Library initiative overwhelming success

Naperville resident Don Lighthall sampled Judson Todd Allen's hot sauce at Jan. 27's celebration at the 95th Street location of the Naperville Public Library. The hot sauce was among several healthy snack options at the event. |  Judy Buchenot~For Sun-Times Media
Chef Judson Todd Allen speaks Jan. 27 as the cap on the library's Healthy, Wealthy & Wise initiative.  |  Submitted
Chef Judson Todd Allen’s hot sauce is displayed Jan. 27 during the Naperville Public Library's celebration of the yearlong Healthy, Wealthy & Wise initiative.  |  Submitted
Judson Todd Allen, a former finalist for "The Next Food Network Star," greets residents at the celebration of the yearlong Naperville Public LIbrary Healthy, Wealthy and Wise effort on Jan. 27. |  Judy Buchenot~For Sun-Times Media

“Early to bed and early to rise” might have been Benjamin Franklin’s prescription for being healthy, wealthy and wise, but during the last year, the Naperville Public Library has presented more than 100 programs on how to achieve this goal.

Healthy, Wealthy & Wise, a yearlong effort between the library and 20 community partners, came to a close Jan. 27 with a celebration featuring chef Judson Todd Allen, a finalist from the “The Next Food Network Star” competition. About 60 people braved subzero temperatures to hear his presentation, visit eight interactive booths from local businesses and organizations, and enter several drawings.

The audience was anxious to hear about Allen’s story of dramatic weight loss of more than 150 pounds.

“I struggled with weight my whole life,” Allen told the audience. “After I graduated from college, I was 350 pounds and I am only 5 feet 9 inches tall. I knew at that point, I was addicted to food. I told myself that today is the day that I make a change.”

From that point on, Allen looked for ways to change the foods he loved into foods that were healthier. He stopped deep-frying fish and started baking it. He looked seriously at portion control and found creative ways to add healthy ingredients to his diet.

“One thing that I started doing was stuffing my protein,” he explained.

For example, he described how a 4-ounce portion of salmon could be sliced open and filled with shiitake mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes and lemon to become a satisfying and filling meal.

One of his main themes was figuring out ways to add flavor to healthy options to make them as appealing as calorie-ridden, less healthy foods.

He suggested seasoning and roasted vegetables instead of boiling them to provide a richer flavor palate. He described methods of making cream soups without heavy creams and suggested healthy milk shake substitutes.

His many ideas prompted one audience member to ask “Are you going to put out a cookbook?” Allen smiled and assured her that a cookbook was in progress.

Allen’s lively presentation along with the interactive displays, healthy snack options and drawings for several prizes provided a fitting culmination to the yearlong effort. More than 2,200 people attended the more than 100 different programs that provided suggestions on ways to improve health, wealth and knowledge.

Among the best-attended programs were a series of healthy-eating classes by Whole Foods Market.

“We presented a lot of information and served a lot of food to packed crowds each presentation,” said Deb Kwiatt, marketing and community relation specialist for Whole Foods in Naperville. “We have many community partnerships, but one of our favorites is the Naperville Public Library, because they provide great information that is free. ... We see that librarygoers are truly learners.”

Another well-attended program was the Healthy Kids Day held in partnership with the YMCA. About 100 participants learned about effective ways to get exercise. More than 60 people attended the “Strategies for Claiming Social Security Benefits,” and almost 70 people gathered to hear advice on “Health Insurance Options.” The Teen Reality Fair drew about 60 teens for an introduction to personal finance. Edward Hospital, presented a well-attended program titled “Stop Worrying about Worries.”

Dr. Christine Leonard, of Lifetime Health & Wellness in Naperville, found the yearlong program to be “absolutely wonderful.”

“We have had a great turnout,” she said. “The vendors have been able to get good information out, and we have gotten great feedback.”

At Jan. 27’s event, Naperville Public Library executive director Julie Rothenflu, promised the information will keep on flowing.

“We plan to continue to offer programs with the Healthy, Wealthy & Wise focus,” she said. “This has been a wonderful program that allowed us to highlight so many of the ways the library can help everyone be healthy, wealthy and wise. The information will continue to be here for everyone’s use.

“We have had really good attendance at programs throughout the year, which I think shows that these are topics that people are very interested in.”

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