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She turns life around, shares healthy choices
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Give Every Child A Chances healthy lifestyle coordinator Jennifer Correia (left) plays a game to help teach students at the afterschool program at French Camp to identify the five food groups fruit, grain, dairy, vegetables, and protein along with the daily recommended servings. - photo by VINCE REMBULAT

Jennifer Correia is living proof of proper diet and exercise.

Once upon a time, the healthy lifestyle coordinator for Give Every Child A Chance was dangerously overweight with type 2 diabetes.

“I got scared,” the mother of two said last Wednesday at French Camp School.

She was en route to teaching students about the latest nutritional chart released by the US Department of Agriculture. Gone was the food pyramid, replaced by the five food groups – fruits, grain, vegetables, and protein – and the recommended daily servings.

Correia, who recently ran the Big Sur Marathon – her first at the distance of 26.2 miles – played a game with youngsters of the afterschool program, using an inflatable ball featuring illustrated items of the five food groups.

Under the new designation, eggs, once categorized as dairy, is now considered protein.

Students were quick to pick up that, on a daily basis, they should consume five servings of protein, three cups of dairy, six servings of grain, three helpings of vegetables and two of fruits.

Correia makes her rounds to all 13 GECAC sites to discuss health and nutrition to afterschool program youngsters.

She also teaches fitness, food portion control, personal hygiene, and tobacco prevention.

The danger signs were what pointed Correia in the direction of a healthier lifestyle.

“I sought out the help,” she said. “My first ally was my doctor.”

Correia also worked with a nutritionist and took it upon herself to try exercising. At first, she started walking for 30 minutes. Those walks got longer over time not to mention at a brisker pace.

Eventually, she got into running. Correia added group exercise classes such as boot camp and martial arts to her fitness routine.

Her hard work, diligence, and eating right paid off as she lost 150 pounds. Correia’s personal history was enough to influence Carol Davis, executive director of GECAC, to hire her about a year ago to serve as a health educator.

“I don’t push knowledge,” Correia said. “I give them the information they need to know.”

Thanks to her choices, she found her calling into health education.

More information on the latest nutrition chart can be obtained by logging on to