Members of the Blue Mountain Health System dietetic department recently hosted a nutrition health fair at the Lehighton campus.

This is the third year that Blue Mountain has held such a fair during March, which is National Nutrition Month. The fair aims to teach the community about healthy eating habits and expose the public to new food types and ideas, and features both outside vendors and hospital dietetic staff and interns.

More than 100 community members and hospital staff visited the fair during its two-hour run, sampling food items and learning about healthy eating.

"It's nice because people often want to try things before they buy them or prepare them," said registered dietitian Nancy Matyas. She noted that guests were treated to samples of low calorie baked goods, nutrition shakes, and walnuts a good source of protein and healthy fats, which many people lack in their daily diet.

"The big thing is protein," she added. "People are eating so many carbs these days and aren't getting the nutrition that they need."

Perhaps the most popular offering at the fair was the "meatless chili" samples, which were offered at a table promoting Meatless Mondays. The chili combined ingredients such as chili powder, cocoa powder, and cinnamon with three types of beans to create a sweet but spicy chili.

Denise Frey, a dietetic intern at Cedar Crest College, hosted the table and noted the many benefits of having one meatless meal each week. Cutting meat from your diet at least once a week can reduce calories and fat without a lot of effort, she emphasized.

"Without doing anything else, over the course of the year you can lose 5-6 pounds. That's without doing anything but cutting out meat for one day a week," she said.

Frey noted that reducing the amount of meat in your diet can also reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, and some types of cancer. Because it takes less water, fuel and other resources to grow and transport nonmeat food items, going meatless is also good for the environment.

"It's OK if you're not a vegetarian. Going meatless one day each week can make a big difference," said Frey. "Every little step that you can take is important, and every little step can help."