Eat Well, Live Well, Be Well 

In New Jersey, nutrition is taking priority for people who have disabilities and the organizations that assist them.  “Eat Well, Live Well & Be Well” is a free health manual created by the New Jersey Division of Disability Services that provides recipes, tips and resources for people with disabilities who want to live a healthy life.

This wellness guide focuses on the basics of how to cook healthy meals, navigate around a kitchen, what adaptive tools are available and how to stay active.  The book’s author, Jennifer Shore, is an amateur chef who has worked in the disability field for the last 30 years.  She says, “It’s important to make sure that people who are wheelchair users or who have any type of disability are maximizing their wellness.  They need to focus on staying healthy in order to keep the abilities they have and not lose any through secondary issues such as diabetes or weight gain.”  People, whether or not they have a disability, should stay focused on getting the right nutrition.

Shore explains, “If someone is a crutch user and then they become overweight, it can then cause them to become a chair user.  From there, secondary conditions can occur from pressure sores.  It becomes a complete downward spiral and it can occur quickly, causing people to lose their independence.  I think one of the things that can be frustrating for people with disabilities, is that there is so much focus on what they can’t do.  This is such a deficit-faced model, and doesn’t focus on the actual wellness of this community.”  Shore believes that wellness and nutritional health is attainable by everyone, regardless of your physical challenges.  In support of their new book on health and nutrition, the NJ DHS Division of Disability Services has launched a new social media outreach effort called Wellness Wednesdays.  Each Wednesday, the DHS Facebook page [https://www.facebook.com/NJDHS] shares a new post that contains information on healthy habits, tips and recipes.  This is a great resource for individuals to use for self-encouragement and motivation in the continuance of their personal health goals, along with referring to the “Eat Well, Live Well & Be Well” guide.  Harry Pizutelli, Administrator of Assistance Programs for the NJ Division of Disability Services, explains, “This free guide assists people who are getting out of long-term care facilities and rehab centers.  Many individuals have been in care facilities for years, and are being put back into the community where they are facing struggles with accessibility and their overall independence.”  After leaving rehab or being in a long-term care facility for some time, people may not have cooked for themselves in quite a while, and also may have previously had caregivers who were doing their grocery shopping for them.  Doing these things for the first time after a life-changing event can be intimidating.  That’s why the “Eat Well, Live Well & Be Well” wellness guide covers:

• what to put on a grocery list,
• how to plan a menu for the week,
• packaging food correctly,
• basic food preparation and safety and
• how to avoid eating take-out every night.

Learning how to properly prepare food can be easy if you have the right tools for your ability.  As discussed in “Eat Well, Live Well & Be Well,” there are many adaptive tools that can be used in the kitchen if you have a disability and are unable to use certain items due to hand dexterity issues.  Pizutelli explains, “For people who have limited sensation in their hands, they can substitute a pizza cutter in place of a knife.  The handle is wider, which makes it perfect for individuals who have dexterity problems.  There are even other items on the market that are specifically made for these individuals, such as spoons, forks and other utensils that are designed to have wider handles for an easier grip.”  Changing bad habits in terms of eating and cooking doesn’t happen overnight.  Committing to a lifestyle change of healthy habits takes time and devotion, and that’s why the NJ Division of Disability Services is providing the disabled community with the right resources to help you get started on making lifestyle changes for the better.  It’s about changing your perspective on the world, and how you see yourself in it!  A great first step is requesting your copy of the “Eat Well, Live Well & Be Well” nutritional guide and then checking in weekly with the Wellness Wednesday crowd at https://www.facebook.com/NJDHS to join others in their efforts to eat well, be well and live well.

Lisa

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