There’s good news and bad news this National Nutrition Month in Tennessee.

The bad is that Tennessee had the 15th highest adult obesity rate in the U.S. in 2017 at 32.8 percent, up from 20.9 percent in 2000. Data from that 2017 show 39 percent of Tennessee high school students were overweight or obese.

The good is that Tennessee has seen a 21% increase in breastfeeding initiation since 2010. The first opportunity in life to decrease the risk of being overweight or developing diabetes is breastfeeding.

Another step Tennesseans can take to strive for better health is to cut down on sugar sweetened beverages like sodas and sports drinks, which provide many calories without much nutritional value. Substitute water for these beverages. Eating healthy foods and getting physical activity are also keys to maintaining a healthy weight.

“Eating right doesn’t have to be complicated,” said Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey, MD, MBA, FAAP. “Think about what you want your plate to look like and ask if it incorporates all major food groups. Choose a mix of lean protein foods, vegetables, whole grains and fruits to enjoy a healthful meal, and balance those nutritious foods with physical activity most days of the week.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services physical activity guidelines recommend adults participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity each week, including at least two days of muscle-strengthening activities. Being physically active up to 300 minutes per week has even greater health benefits. Children and teens need 60 minutes of activity each day, and it should be fun!

“Look into incorporating physical activity as part of your daily routine,” said TDH Assistant Commissioner for Family Health and Wellness Morgan McDonald, MD. “Take a walk during your lunch hour or after dinner with your family. Do something physical during the weekend like playing basketball with your kids or going dancing with your friends. Tennessee has many beautiful parks and green spaces with walking and biking trails. The goal is to get moving with big decisions or small habits.

TDH offers resources online for programs and services including WIC, breastfeeding, diabetes management, nutrition and youth run clubs to help support Tennesseans’ efforts to pursue healthful lifestyles. Learn more about TDH services and programs at

National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education and information campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Learn more at

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