If the residents of Texas City look a little healthier than their neighbors, there’s actually a reason: Texas City once again was a winner in the It’s Time Texas Community Challenge, an annual statewide health promotion. Texas City placed third among mid-size cities in the eight-week competition to encourage healthy habits of exercise and nutrition, which ended Sunday.

“This year, we approached it differently,” Kathy Barroso, CEO of the Galveston County Health District, explained. “We went to city council meetings and school board meetings around the county to encourage communities to participate.”

On a statewide basis, It’s Time Texas encouraged participants to be more active and to make healthy eating choices, and logged impressive results in both areas. Overall, It’s Time Texas logged a collective weight loss of 6,683 pounds in the two-month challenge, and more than 36 million minutes of activity.

“The community challenge gets the year off to a good start, but we also encourage the county to participate in other health initiatives,” Barroso said. “Next we’ll be doing Walk Across Texas.” Walk Across Texas encourages walking groups with the goal of collecting enough mileage to equal crossing the state.

While the community challenge has ended for the year, It’s Time Texas operates year-round, and even offers a free health coaching service by phone, with bilingual coaches offering advice and resources for making needed changes. The service, Living Healthier Coach Hotline, is available at 844-262-6224.

The coaching covers basic nutrition, something the Galveston County Health District is taking on as well. “We offer diabetes management classes, and are looking for ways to partner with the community for more education,” Barroso said. “It’s important to figure out from the community what to do. We’re trying to find out what prevents people from eating healthy and getting exercise, so that our solutions fit the community.”

There’s no shortage of resources on healthy eating, but one that has attracted a widespread audience is “Good and Cheap,” a cookbook written by New York author Leanne Brown to demonstrate that healthy meals didn’t have to be expensive or require arcane ingredients not found in the local grocery. “The best health advice is simple: eat fruits and vegetables,” Brown writes. “My intent was to create satisfying food that doesn’t require you to supplement your meals with carbohydrates to stave off hunger.”

Brown’s philosophy has resonated among home cooks everywhere, with more than a million of them downloading her cookbook in electronic form before it was even printed (the printed version recently became a best seller as well). “I think everyone should eat great food every day,” she wrote. “Eating well means learning to cook. It means banishing the mindset that preparing daily meals is a huge chore or takes tremendous skill.”

Brown incorporates vegetables into every meal, either covertly, as in the chocolate zucchini muffins, where they add moistness, or boldly, as in her Brussels sprout breakfast hash, which nestles fresh eggs in a bed of shredded Brussels sprouts. Her half veggie burger adds fiber to burger patties while retaining the beefy flavor and texture.

Bernice Torregrossa: bernice92@aol.com.

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