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Feb 25

I Bet You Can!

By Marcia McCoy – C.H.O.I.C.E.S. Program Development Coordinator

Today was a great day to be with CHOICES!  I had the opportunity to go on a grocery tour with Cooking Matter’s Mrs. Marcia Rafig and friends.

When I arrived at the Kroger in Marietta, GA, I thought Cooking Matters was going to just give a demonstration on the benefits of buying fresh or frozen foods verses buying conventional items. Boy was I wrong! Mrs. Rafig had the participants compare fresh fruits and veggies that were prepackaged verses whole, frozen veggies verses fresh veggies and unit price and weight comparison.  I just marveled at the responses from the mothers on the tour.  Sometimes it is the simple things we do on an everyday basis that can make all the difference, especially if we are teaching others.

 But the day didn’t stop there! Mrs. Rafig challenged the mothers to purchase food for a family of four all under $10.00. I was surprised at Mrs. Rafig’s request and said, “There is no way you can feed a family of four under $10! Meat alone will eat up majority of their budgets!”

As the mother’s received their precise directions, they were on their way.  The only requirements to their shopping venture were: NO conventional items, you have to serve 4 of the 5 items off the food groups and you cannot spend a penny over $10.

To my delight, every mother had created at least one meal for a family of four.  Some mothers had enough food to have leftovers for the next day!  Also, Chef Ashley Keyes was able to provide possible recipes for their meals and various food preparation tips as the mothers were shopping.

I could not do anything but praise the mothers for a job well done! Since Mrs. Rafig gave her group of mothers this challenge, I want to extend this same challenge to our CHOICES readers. Don’t forget to take a picture of your meal and post it on our Facebook or tweet us your meal at #$10budget. Good Luck!

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Jan 10

Aetna Foundation Awards Grant to C.H.O.I.C.E.S. for Girls Obesity Prevention Programs in Atlanta

New Session of S.L.I.T.E Workshops Now Enrolling Girls Who Want to Live Healthier

ATLANTA, January 10, 2014 – The Aetna Foundation, the independent philanthropic arm of Aetna, has awarded a $35,000 grant to the Center Helping Obesity In Children End Successfully (C.H.O.I.C.E.S.), to help improve the health of overweight girls and their families in Greater Atlanta. The funding will expand the Sisters in the Lifestyle Intervention Teaching Exercises (S.L.I.T.E.) workshops and the Camp Divas for Overweight Girls summer program.

“We are very thankful to the Aetna Foundation for this grant and to Aetna employees for their time and expertise as volunteers. Since we started in year 2002, our focus has been on Atlanta’s underserved communities where obesity and obesity-related diseases are prevalent. With this grant, we can increase our programming to help tween and teenage girls and their families adopt healthier lifestyles,” said Vanetta Keyes, founder and executive director, C.H.O.I.C.E.S.

C.H.O.I.C.E.S is currently enrolling girls, ages 10–17, for the Spring 2014 session of S.L.I.T.E. The three-month free program, features fitness classes, nutrition education, cooking demonstrations, field trips and special guest mentors. The workshops will be held on Saturday afternoons from February through April in the C.H.O.I.C.E.S. Center at the Commons, 125 Ellis Street in Atlanta. The cost is $50.00 per participant for the Spring session. Scholarships are available. To sign up, families can call 678.819.3663 or email

“Community-based programs can have a powerful impact in changing people’s health and their lives, family by family and neighborhood by neighborhood,” said Garth Graham, M.D., M.P.H., president of the Aetna Foundation. “We are pleased to support C.H.O.I.C.E.S.’ programs that are making a difference in the lives of girls from Atlanta’s underserved communities.”

According to a study commissioned by the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, more than half of Americans could be obese by 2030, resulting in millions of new cases of diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke. These obesity – related diseases could cost the United States as much as $66 billion in treatment and more than $500 billion in lost economic productivity. The effects of obesity are exacerbated in underserved communities, especially in the South.


About Center Helping Obesity In Children End Successfully, Inc.
The Center Helping Obesity In Children End Successfully, Inc. (C.H.O.I.C.E.S.) is a non-profit organization formed in April 2002 to join the fight against the deadly epidemic of childhood obesity. The organization’s mission is to provide a parent and child resource center for the clinically diagnosed and at-risk children of obesity. To date, the Center has reached over 70,000 children and their families through healthier lifestyle programming, summer camps, parent workshops, public school collaborations and community outreach efforts in Atlanta, Georgia. For more information visit: 

About the Aetna Foundation
The Aetna Foundation, Inc. is the independent charitable and philanthropic arm of Aetna Inc. Since 1980, Aetna and the Aetna Foundation have contributed more than $427 million in grants and sponsorships, including more than $14.6 million awarded in 2012. As a national health foundation, we promote wellness, health, and access to high – quality health care for everyone. This work is enhanced by the time and commitment of Aetna employees, who have volunteered four million hours since 2003. The Aetna Foundation’s current giving is focused on addressing the rising rate of adult and childhood obesity in the U.S.; promoting racial and ethnic equity in health and health care; and advancing integrated health care. For more information, visit:

Contact: Kenya Heard
Tel: 678.819.3663

printable version of press release

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Aug 28

Benefits to Exercise

Exercise is important and the benefits of a daily exercise routine far outweigh the reasons to not have one. Exercising has been proven to control weight and reduce health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. It can also be fun. But, did you know exercise increases stamina, boosts energy levels, and lessens the struggles with sleep?

Regular exercise boosts energy. Increasing the amount of physical activity may be exactly what you need to prevent shortness of breathe when walking up a flight of stairs. Increase physical activity allows the body to deliver oxygen to the heart and nutrients to vital tissues.

Do you ever feel emotionally drained? Daily physical activity can improve or lift-up ones mood. It can take them from being sad to happy in just 30 minutes! Exercise stimulates the brain and certain mood enhancing chemicals are released while exercising.

Sleep is an issue for some. There are some people who struggle with sleep on a daily basis. These struggles can range from amount of time needed to fall asleep to how long or deep a person sleeps. Regardless of the struggle, daily exercise has been proven to improve sleep.

People may discover they're more alert and attentive at school or work; have more energy, are happier, more rested, and healthier when they include exercise into their daily routines. To learn more about the benefits of exercise check out

In the meantime, get up and get active!

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Aug 13

Peppers and more Peppers!

Is your summer over and have you started school? If so, what does your diet and excercise regime look like now? Are you eating out more? Are you chilling out in front of the television when you get home; or are you participating in after school activites? Please continue to follow as we promote and encorage each other to live happier and healthier lives!

Speaking of being healthy; Chef Ashley shared a recipe she prepared at home. I have yet to try it, but it is definitely on my weekend menu. The recipe is Italian stuffed bell peppers. Before you say yuck, here are some interesting facts about bell peppers.

Did you know this round and vibrant colored vegetable is high in antioxidents? Yep, you read correctly. The antioxidents found in bell peppers have been proven to prevent certain types of cancer as well as fight high blood pressure. Bell peppers are super low in calories. You could eat one cup of chopped peppers and only consume about 30 calories! The last interesting fact and added health benefit is the daily amount of vitamin C one packed into one small pepper. One small pepper has THREE TIMES the daily recommended dose of vitamin C. Whoa! Talk about a power vegetable!

Before I go, I ask one thing from you. This week visit your local grocery store or farmers market, purchase some bell peppers and prepare a meal! I will be sharing my  pepper story, and I would LOVE to hear about yours!


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Jun 19

Off To A Great Start With Camp Divas

Camp Divas kicked off Monday with a bang. Usually the girls are shy at first and it takes a bit of time to get comfortable and relax. Not Monday.  We started off decorating journaling notebooks and then gathered into a big circle to talk with Miss Universe Jamaica 2012, Chantal Zaky. She was fantastic chatting with campers about their lives, their fears, and their dreams. Soon there were plenty of smiles and giggles. She encouraged the girls to make small changes every day to reach their goals (including better health). She was so gracious and the girls were really taken with her. Then came Jeffrey Adams of Body By Jeffrey to teach the girls a little Kardio Krunk ~ so much dancing & moving many of our pictures came out blurry. Again, more big smiles and laughter.

Chef Ashley prepared meals and snacks and the girls quickly learned that healthy food can, in fact, be deeeelish!  Chef Ashley will choose a group each day to assist her in the kitchen and, of course, that was a big hit. After lunch, Olympic Trainer, Bernard Foster spent time talking with the girls. His story of working hard to overcome difficult injuries and surgeries and his strong, healthy, happy life today really had the girls mesmerized. He gave the girls a few challenges and will be back later in the week to see how they're doing. The afternoon was spent on nutrition education ~ eye popping, hands on activities that taught the girls (in a very visual, tangible display) how much sugar is found in drinks, cereal, candy and more. We also ran through "Water In the Body". At the end of the day…journaling time. Don't know about the campers, but I tell you, the volunteers and I are exhausted!

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