Queens Tribune: Ensuring Access To Healthy Food In Every Neighborhood

One of our best opportunities to improve the health of our communities lies in access to fresh fruits and vegetables and nutrition education. Three out of four Queens residents are not eating enough fruits and vegetables, and some neighborhoods struggle more than others. That’s why this March, National Nutrition Month, I’m urging the city to do more to support access to affordable, healthy food, especially in neighborhoods that need it most.

Dr. Kyla Lara

As a child, my version of a “breakfast of champions” consisted of the typical Filipino mouth-watering staples of pork longuinisa, garlic rice and fried eggs. In my culture, eating until you burst was a sign of good health and security. However, once in college, I began to observe the decline of several family members’ cardiovascular health, including hypertension and hyperlipidemia in my mother, fatty liver in my 28-year-old cousin and a debilitating stroke in my grandmother that, ultimately, took her life. I began to question the role that diet played in their diseases and earned a master’s degree in human nutrition.

Through my studies in food science and practice of motivational interviewing, I became passionate about becoming a doctor, so that I could prevent further disease in my family and my patients. In the clinic, I talk with my patients about the importance of a healthy eating plan rich in fruits and vegetables, which can help lower risk of chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes.

One of my patients, a 20-year-old woman with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) who suffers from obesity, has been battling poor food choices all her life. I realized the barriers in front of her were not ones that she created, but a combination of lack of nutrition education, unhealthy traditional cuisine she grew up with and access mostly to fast food in her neighborhood. At every visit, we review food labels and—in particular—serving size, calories from fat and sugar content.

We talk about ways for her to avoid fast food—for example, taking alternate routes on her walks to classes and snacking on green apples, which are full of antioxidants and also suppress appetite. As her doctor, I am impressed that she has been losing weight, despite the obstacles embedded in her environment.

Read the full story here: http://queenstribune.com/ensuring-access-healthy-food-every-neighborhood/

Help ensure that every neighborhood has access to fresh fruit and veggies by joining the You’re the Cure advocacy network and asking the NYC Council to support healthy food access. 

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