Local Erickson communities put healthy eating at your fingertips

Created date

May 31st, 2009

Huddleston Forward-thinking Erickson communities are serving up healthier dining options and nutrition-tracking initiatives for their residents in Bucks and Delaware Counties. My Nutrition Now Ann s Choice is home to the pilot program My Nutrition Now, a web-based application hosted by Net Nutrition that shows nutritional breakdowns of every food item offered in the community s three restaurants. Launched in April 2008, the public website allows residents and their family members to access nutritional information. It s a powerful tool allowing residents to manage their own daily nutrition, says Chris Babst, director of dining services for Ann s Choice. The food options are listed along with serving size in ounces. Residents can click on food items, select their quantities, and add them to their virtual meals. Once all items are chosen, one can click on meal nutrition to see the total amount of calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, potassium, carbohydrates, and protein, as well as vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron. Percent daily values are listed based on a 2,000-calorie diet. ' They show how many calories are in each gram of fat (nine calories per gram), as well as the amounts of carbohydrates and proteins (each has four calories per gram of fat). The program empowers residents to make choices about what fuel they put in their bodies, and they can enter the restaurant with their meal already chosen. In addition, the program allows people with allergies to screen ingredients. Milk, wheat, soy, tree nuts, and peanuts may be filtered from a person s meal selection. Net Nutrition is linked to the recipe database; so the information is pulled from recipes to provide specifi c information, Babst says. After only four months of being active, My Nutrition Now had 1,448 individual users and 200 visits on a weekly basis. To check it out, visitwww.ericksonresident.com, pick Ann s Choice, then My Nutrition from the community section, and then click on the link to explore. The intention is to make this available at every Erickson community, says Babst. Weight Watchers At Maris Grove, in Delaware County, residents petitioned Social Work Manager Madelyn Donald to bring Weight Watchers to the community. Donald hastily answered their pleas by bringing the program on board for both staff and residents. Now, Maris Grove is in their third session of the program. Each sessionlasts ten weeks, and each time approximately 22 30 staff and residents participate. Donald believes the program works well for residents. There are myths about it being difficult for people to lose weight as they age, but the residents are consistently showing up the staff in weight loss, she says. According to Donald, the most amount of weight a resident has lost on the program has been 40 to 50 pounds; the most pounds lost among staff : 30. Weight Watchers assigns foods a point value that provides a concrete way to count calories; the number of points one can accumulate in a day are based on each individual s activity level, weight, and age. To make gauging healthy choices easier at Maris Grove s restaurants, Donald enlisted the help of Dining Services Director Joe Guidetti. ' They created a reference sheet, breaking down foods offered in the restaurants by calories, fat, sodium, and portion sizes all reflecting the needs of the Weight Watchers program. It s about making choices and balancing them throughout the day, Donald says. People think they won t be able to eat a variety of foods, but that s just not true. Since every food has a point value, every food can be eaten. Just don t exceed the allotted daily point value. In addition to the Weight Watchers program, Maris Grove s restaurants, like all restaurants at Erickson communities, offer healthy alternatives on a daily basis. To make the menu more accessible to residents, Guidetti uses a smiley face sticker to highlight positive alternatives. There s an ever-growing focus on residents making healthy choices, Guidetti says. Because of this, options are already in place: reduced sodium stock for sauces and soups; fat-free salad dressings; three salad choices; boneless, skinless chicken breasts grilled to order; half-portions of any entr e; vegetables; fresh fruit; and a Smart Sweet dessert a low-fat, low-sugar alternative. With so many options, the healthy choice is an easier choice.