PLAQUEMINE – More restaurants and vending machines are displaying calorie counts – but has it changed our eating habits and the way we stay fit?

"I think having information and facts out there visually allows people to make better decisions," Plaquemine head athletic trainer Rene Ponsaa said. "Not everybody is going to do it but for people who are looking for healthier choices, it gives them more options and allows them to make better decisions."

Ponsaa's responsibilities include evaluation and treatment of any athletic injury that can incur.

"It is my responsibility to make sure all of our athletes' healthcare is well taken care of," Ponsaa said. "I do all of the taping and bracing before games and practices."

Ponsaa said an on-line nutritional program is being introduced at Plaquemine High this summer.

"The athletes will have access to an online nutritionist which is going to allow us to monitor what they are eating and educate them on what they should be eating to help promote strength and endurance as well as weight gain the right way." Ponsaa said. "If we feel like we are getting the results that we want, we probably will implement it with the rest of the programs here."

Ponsaa believes that exercise and dieting are equally as important.

"With exercise, it boosts your metabolism which is going to allow you to maintain or lose weight as well as promoting a healthy lifestyle," Ponsaa said. "Dieting is great too in combination with exercise. I don't think everyone has to diet the exact same way. There are so many different options out there that you should choose the one that best fits your lifestyle."

"All the coaches do a really good job with our athletes making sure they are working on both strength gain and conditioning. When you continue to work on those things, it helps decrease the chance of injury making my job a lot easier."

Ponsaa does believe it is important for children to become active at an early age and for parents to be involved in their lives.

For kids, they must have someone to motivate them and goals that are attainable and achievable, according to Ponsaa.

"There has to be some kind of motivation or goal that they are trying to achieve," Ponsaa said. "Measurables help motivate the kids to work hard and compete against each other. It really doesn't matter what you are doing as long as you are active."

Ponsaa said he often sees parents doing the same things kids do when they are at home – on the phone, texting and looking at things on the Internet.

"Get involved in your kid's life," Ponsaa said. "Get out there and jog or run with them. Take them outside. Go for a walk or bike ride. Become more involved in your kids' lifestyles and exercise."

Stephanie O'Bear, of White Castle, is the mother of three children, twin daughters Skylar and Shylar O'Bear and son Isaac O'Bear. Skylar and Shylar are on the volleyball, basketball, softball and track and field teams at White Castle High School and Isaac is a pitcher at Grambling State University. Stephanie also believes exercise and dieting are equally as important and a healthy lifestyle starts in the home.

"It always starts at home," O'Bear said. "They really exercise a lot but the way they eat is very important. If parents buy healthy foods, the kids will eat healthier and I don't think obesity would be as bad as it is. Make them exercise even if they are not into sports."

Ponsaa believes the minimum requirement of exercise depends on what you are trying to achieve.

"As far as high school athletics is concerned, you need more than an hour a day depending on what sport you are competing in," Ponsaa said. "They are now trying to push 60 minutes a day for children but for the average Joe, 30 minutes of exercise a day would be fine. Just being outside and active helps decrease obesity."

Skylar O'Bear recently became a vegetarian.

"I feel healthier," O'Bear said. "I just said I wasn't going to eat meat anymore. It doesn't bother me.

"We really don't get a break going from one sport to the next and are always doing some type of activity. Over the summer, we go to training camps."

Shylar O'Bear believes being active is most important.

"It is better to start off young because it can catch up with you in the long run," O'Bear said. "I feel like it doesn't matter at all. Just make sure whatever you eat, you run off."

Ponsaa said obesity is a problem.

"The way the world is now, people are making poor choices and with technology they don't get outside and exercise," Ponsaa said.

"If you start at a young age being active, then you really don't have to watch so much what you eat. Later on in life is when your metabolism slows down; you have to be more conscientious about the things that you eat. As an adolescent growing up, as long as you are active, your metabolism should stay high enough where you don't have to worry about what you eat."

Ponsaa said there are many summer-time programs through the Iberville Parish Recreation Department along with playgrounds and parks throughout the area.

"There is a lot that this parish offers that others don't have to allow the kids to go outside and be more active in the summer time," Ponsaa said.