach, mushrooms, onions or tomato to your scrambled eggs.
  • Add sliced veggies or leafy greens to sandwiches or wraps.
  • Sneak some broccoli, cauliflower, peppers or squash into soup or chili or pasta dishes.
  • If you ever need to rely on a pre-packaged frozen meal, throw some chopped, frozen veggies into it before you put it in the microwave. This will significantly improve the meal’s nutritional content.

4. Add a little sweetness and texture

Add fruit to cereal or yogurt.

  • Instead of eating sugary, fruit-flavored yogurt, stir berries into Greek yogurt. If you do this with frozen berries and store it in the fridge overnight, the berries will thaw a little, giving you a nice sauce that flavors the whole concoction.

5. Make it a power pack snack!

  • …on raw veggies, such as carrot or celery sticks, dipped in hummus.
  • …on plain, fresh fruit. Or combine fruit slices with peanut or almond butter. For a less messy combo, mix unsweetened dried fruit with nuts.

6. Explore the stars, star fruit that is

Don’t hesitate to try a vegetable or fruit you’ve never had before. You might discover a new favorite.

  • Buy something that looks interesting, and then search online for preparation instructions.
  • If you shop at a farmers’ market, you can ask the farmers themselves for recommendations.

7. Try that beet again

Consider revisiting a vegetable you thought you didn’t like. Maybe your tastes have changed, or you can try a new way of preparing it, and you’ll find you now love it.

Have fun on your new adventures in the plant world!

Laurie Ledford

Laurie Ledford RDLaurie Ledford is our very own Georgia peach, a registered dietitian from Atlanta, Georgia, the land of grits, collard greens and super-sweet iced tea. She now works as a registered dietitian  in the Tucson Medical Center Wellness Department. She enjoys helping people improve their health through sustainable dietary changes while still relishing occasional indulgences. In her off hours, Laurie engages in foodie pursuits such as sampling unusual flavor combinations (olive oil and basil ice cream was a good one) as well as hiking and cycling.

 

 

 

 

*Quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

TMC recruiter hits her stride at 200th Meet Me at Maynards achievement

Kim Loya reaches 200th Meet Me walkIt is often shared that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Kim Loya remembers those first few steps in what would become a weekly Monday tradition and help her find new goals, new friends and a new love for the city she lives in.

It was five years ago when Loya discovered Meet Me at Maynards, a free social walk and run that’s designed to build community through fitness.

“I have a vivid memory of that first experience,” recalled Loya, who is a human resources recruiter for TMC, the title sponsor of the event. “The walk took me to cute little neighborhoods around downtown that I had never seen before, and I just distinctly remember texting my friend the whole way about how much I love where I live.”

Loya will achieve her 200th milestone T-shirt the first Monday in July. She jokes that her dog, Paris, a white toy poodle, may be a bit prissy, but she’s been a faithful walking partner for almost every outing, even if she won’t have the standard-issue burgundy shirt to prove she reached the 200-walk threshhold.

Kim and Paris walk three miles each Monday.jpg“For me, it’s something I look forward to every Monday and it starts my week on a good note,” Loya said, adding that when her husband is able to join her, they turn it into a date night and sample the downtown eateries.

Like many Maynards aficionados, Loya is committed: They’re out there walking rain or shine, holidays, and even in heavy monsoon downpours, with streams of rain pouring off raincoats.

The three-mile route, combined with other weeknight walking commitments and her weekend cycling and hiking trips, helps her stay in an active space. “It really does help with my walking routine,” she said, adding she is now training for the Camino del Santiago, a 700-mile pilgrimage to northwestern Spain that is popular with hikers and cyclists. The Camino requires a walking commitment of at least 100 kilometers and she’s set her goal for fall 2019.

She’s also developed friendships as a result. One couple – rounding out on their 500-walk milestone – are now counted among her good friends and they just finished a wine-tasting trip together.

“It definitely helps build a sense of community,” she said. “It’s like a family because you see many of the same people each week and you start talking to the person next to you. And you see everything from runners to people out there with canes. It’s very family-friendly and a lot of fun.”

Tim Bentley, manager of The Core at La Encantada and who has been involved in the Maynards races on behalf of TMC, said he’s been impressed by Loya’s dedication. “She really personifies TMC’s commitment to healthy communities – and healthy in a broader sense than just physical health, but social health as well,” he said.

Loya said she’s proud of her achievement. “I’m a person who really likes to meet goals, so reaching 200 is really important to me,” she said, telling of a rain-slick bicycle race in Hawaii that she completed, despite four falls and bloody knees.

Fortunately, Maynards is not as grueling, with its 2-, 3- and 4-mile routes. To get the most out of the experience, Loya recommends:

  • Bring water
  • Go early to find parking (although the point, after all, is to walk, so….)
  • Despite the moniker, the walks typically start at The Cup Café at Hotel Congress
  • Sign up for the newsletters. You don’t want to be the one without the tutu.

For more information visit Meet Me at Maynards.

 

Green Eggs and ham, anyone? Are those eggs safe to eat?

Whether you celebrate Easter, Passover, another spring holiday, eggs are the hot ticket right now. And unless your name is Sam, you probably don’t want to be eating many green eggs!

When I was little, we would hunt for eggs in the yard…the real thing AND we would eat them afterwards! I also used to eat mud pies and share ice cream cones with my dog. Obviously, food safety wasn’t of much concern to me back then!

Today, because of the rise in food borne illnesses, we have to be much more cautious and concerned about how we handle our food. Here are a few tips to keep your holidays eggcellent:

Egg Safety Tips:

Is it safe to eat the hard-boiled eggs we decorated?

Yes if you:
-Store them in the refrigerator
-When hiding them only place them away from bacterial sources such as pets and dirt
-Toss eggs that are cracked, dirty or have been out of the fridge for more than two hours
-Use all leftover cooked eggs within one week

Or you could cook two sets of eggs! One set for an egg hunt or centerpiece display, and the other for eating. That way, the eggs you eat can stay properly refrigerated.

Consider using plastic eggs for hiding. You can use them year after year!

Can I use eggs after the “sell by” date?

Yes! Make sure you use the eggs within three weeks of the “sell-by” date and:
-Store eggs in the refrigerator at less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
-When you buy eggs, make sure they are sold in a refrigerator case and that none of the eggs are cracked
-When you get home put the eggs in the refrigerator and keep them in their original carton displaying the expiration date.

While many refrigerators have a specialized egg rack in the door, don’t use it. Place your eggs in the main portion of the refrigerator. The egg rack on the door is not the best place to store eggs because the temperature is warmer there than on the interior shelves.

How do I hard-boil an egg?

Hard-boiled eggs should be cooked until the white and yolk are completely set.
-Place eggs in a saucepan and cover with water.
-Bring water to a boil, cover the saucepan, then turn off the heat.
-Let eggs stand in water for 15 minutes.
-Remove eggs and place in a bowl of ice cold water to cool.

Do hard-boiled eggs spoil?

Fresh eggs direct from the chicken have a protective coating that makes it difficult for bacteria to permeate the shell and contaminate the egg. The eggs you purchase from the store are often subjected to a high pressure water stream to wash the dirt off. This washing also takes off the protective covering and finally when eggs are hard boiled any remaining protective coating is washed away. Make sure hard-boiled eggs are refrigerated within two hours of cooking and used within a week.

Eek! Why is the inside of my hard-boiled egg green?

Oops! You’ve overcooked your egg. The sulfur and iron compounds in the egg have reacted on the yolk’s surface, but don’t worry the green-colored yolk is safe to eat.

Have more questions? The Eat Right website which is a fabulous resource for all things nutrition including food safety questions.

Mary Atkinson is the Director of Wellness at TMC and a register dietitian.

Sit. Stay. Bad human! 9 tips for the office worker

9 tips for the desk workerAs an office worker you may be bound to a desk and a computer. For most of us this means that we may sit most of the day. You might think staying seated is one of the safest things you could do, but too much sitting can hurt your body in a number of ways:

How sitting too much can hurt your body:

  • Increases your risk of heart disease
  • Increases your risk of diabetes
  • Causes poor circulation in your legs, which could lead to varicose veins or blood clots
  • May lead to fatigue and food cravings
  • Less activity leads to weight gain
  • Weakens your abdominal and gluteal (butt) muscles
  • Contributes to other structural problems in the spine and hips

We checked in with Laurie Ledford RD, our very own Nutritionista, for her tips to help us escape the chains of our desks.

What is a desk-bound office worker to do? Here are a few tips to get you out of your chair.

  1. Don’t rely on an hour or less of exercise to make up for a whole day of sitting. You need to get up and move more often than that to offset the bad effects of sitting.
  2. If you have a sit-to-stand desk, alternate positions throughout the day.
  3. If you don’t have a special desk, stand up whenever you don’t need to be touching your keyboard or your desk – e.g., when answering the phone, while reading, while talking with a coworker.
  4. Sit on an exercise ball or a stool with no back, so that your core muscles will have to do some work. Always sit with your feet flat on the floor.
  5. Hold walking meetings.
  6. Drink lots of water (or other unsweetened beverage) throughout the day, so that you will have to get up to relieve yourself of this fluid frequently.
  7. Get away from your desk every 30-45 minutes to give your eyes a break and do something active – e.g., pushups against your desk, wall sitting (back against the wall with legs bent at 90 degrees), squats, calf raises, brisk walking, stretches or yoga poses.
  8. Keep a resistance band in your office. Use it to perform squats, lunges and upper body exercises during your breaks.
  9. Park far away, in a shady spot. This gives you a nice little walk to and from work, plus a cooler car in the afternoon.

For more information on how just a little more standing for office or around the home can make all the difference check out this post on how to burn more calories without adding a workout. 

Laurie Ledford RDLaurie Ledford  is a Registered Dietitian at Tucson Medical Center who uses her knowledge and experience every day to support patients making healthy nutrition choices and prevent or combat the major killers of our time. Have a question about something you’ve heard or seen about nutrition or diet? Send your question to the Nutritionista at communications at tmcaz.com.

TMC volunteer shares two best tools that helped her lose 48 pounds

DonnStairs.jpgDonn Corder has battled extra pounds for most of her life. So when she decided to fight back, she turned to two tools: Measuring cups and a food scale.

Corder, 59, who has volunteered in pastoral services at TMC for two years, was attending a lunch & learn session for volunteers when she learned about TMC’s weight management program. “I knew I needed to do something,” Corder explained. “My weight was creeping up and no matter what I seemed to do, it wasn’t going away. I also knew I didn’t want surgery and I also didn’t want a ‘system.’ I wanted to eat real food and not something out of a box.”

Corder met with registered dietitian Laurie Ledford, who went over her blood work to determine any risk factors. Corder was borderline on cholesterol and she comes from a long line of family members with diabetes.

Corder was surprised when she left the visit without a food plan to follow. Instead, she left with a food log, instructed to write down everything she ate for a week.

They discovered her servings were too large. The average serving for cereal is one cup. She had been just filling her bowl, and the result was twice that.

“I eat fast, so I didn’t realize how much I was eating. I started measuring and weighing everything,” she said. And she started to be more conscious of what she was eating.

Take cheese – a food Corder is particularly fond of. Ledford asked if she could really taste it in her salad, for example. And the answer was: Not especially. So the two of them agreed: Corder should eat her cheese, but she should have a chunk of it as a snack and really savor it.

Same with ice cream. Come on: Who eats half a cup of ice cream? But now, if Corder has a craving, she buys those individual servings at the grocery store to help her manage the portion size.

She made other little changes. Two percent milk dropped to one percent. She makes her own salad dressing. She makes snack bags of trail mix she’s made herself with just mixed nuts and raisins, since the ones at the store often have additional candy in them. She even put two weeks of snack bags in her carry on luggage when she took a two week trip.

With the help of the program’s physical activity counseling, she also added in more activity, whether it’s walking the hallways at TMC, jumping on the elliptical machine in the living room or walking up stairs instead of taking the elevator.

“It’s worked for me because I don’t feel deprived because I still have my favorite things.”

The only downside? A shopper she is not, and she now needs new clothes.

“You’re not going to be perfect every day, but it’s a question of whether you can make progress overall. It’s made a huge difference for me because I feel better, I sleep better and I have more energy.”

To find out more about TMC’s weight management program please contact TMC Wellness, (520) 324-4163 or Wellness@tmcaz.com

 

March 17 Be Safe Saturday goes green; last chance to catch Choo-Choo Soul gives final appearance

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, the 14th Be Safe Saturday goes shamrock green, March 17, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., on the TMC campus, parking lot #11.

This free safety fair, which draws more than 13,000 people, helps parents and guardians create the safest environment for their children. Families get free bike helmets and booster seats, and can visit roughly 100 interactive booths that provide education and resources to help improve safety. Safe Kids Pima County and the Tucson Police Department will offer car seat checks from 9 a.m. to noon to make sure they are properly installed.

With the event falling on St. Patrick’s Day, everywhere you look you’ll see shamrocks and lots of happy, smiling faces. If you haven’t seen Disney’s Choo Choo Soul now’s the time as 2018 marks Genevieve’s final TMC appearance. And don’t forget to stop by the Exit Booth and enter in the drawings for a bike or scooter.

“TMC continues to keep children and families safe throughout Southern Arizona. We began our promise to keep kids safe more than 30 years ago,” said Hope Thomas, director of community programs at TMC. “Whether you need a bike helmet, a booster seat, toddler car seat or swim lessons, TMC has always been here to provide education and life-saving products. As Tucson’s community hospital we fulfill our mission daily by providing exceptional health care with compassion.”

Did you nix New Year’s resolutions this year?

What's your thing - nix the new year resolutionsA message from Laurie Ledford to all those folks looking to set a health challenge for themselves, but not taking the New Year resolutions path. 

Many people see the New Year as a chance for a fresh start, a time to make big changes in their lives. Some people will make resolutions, vowing to become better versions of themselves. Knowing that most New Year’s resolutions fail, and realizing lifestyle makeovers are difficult, other people won’t bother setting a goal for the year.

If you are the type of person who enjoys a challenge, and you can set a goal that is enjoyably difficult but not impossible, then go for it! Just be sure to make a plan – your roadmap – so you don’t get lost along the way. You can use the advice below to help you stick to your plan.

For you non-resolvers out there, let’s find an alternative way to improve yourself without all that stress. Instead of a resolution, just create “Your Thing.” (If you prefer, you can call it your mission, objective, intention, ideal or purpose.) Make it fairly specific, so that it gives you direction for making the right choices. Here are some examples.

  • You want to get eight hours of sleep every night. When the television tries to keep you watching past your ideal bedtime, you say, “Sorry TV, that’s not my thing.”
  • You want to reduce your sugar intake, and someone offers you a soda. You could tell them, “Thanks, but soda’s not my thing.”
  • You want to eat more vegetables. When a waiter asks, “Would you like fries with that?” You reply, “Actually, veggies are more my thing. I’ll have a side salad instead.”

“Your Thing” needs to be about something you want to change. It may not be what your doctor, your family, your friends or strangers online think you should change. The desire to change must resonate inside of you, and you must have a clear idea of why you want to change. That reason will help provide motivation to, for example, choose the after-dinner walk instead of the after-dinner ice cream.

“Your Thing” is not one big transformation; it is instead a continuous process and an ongoing learning opportunity. It isn’t a single decision; it is lots of choices, made moment by moment. In this approach, you break down the overall improvement into small steps, and you take one step at a time.If you have a slip-up along the way, you forgive yourself and move on. However, you can learn from each little slip-up. Ask yourself what you could do to help yourself make a different (better) decision next time.

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Often making the right decision comes down to choosing one behavior over another. For “Your Thing,” it means choosing to do what’s right, not what’s easy. It’s easy to fall into old habits. Therefore, you need to become aware of what you are doing day to day. Notice which behaviors or habits support “Your Thing” and which ones do not. Then get curious about what drives those behaviors. Here are some common triggers.

  • your location or surroundings
  • the time of day
  • other people
  • your emotional state
  • some other associated behavior

Now make a plan. Decide what you are going to do differently when the trigger activates your behavior. Ideally, it will be something that provides the same good feeling while still supporting “Your Thing.” Your plan may not be an instant success. You may have to try several different tactics to stick with “Your Thing” And you may find that what you thought was a trigger actually wasn’t. This is why changing habits is an ongoing process of learning. It takes time to figure out your behavior.

No matter how vigilant you are, there will be times when it is simply too much work to make the right choice. Sometimes you are so exhausted or stressed that you feel unable to resist the old habit, and so you give in. Guess what? It’s OK. Nobody’s perfect, so forgive yourself, move on, and vow to do better next time.

Laurie Ledford RDLaurie Ledford is a registered dietitian from Atlanta, Georgia, the land of grits, collard greens and super-sweet iced tea. She now works as a registered dietitian  in the Tucson Medical Center Wellness Department. She enjoys helping people improve their health through sustainable dietary changes while still relishing occasional indulgences. In her off hours, Laurie engages in foodie pursuits such as sampling unusual flavor combinations (olive oil and basil ice cream was a good one) as well as hiking and cycling.

Safety practices for exercising in the dark

Safety tips for exercising in the darkWhether you’re taking the dog out for a walk or just getting out for a run yourself it can be hard this time of year to get outside when it’s light out. If you don’t have time during daylight hours to get out, stretch your limbs and fill your lungs, make sure you follow these safety practices when exercising in the dark:

  • Plan your route and tell someone where you are going and when you should be back. Avoid poorly lit and overgrown streets and trails.
  • When planning your route make sure to note where there are open businesses that you can stop at in case of emergency.
  • Don’t be predictable. Make sure you change up your route!
  • Bust out the neon! Wear bright and reflective clothing so drivers can see you.
  • Leave the tunes at home. Be aware of your surroundings don’t wear earbuds or headphones.
  • Bring a cell phone and identification. Or at a minimum, have ID and emergency medical information on a tag or on a card.
  • Rely on inner sparkle–don’t wear jewelry or carry money.
  • Use a headlamp, flashlight or clip-on bike light so drivers can see you.
  • Take pepper spray and a whistle in case you do encounter someone or something threatening.
  • Don’t run alone. Taking the dogs out for a run means we’re all getting exercise. If you don’t have a canine friend to accompany you, see if a friend is up for being an exercise buddy.

If you must, make friends with a treadmill for a couple of months. I know, it’s not the same as getting outside, but if it keeps your exercise routine on track, it’s helping your physical and mental health. I struggle with this, as it can seem boring sometimes, but if I don’t have a run buddy on a particular day, a gym treadmill is the next best thing. Skipping a workout never feels good.

In health,

Amy

Amy Ramsey is manager of TMC Employee Wellness Engagement, a mom, a Boston marathon runner, hiker and all around fitness guru.

 

Keep the Yummy, Healthy this Holiday Season

healthy holiday recipe modificationsWelcome to the season of festive gatherings and indulgent eating. Nutritionally speaking, this is a tough time of year. We don’t want to give up delicious holiday dishes; however, we would rather not wreck our health through weeks of unhealthy eating. Fortunately, with a few modifications and a little moderation, we don’t have to do either.

There are three magic ingredients most cooks rely on to make their dishes taste better: salt, fat and sugar. Unfortunately, these ingredients can damage our health when used too heavily and consumed too often. Here’s the good news: you can still get that delicious taste by using salt, fat and sugar in moderation. Let’s look at ways we can reduce them.

Cutting the salt

  • Before adding salt to a recipe, think about why – or even if – it is necessary. Maybe you don’t really need it, or perhaps you could use half the amount called for.
  • Instead of salt, try herbs and spices to enhance the flavor of your food. Other seasonings to try: pepper, citrus juice or zest, onion or garlic, vinegar, salt-free seasoning blends, nutritional yeast. Beware of spice mixes that may contain salt.
  • If using canned tomatoes, beans or broth in a recipe, choose a no-salt-added or low-sodium version of the product.
  • When baking, be careful about how much salt you remove from the recipe, as that can change the texture of the final product.

Lightening up with less saturated (bad) fat

  • In cooking, replace butter and coconut oil with olive oil or canola oil. This won’t work in baking, however, because you would get a completely different texture.
  • Pie crusts are full of butter or other highly saturated fat. Try a crust-less version of your dessert instead.
  • Buy lean cuts of meat: chicken and turkey breasts, beef “loin” or “round,” pork tenderloin. Consider serving fish in place of meat.
  • Try replacing some full-fat dairy products with low-fat or fat-free versions. For example, do you need both butter and cream in mashed potatoes, or could you do with butter and low-fat milk?
  • Roast, grill, broil or stew food instead of frying.

Scaling back on sugar

  • Bring out the natural sweetness in food by adding spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, mace, vanilla or almond extract.
  • When baking, try reducing the amount of sugar in the recipe by a quarter, or 25 percent. (For example, use 3/4 cup instead of 1 cup of sugar.) You may be able to reduce it further, but this may affect the browning and texture of your baked goods.

A few more things to remember

  • Choose good quality ingredients, so that their natural flavors make the dish delish!
  • To boost the nutritional value of your meals, add more fruits and vegetables. Try adding dried fruits or extra vegetables to traditional recipes such as stuffing, quick breads and salads. An simple, tasty addition to any meal is to cut up a variety of your favorite veggies into similar-sized pieces (about 1 ½-inch), coat them in olive oil and sprinkle with your favorite herbs. Spread them on a sheet pan and roast at 400 degrees until golden on the outside and slightly tender on the inside.
  • Indulge mindfully. If you have a generally healthy diet most of the time, you can allow yourself room for some holiday indulgences. The key is to enjoy them, with all your senses and without a shred of regret.

We wish you happy, healthy and tasty holidays!

Laurie Ledford is a registered dietitian from Atlanta, Georgia, the land of grits, collard greens and super-sweet iced tea. She now works as a registered dietitian  in the Tucson Medical Center Wellness Department. She enjoys helping people improve their health through sustainable dietary changes while still relishing occasional indulgences. In her off hours, Laurie engages in foodie pursuits such as sampling unusual flavor combinations (olive oil and basil ice cream was a good one) as well as hiking and cycling.

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TMC salutes Walker Elementary teacher on Legendary Teachers Day for infusing wellness into her school

LegendaryTeacherMonicaBermudez.jpgA few years ago, elementary school teacher Monica Bermudez had seen one too many students pull out tortilla chips or candy for their snacks – or worse, lunch.

So she started a “Fitness Fanatics” group at her school, volunteering after school to teach as many as 95 students at a time about wellness. It’s become something of the go-to club ever since.

On Legendary Teacher Day – a day set aside to honor special teachers who make a difference – TMC celebrates Bermudez, who has been teaching for 33 years and is currently teaching second grade.

Fitness Fanatics was her own brainchild. The students earn charms for every mile they run, participate in stretching exercises and play games that keep them active. The program is open to parents and teachers, too, to broaden relationships and opportunities for wellness at the same time.

There is also a nutrition component when funding allows, teaching students how to make nutritious snacks at home – from trail mix using cereal, raisins and nuts, to a fruit salad or banana sushi, which is essentially a banana rolled in Nutella and sliced. “I wanted to use things that they can find in their cabinets at home so they can make better choices,” said the 55-year-old Bermudez.

Bermudez doesn’t stop there.

MonicaGOTR.jpgShe coaches Girls on the Run, a youth development program that teaches life skills and culminates in a 5k run to build confidence and a sense of accomplishment.

She also volunteers with Fit Kidz, a program of the Southern Arizona Roadrunners that offers free one mile races for elementary school children.

In part, Bermudez does it because she’s become a disciple herself. Although she ran in middle school, she didn’t start running again until about seven years ago, trying to find more balance and take better care of herself. “It was my release,” she said of those early forays into running.

The next thing she knew, she was running with her daughters, and then signing up for races, and then joining a running group. She’s since started triathlons and offroad running, and is doing a half Ironman next month.

“It just took on a life of its own,” she said, noting she’s noticed a significant difference in her own health. “I used to be sick year-round, starting the second week of school and I wouldn’t be well again until the week after school was out. I wasn’t sick one time last year.”

But what keeps her going is what she sees from the kids. Inevitably, the shy girls start running and by the end of the semester they’re raising their hand in class and contributing with confidence. Several of her students have made a pact not to sit during recess, but instead, will either walk or run around the playground.

“And parents come and say, ‘Please keep doing what you’re doing because my child used to go to snack aisle at the grocery store first thing, and now they’re actually picking out fruits and vegetables from the outside aisles first.’ “

Nicholas Clement, the former Flowing Wells Superintendent and founder of Legendary Teacher Day, applauded Bermudez’ work. “Monica earned her Legendary Teacher stripes by energizing, engaging and enlightening every student every day.”

TMC encourages the entire business community to take time today to celebrate a Legendary Teacher who is making a difference in our future.

For more information about Legendary Teacher Day, which is always commemorated on the fourth Thursday of September, please visit  www.legendaryteacher.com. You may also share tributes of your own Legendary Teachers on Facebook as well.

 


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