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What have you been eating?

March 05, 2007|by JULIE E. GREENE

Is your family gathered around the dining room table for a home-cooked dinner?

Or are you eating a Big Mac with large fries in front of the TV?

Do you routinely skip breakfast?

We're looking for a few honest families who want to improve their eating habits and are willing to track their diets in a diary for two months.

Many people tend to eat without putting much thought into it, said Tammy Thornton, nutrition/wellness services coordinator for the Washington County Health Department. By keeping a diary, people might be surprised by their habits. They might find they often graze throughout the day rather than eat a few whole meals.

We're not asking anyone to change eating habits. From the participants, we just want to know what they're eating, where they're eating and how much they're eating, from meals to snacks.

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For example, on Wednesday I had about 1 1/2 cups of Honey Nut Cheerios with nonfat milk for breakfast at home in front of the TV. I drank about 7 ounces of a Starbucks vanilla Frappuccino at the office before lunch. And so on.

It's important to include snacks, even if it's a handful of M&M's from a candy jar at the office as you walk by someone's desk mid-afternoon, a 16-ounce light beer while watching the game or a large popcorn at the movie theater.

If you're on a diet and you happen to cheat, we want to know.

After the first month, we'll do a story about the food diaries. Plus, officials at the Washington County Health Department will review the diaries and create a food and physical activity plan for your family.

We not only want to track diets, but also some other factors that play a role in overall health. For example, did you jog five miles that day or shovel snow for an hour?

At the beginning and end of each month, we'll have the adult members of the families visit the health department to get weighed, have their blood pressure checked and waists measured.

The families will continue with the food diaries for another month followed by another weigh-in, and we'll publish a story about how well the families did with their food plans.

One other thing we'd like to know is how much your meals cost. How much was takeout for dinner or your grocery bill?

It's usually cheaper to buy groceries and eat homemade meals at home than to go through the drive-through, Thornton said.

We'd like to find three families in the Tri-State area for this project. We'd like the whole family to participate and get their photos taken. The Tri-State area includes Washington and Frederick counties in Maryland, Franklin and Fulton counties in Pennsylvania, and Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties in West Virginia.

If you're interested, please contact Lifestyle reporter Julie Greene at The Herald-Mail by calling 800-626-6397, ext. 2320, or e-mailing julieg@herald-mail.com.

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