THERE is a huge amount of freely available material, both online and in print, about how to lead a healthy lifestyle.
Tips on what constitutes healthy eating practices and importantly, the links between poor diet and lifestyle and preventable chronic disease.
Chronic disease (non-communicable disease), caused about 80% of deaths, hospitalisations and allocated expenditure in Queensland in 2012, according to Queensland Health.
As well, the state had the highest rate of adult obesity in Australia.
Based on projected population estimates over the next nine years, there will be 2.8million overweight or obese adults in Queensland.
Obesity is a major risk factor for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers. Obesity also reduces our quality of life and life expectancy.
Eating a variety of nutritious foods is an important factor in preventing chronic disease and living a healthy life. Not to mention, feeling energised and well.
In rural and remote areas, portion distortion can be an issue, especially the balance between vegetable portions and other ingredients.
As well, the perceived cheapness and accessibility of ready-to-eat convenience food (which is generally low in nutrient value and high in calories/kilojoules) is attractive and makes maintaining healthy eating habits particularly challenging.
However, a Queensland initiative is helping to alleviate these worrying figures. In response to the poor health status of Queenslanders, the Queensland Country Women's Association launched the Country Kitchens program in August 2015.
Since then, a team of qualified dietitians and nutritionists have been travelling the state, delivering a series of Hands On Nutrition Workshops, Foodie Talks and showcases to residents in regional, rural and remote communities.
"QCWA's Country Kitchens is a unique and very accessible program combining the essential health messages Queenslanders need to grasp with the strong community advocacy of the QCWA. Anyone can participate," program coordinator Fiona McKenzie said.
Funded by the Queensland Government, QCWA's Country Kitchens program aims to inspire country Queenslanders to adopt healthier eating practices, specifically, eating more fruit and vegetables each day.
The program also promotes cooking at home, checking portion sizes, sitting less and moving more, and reducing sugary beverages.
The series of Hands On Nutrition Workshops are a useful way to improve nutritional awareness as well as cooking skills across a range of meals.
Each participating community has a dedicated facilitator, a local QCWA Branch member who has been trained and supported by the QCWA Country Kitchens team, to effectively roll out the program to their community.
More than 80 QCWA Branch members have so far been trained as QCWA Country Kitchens program facilitators.
Encouragingly, a total of 826 participants attended the program in the 12 months to December 2016.
Seventeen out of the targeted 64 communities across the state have completed the program, with a further 24 locations committed for activity this financial year.
A key outcome of the QCWA Country Kitchens program is the Healthy Catering Guidelines, which provide a set of benchmarks for healthy eating across everyday and discretionary foods.
They also illustrate how to easily modify commonplace recipes to make them healthier.
"Participating is so easy," Ms McKenzie said.
"Some communities decide to hold a Foodie Talk which is a one hour information session delivered by one of our team of accredited practicing dietitians."
As well, communities can choose to hold a showcase at a local event such as an agriculture show, expo, sporting events or fete.
Some areas, after completing the Hands On Nutrition Workshops, have launched a community activity.
Chinchilla for example, has a new walking group. Other ideas include a tuckshop cooking group, community vegetable garden or young mother's collective.
"All these activities have come about because of the QCWA Country Kitchens program," Ms McKenzie said.
"It is so reassuring to see the early results of this very worthwhile initiative."
Formal evaluation of the QCWA Country Kitchen program to date is promising.
Early data suggests vegetable consumption has actually increased from 3.7 to 4 serves a day as a result of the program. And the good news doesn't stop there. The latest 2016 report of the Chief Health Officer Queensland indicates obesity rates are steadying: up to 2010, adult obesity increased by about 3% per year but since then there is no evidence of further increase.
Nevertheless, in 2014-15, 30% of adults were obese by measurement and two-thirds were overweight or obese. Childhood obesity has plateaued at less than 10%, although 1 in 4 children is overweight or obese.
"We are confident and excited the QCWA Country Kitchen program is contributing to these improvements in health outcomes for Queenslanders," Ms McKenzie said.
Getting involved is as easy as getting in touch with your local QCWA branch or member, or visit www.qcwa .org.au/countrykitchens and signing up to the Monthly Munch newsletter.
Hands On Nutrition Workshops at Longreach Civic Centre.
Sundays 9am to 1pm:
Workshop 1: 5th March
Workshop 2: 2nd April
Workshop 3: 30th April.
QCWA Country Kitchens Facilitators: Bry Kerr and Fiona Owens.
Hands On Nutrition Workshops in Blackall.
Saturdays 9am to 12.30pm:
Workshop 1: 4th March
Workshop 2: 1st April
Workshop 3: 29th April.
QCWA Country Kitchens Facilitator: Fiona Ludgate.
RECIPE: Peanut and Sultana Clusters
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 10-15 minutes
125g olive oil spread
2 tablespoon golden syrup
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ cups rolled oats
1 cup self-raising flour
½ cup sugar
1 cup desiccated coconut
½ cup unsalted peanuts, chopped
PREHEAT oven to 180ºC and line a tray with baking paper.
MELT together olive oil spread, syrup and baking soda.
COMBINE all other ingredients except for the egg in a large bowl and add the melted ingredients and mix well.
MIX in the egg and knead for about 5 minutes.
ROLL into small bowls and place on baking tray.
BAKE in an oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden.
In profile: Five minutes with QCWA Kingaroy's Janelle Reeves
Why did you decide to get involved with QCWA's Country Kitchens program? I was a new member to QCWA Kingaroy Branch and just learning about the different activities offered to members. I enjoy cooking and like putting a healthy spin on old recipes. I also enjoy gardening and cooking with fresh produce. When the Country Kitchens program was introduced, I thought it sounded a great opportunity to combine the things I love and pass this onto others.
What part of the QCWA Country Kitchens program appeals to you the most and why? It has been great to meet a variety of people wanting to learn how to make meals heathier. What have you enjoyed the most about becoming a facilitator? The interaction with our Country Kitchens' nutritionists/ dietitians has been fantastic. They have passed on a wealth of information.
In what ways have you been able to reinforce QCWA's Country Kitchens five key messages within your community? The five key messages were displayed at the Kingaroy Show and promoted at the cooking program. Ten workshops were held in Kingaroy during 2016 - five workshops in Kingaroy with Kingaroy Branch and another five with Kingaroy Twilight Branch. The hands-on demonstration preparing rice paper rolls was great and it encouraged participants to prepare meals at home and to eat more colourful vegetables. At a recent fair, fruit salad was promoted as a healthy snack. This helped reinforce what a serve of fruit looks like and that fresh fruit tastes great!
Does your Branch have a QCWA Country Kitchens inspired community activity or event planned in the near future? This year we will be promoting a weekly walking group that would conclude with a healthy snack and some take home information about the five key messages.
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