The Heart of Brown County SWAP it to DROP it campaign takes the guess work out of eating healthy during the holidays

November propels us into the holiday season and for many, that means attending parties, family gatherings and celebrations focused around rich and savory food.

It may seem to many that now is the time to throw healthy eating out the door, but according to Rebecca Lindberg, registered dietician and co-coordinator of the SWAP IT to DROP IT campaign, now is the perfect time.

Scientists agree that poor nutrition is one of main causes of heart disease and Sleepy Eye is a community that does not eat enough fruits and vegetables (one of the most important components of good nutrition). Recent data indicates that only a small percentage of adults report eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, which is the minimum level needed for optimal health.

Helping the entire Sleepy Eye community eat more fruits and vegetables is one objective in the SWAP IT to DROP IT campaign. But today, the food environment is not set up in a way that makes healthy foods a natural or easy choice for people. The SWAP it to DROP it program involves a series of activities with area residents and food providers, including restaurants, convenience stores and grocery stores.

As part of the campaign, the one goal in mind is to improve access to low cost, low calorie, nutrient dense foods (such as fruits and vegetables.

In 2011, CDC awarded $103 million to 61 state and local government agencies, tribes and territories, and nonprofit organizations in 36 states, along with nearly $4 million to six national networks of community-based organizations to improve the health of their communities.

Part of that grant is the SWAP IT campaign that focuses on small changes that people can do to help maintain weight as a person ages or lose weight if that's an area a person wants to focus on.

"The thing that appeals to people the most is that this is not a diet plan, but looking at your lifestyle and looking for ways to make small changes," Lindberg explained. "It's simple, it's doable and it is realistic." 

The county-wide campaign began in June and is designed to inspire people to make small changes (SWAPs) every day that can help them lose or maintain weight and improve their health. Each quarter the Herald-Dispatch publishes an article highlighting new SWAP IT tips. In addition, signs and information about how to make healthy SWAPs (substitutions) are featured in Schutz Family Foods, Casey's, Cenex and Freedom convenience stores.

In addition, a registered dietician holds tours regularly at Schutz Family Foods. During the tours the dietician spends an hour walking through all areas of the grocery store talking about how to make healthy choices and how to read labels so people know they are making healthy choices in a world full of so many.

Tours for December will be held Tuesday, Dec. 10 at 12 noon and Thursday Dec. 19 at 9 a.m.

"It's not about thinking you have to deprive yourself or skip your favorite foods," Lindberg said. "Portion size is a big strategy through the holidays. Enjoy family and friends and traditions, because that's important too. Just choose a smaller plate." 

For more information visit the website at and clock on "SWAP IT to DROP IT" under the "FoodWorks" tab.