Ask the Surgeon General 4-20

Dr. Kimberlydawn Wisdom, M.D., M.S.

1) What is the State of Michigan doing to help citizens choose healthier foods?

     The Michigan Department of Community Health is working with many partners to ensure that healthy food choices are available and that all citizens are educated as to what those choices are and why they are critical to one’s health. 
    For example, agencies across the state are working together to combat what is known as “food deserts” – areas in limited-income communities where supermarkets have left and other food venues are usually limited to the local gas station or convenience store. In these areas it is often extremely difficult to make healthy choices, as the only available options are high-cost convenience items. 
     The Food Stamp Nutrition Education program has been working to help food stamp recipients make healthy choices while the State of Michigan has also been working to make those healthy alternatives available.
     We are also working diligently with our local farmers to make it easier for them to get their locally grown produce into local schools and businesses. We’re seeing an increase in farmers markets, road side stands and community farms throughout the state. Our farmers are also finding ways to accept food stamps and Project FRESH coupons – a farmers’ market nutrition program run through both WIC and the Office on Services to the Aging. In addition, many local communities are building vegetable gardens and working with local stores and restaurants to feature greater selections of fruits and vegetables.
     Visit or call (866) 211-5973 to find a farmers’ market or mini-market near you.

2) What practical tips do you have for families wishing to eat better?

Start the day off right by substituting spinach, onion or mushrooms for one of the eggs in your morning omelet, or by cutting back on the amount of cereal to make room for fresh cut-up fruit.

Lighten up your lunch – substitute vegetables and low fat cheese for half the meat on a sandwich and make the bread whole grain. Add frozen vegetables to your favorite soup.
     At dinner, vegetables, fruit and whole grains should take up the largest portion of your plate. If not, then replace some of the meat, cheese, white pasta or rice with legumes, steamed vegetables and whole-grain alternatives.
     Also keep in mind that most healthy eating plans allow for one or two small snacks a day and are important to boost energy and prevent between-meal hunger. Consider taking applesauce in a single serving container, whole fruit, a box of raisins, pretzels or whole grain crackers.
     Make healthy choices when eating out, even if you cannot see them on the menu. Ask the server what alternatives are available, as fruits or vegetables can often be substituted for high fat items at little or no extra cost. Also, keep in mind that healthier menu choices frequently use descriptions like baked, broiled, au jus and steamed.  Less-healthy menu choices are often described by words like Alfredo, au gratin, batter dipped, breaded, creamed, fried and smothered.

For more tips, visit the Michigan Steps Up website at

3) How can parents convince their kids to eat healthier?

When it comes to making healthy food choices, parents are the most important role models. One of the best ways to teach healthy eating is to eat healthy meals and snacks together. Involve children in grocery shopping and meal planning. Keep healthy foods – like a bowl of fresh fruit – on hand and easy to get to. And avoid saying, “If you eat your vegetables, you can have dessert.” Using sweets as a reward makes them more desirable than other foods and may lead to ignoring body signals of fullness.

Send questions to Ask the Surgeon General, P.O. Box 1234, Lansing, MI 48056 or email (type “Ask the Surgeon General” in the subject field).