Given the saying about an apple a day keeps the doctor away, it might seem logical for a hospital to shy away from handing out a nice ripe Braeburn to everyone who walks through its doors.
But Kennewick General Hospital is hoping Tri-Citians will take that old adage to heart, quite literally.
Hospital volunteers handed out more than 400 bags on Wednesday, each containing an apple, a granola bar and handouts with information about how to get started on a heart-healthy diet.
The gift bags were part of a recognition of National Start Eating Healthy Day, but hospital spokeswoman Liz Syer said it is only the beginning of a public health effort the hospital is launching locally to promote healthy diets and exercise.
"I think we're always promoting healthiness," she told the Herald. "I think this is our first effort to really spark excitement about it. We're looking forward to getting the word out to the community."
Jenn Helms, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, said KGH is trying to help people take small steps toward improving their habits, such as cutting sodium and getting the right kinds of fats into their diets while eliminating the bad kinds.
"I think we all know (what a healthy diet is)," Helms said. "There is information out there. But it's just the basic tips, the everyday lifestyle. We tell people to take baby steps and change one habit at a time."
A healthy diet is one balanced with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. If people eat five fresh fruits and vegetables each day, along with plenty of whole grains, beans and nuts, they should be getting the fiber and nutrients they need while avoiding saturated and trans fats, Helms said.
Avoiding processed and fast foods is key to minimizing trans fats and sodium that can lead to conditions such as high blood pressure and coronary heart disease, which is the nation's leading cause of death for adults.
Coronary heart disease occurs when fatty materials and other substances build up in the arteries and cause them to narrow, which means blood flow to the heart can slow or stop.
"Diet is a large part of prevention and treatment," Helms said.
Exercise also is important, and Syer said KGH plans to start a walking program to get people moving in the Tri-Cities.
"It's such a gorgeous area with so many places to go," she said. "You don't just have to hike a big hill."
For those looking for information about how to get started with healthy eating, KGH offers links and resources, such as www.myhearthealth.org and www.startwalkingnow.org.