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March 10, 2012

By Pacific Quest

The word “diet” may throw people at first. We’re all on a diet because a diet is composed of whatever a person habitually eats. So for some, their diet is one of lots of cookies, soda and pizza. For others their diet is one of lots of meat and bread. Others only eat fruit, others are more varied in their food choices.

When a young person is enrolled in a wilderness therapy program, a pillar with which to both understand and gain control over is that of diet and nutrition. A diet lush with lean meats, colorful vegetables, pure dairy and whole grains transforms the act of eating from negligible to coveted.

It isn’t enough to simply provide a young person whole and healthy foods—a major facet of an outdoor therapeutic program is to prepare young people for life outside the program whether it be how they choose to react to various stimuli, to how to choose foods that encourage health and wholeness. Nutrition education, then, is critical in preparing struggling young people to take ownership of their health in regards to the diet they choose.

While text books can neatly explain the caloric value of foods and nutritional data, a young person is more apt to respond to and value nutrition lessons that introduce foods at the most basic level: the land. A profound way to instill in any person (child, struggling teen, adult) about how the benefits of the foods we choose is to simply grow your own.

Take a tomato, for instance. There is so much that goes in to the tomato wedge on the edge of a salad plate. Here is just a quick look into some of the steps needed to realize a beautiful, sweet, plump tomato:

  • preparing the ground for planting
  • fertilizing with organic composted materials
  • understanding where the sun will shine on the growing plant
  • planting out seeds (or planting out sets)
  • weeding
  • watering schedule
  • managing pests
  • staking up plants
  • harvesting bounty
  • washing vegetables
  • prepping food for consumption
  • eating!

The above list is to give a quick snapshot of the effort and planning that goes into just one vegetable on a plate of many. When young people are commissioned with the task of growing their own fruits and vegetables, a deeper appreciation is one of the benefits of such a lesson…health and wholeness is another.

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