Healthy food, outdoor play keep bodies and minds healthy

Dr. Barb Clure is the medical director of Interfaith Community Health Center in Bellingham.
Dr. Barb Clure is the medical director of Interfaith Community Health Center in Bellingham. COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

"Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.

You'll wish that summer could always be here."

Long days, sunshine, relaxed schedules, time spent outdoors. These are only some of the many things we in Whatcom County enjoy in summertime. And here we are on the precipice of fall.

Kids back in school, schedules to keep, shorter days, longer shadows.

But wait! For many, autumn is a favorite time of year. We are fortunate to live in Whatcom County, where many of those summertime activities we so like can be enjoyed in fall, as well. While it's important to stay active, fit and healthy year 'round, our temperate autumn climate and beautiful surroundings makes doing so easy and fun.


There is no better playground than the outdoors. Our playground includes rivers, lakes, bays and other waterways; hills and mountains; valleys. We have trails, beaches, campgrounds, parks and u-pick farms. All in our backyard.

So while new schedules must be adhered to, there is still plenty of time after school and work to go outside, even if for only 30 minutes. In fact, make a commitment to yourself and your family this fall to be outside and active each day. You don't have to go far. Take a walk and discover your neighborhood. Rake the leaves. Or enjoy our larger playground.

The benefits are many. For parents and children, they include:

- Increased awareness and greater appreciation of the world around you;

- Reduced distractions, increased focus;

- Reduced stress, increased sense of calm;

- Connectedness to the natural world and a sense of place;

- Improved coordination;

- Healthy bones, muscles and joints;

- Increased endurance;

- Enhanced relationships with one another through shared experience;

- Happiness.

Whatever you do, have fun. Enjoy yourself. Play. Play for adults and children alike has many health benefits. Play boosts energy, relieves stress and increases ability to focus. It teaches cooperation, engages imagination and increases creativity. Play is a safe way to learn new skills. It offers a fun way of getting exercise through body movements without the tedium that, for some, comes with an exercise program. And, it's joyful.


Fall is harvest season, and, lucky for us, Whatcom County has acres of farmland that produce a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Many of these are available for purchase on site at the farms or at our local farmers markets. Most will agree that nothing matches the flavor of locally grown produce. Even finicky children will often eat vegetables grown by farmers they've met and talked to. Furthermore, it's hard to top the satisfaction of biting into an apple you've picked yourself.

You can enjoy some these fruits and vegetables year around, if you buy larger quantities for storing, freezing or canning.


As fall progresses and the days grow shorter and the temperatures cooler, it's common to want to eat comfort foods, which are often heavier and starchier than most the foods we consume in summertime. That's OK. Just make these foods from nature, such as beans, potatoes and whole grains. These foods provide the energy needed to remain active and the nutrients for optimum health.

Try not to give in to the temptation to eat refined or processed carbohydrates, or foods high in sugars or unhealthy fats but low in nutrients. Chips, soft drinks, refined grains and many baked desserts fall into this category. Rather than offering nutrition, they contribute to health issues, as well as lethargy, an absolute deterrent to physical activity. And that's not what you want!

Instead, eat well and get outside, even when the days are shorter and the temperatures cooler. Just plan for the changes in nature by layering clothes, and wearing reflectors and carrying a light, if you're out after dark.

By all means, do go out and play. There's so much to enjoy. You - parents and children - will feel great and be glad you did.


Dr. Barb Clure is the medical director of Interfaith Community Health Center. For more information online, go to interfaithchc.org.