Latina Health: Small Changes

Healthy foods often get a bad rap in a world filled with diet fads, endless salty and sweet snack foods, and a media that says it’s “okay” to be curvy but better to be thin with an endless supply of enticing snack products. These contradictory messages and food influences are especially dangerous for Latinas.

The Latina community has a higher risk compared to other minority groups for developing health problems such as: obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. According to a 2010 study from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 20% of Latinas (ages 6-19) were considered obese, and nearly 75% of Latina women had already developed some type of diabetes.These health issues are partly influenced by family health history, but they can be largely prevented by individuals who make healthy lifestyle choices — especially in nutrition.

Healthy Changes are possible!

Melissa Alvear, a Professional Chef based in Seattle, WA, emphasizes the importance of taking responsibility for your health and lifestyle. In the past, Alvear reached 300 pounds before she decided to make changes in her life.

“My mother has diabetes, and I realized that was my future if I continued living the way I did,” Alvear said.

She took control of her health by enrolling at the Natural Epicurean, a professional culinary school in Austin, Tx, where chefs are trained in healthy and savory cooking techniques. Alvear is now able to honor her family’s heritage while making delicious and heart-healthy food.

“Latinas look at food as a part of the family, and together it bonds us all,” she said. “At the same time, we are confused by the American diet- we need to go back to our roots.”

Mandy Seay, a Professional Health Consultant and Dietician located in Austin, Tx, encourages Latinas to take control of their health by taking control of what is on their plates.

“Please don’t overly restrict yourself. One thing I see happen more often than not, is that people who want to change their diet, think that they must limit themselves greatly.One of the best tools is the healthy plate. This is the best way to eat – it’s balanced and provides a lot of nutrients and quite a bit of food,” states Seay.

Both Alvear and Seay were able to give readers helpful tips and advice on Buena Salud, or how to implement small, healthy changes in their daily lives.

Get Involved with Your Food:

Alvear encourages girls to get involved with their food. “Don’t be afraid to experiment with food. You can still make the same flavors you love by playing with spices and ingredients,” both shared.

Make small realistic, goals for your health and nutrition:

Seay advises individuals to “make small goals each week (no more than 2-3 goals) for food and exercise and then evaluate at the end of the week. If you achieved them, great – keep doing them and then add one more goal. If you didn’t achieve them, either try again or revise your goals to make them more realistic.”

Everything in moderation:

Both Seay and Alvear emphasize eating in moderation. “Remember splurging every once in a while is fine,” Seay said. “Eat 80/20. Eighty percent of the time eat healthy, 20% of the time have a treat,” she added.

Avoid mindless eating:

“You can still have a couple of cookies,” said Alvear, “but count them out and avoid eating in front of the TV, computer or on the phone. Try eating a snack outside!”

It is time for young Latinas to redefine what it means to “eat healthy”, and to realize the importance of  having a buena salud. The world needs strong Latinas; It is important for young women to realize that as individuals and members of the global community, every Latina matters.

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