Lessons in Healthy Eating

Event comes at conclusion of National Nutrition Month®

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Gabriela Rodriguez, from Comunidades Unidas in West Valley City, Utah, examines the vegetables during NCLR’s nutrition training in San Antonio.

By Kathy Mimberg, Communications Manager, NCLR

Did you know that yellow corn tortillas add fiber to your meal? Or that avocado combined with minced jalapeño and garlic, then thinned with lemon juice and a little canola oil, makes a healthy and delicious salad dressing? Or that eggs are a popular and affordable source of protein?

These were among the lessons discussed by more than a dozen health educators who attended a training session on nutrition held by NCLR in San Antonio as National Nutrition Month® came to a close. The three-day session, hosted at the headquarters of NCLR Affiliate Affiliate Mexican American Unity Council, featured presentations and lively discussions led by Alejandra Gepp, Associate Director of NCLR’s Institute for Hispanic Health, and colleagues Claudia Millar and Elizabeth Carrillo.

Participants came from community organizations in Texas, California, and Utah to better understand how to provide information on nutrition and food assistance resources using the promotores de salud model of lay health educators in Latino neighborhoods. This information is critical to the Latino community, which suffers disproportionately from hunger and obesity. It was sobering for those in attendance to be reminded that 80 percent of Hispanics are overweight and nearly 40 percent are obese, putting a large portion of the community at risk for health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. At the same time, nearly one-fourth of Latinos report not having enough food to eat, another problem that is harmful to health and overall well-being.

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Carlos Londoño, with the Tiburcio Vasquez Health Center in Union City, California, tells the group about his choices for a $5 healthy meal.

The nutrition training directly addressed the very real consequences of rising food costs that Latino families face. It is a challenge to keep a healthy diet when pressed for time and money, which is a common situation for many families today. A trip to the grocery store brought out the participants’ competitive nature as they used shopping lists, calculators, and nutrition labels to see who could plan the healthiest, most nutritious meal for four people without spending more than $5. On the last day, everyone enjoyed a spicy egg dish and fresh produce when they prepared breakfast together using the food they had purchased.

In addition to nutrition and budgeting, the session included details about an important resource that is not being used enough by Latinos to keep from going hungry: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP. This program is a major component of federal food assistance efforts for low-income families. Barely more than half (56 percent) of Latinos who are eligible for SNAP benefits actually use this resource, and greater outreach is needed to reduce hunger in the Latino community.

This training session on nutrition is just one of many efforts that NCLR and other organizations are putting forth to bring the Latino community more information about healthy food choices, food assistance resources, affordable shopping strategies, and motivation for improving nutrition and physical activity. The promotores de salud model has been effective in meeting the needs of diverse Latino communities throughout the nation by training lay health educators to hold discussion groups, information sessions, and health- and nutrition-related interventions in their neighborhoods. Given the high levels of overweight and obese members of our community, we need to do all we can to help people eat better, exercise, and improve their health and well-being. So the next time you’re at the grocery store, see if you can meet the $5 dollar healthy meal challenge!

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