“Information that is accessible to everyone makes us return to or consider new and good eating habits. If we put attention and love into what we cook, we are going to invite our family and community to eat better.”
Erika Sierra is a native of Oaxaca, Mexico, who like her husband, speaks Zapotec, indigenous language that they are trying to teach their daughters. Language and cuisine are the greatest connections that she has with her culture. She has lived in San Francisco, California, for 16 years, where she has built a family with her husband and three daughters.
Erika’s has sought to improve her health history given that in her family, her grandparents, her father and some aunts have suffered from diabetes. “I was raised by my grandma, and she had diabetes. When I was a child, my dad would make us run. I competed. I was the one who went with my grandmother to her doctor’s appointments because she took a lot of medications. She felt inspired by her granddaughters and little by little, she started running until she took part in a competition. She realized that once she started running, her diabetes could be controlled better, to the point where she could reduce her medication dosages. My grandmother drank prickly pear juice and generally followed a balanced diet with minimum consumption of sugar and carbohydrates, especially gueta (which means tortilla in Zapotec). Her body was no longer in pain; she had more energy and felt healthy,” says Erika. Unfortunately, her grandma passed away at age 62 from causes other than diabetes.
Erika is inspired by her grandmother as she was diagnosed with prediabetes, which causes her great fear as she is aware of the complications and damages it exposes her to. She knows that having willpower is of utmost importance. She knows that the most important thing is for her to have willpower and recognizes that playing sports helps because it not only relieves stress but also improves one’s overall health.
Erika has resumed physical activity. She now walks and has found time for Zumba and other cardio workouts. She has lost weight, because she has also improved her diet and is conscious of what she eats; reducing her consumption of bread and tortilla. She also increased her consumption of nisa (which means water in Zapotec). She has a better relationship with food and takes the time to eat and enjoy her meals—in the past she ate very quickly and felt she never got full. Her current diet now includes more mealtimes and is a diet with a purpose: to feel healthy.
Erika has approached community leaders and learned healthy recipes that she prepares for her family. They are nutritious, satisfying meals that fill us up, sustain us, and bring us closer to other cultures. One example is substituting rice with quinoa. Quinoa can be included in a meal with chicken or in different types of salads. Traditional recipes can be modified to substitute ingredients for something much healthier. Foods can be baked instead of fried, or just steamed. “When families get used to eating well, there is no going back,” says Erika. She gives added value to the food she prepares. Her daughters and husband have learned with her. Her husband already followed a healthy diet since he comes from a village where a healthy diet is traditionally followed; mole and amarillo are dishes that they still eat at home.
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