Leydi Lavadores &
“We know that everything is connected. You can’t just change an eating habit without changing your overall lifestyle by reducing sugar, salt and fat consumption as well as increasing physical activity.”
Leydi Lavadores is a native of Oxkutzcab, Yucatán, Mexico, but has been living in the United States for 14 years, where she raised a family. Six years ago, Leydi’s husband was diagnosed as being at risk for cardiovascular disease. His cholesterol levels were borderline of what is considered healthy, so the doctor raised an alarm. Moreover, his parents suffer from diabetes and hypertension. The doctor only recommended a diet change.
Leydi is the one who cooks and who modified the recipes to make them healthier. “K’éek’en (pork, in Yucatec Mayan) is essential in our Yucatec diet, followed by beef and chicken. So now, we eat white meat instead, including some fish, although we are not really used to it. Traditional beans are cooked with a pork leg and pickled pork skin—the fat that is eaten with tortillas. Now I cook the beans with very low-fat meat,” she says.
Leydi shares that at first it was difficult for the family to get used to the changes because the food tasted different. The change was for the entire family and with time they got used to the new flavors, which in general included less animal fat (pork butter) and less oil. “The stew is made by sauteing onion in oil and adding epazote for flavor. Tamales are no longer made with butter; they are now made with oil,” she adds.
Other changes included reducing the consumption of salt and broth, which a lot of people add to enhance the flavor of our dishes—but this is not something healthy for blood pressure because it can predispose to hypertension.
“Now it is very easy to identify when food is not healthy because eating it causes a bit of digestive upset. Occasionally we eat it, but not as frequently,” says Santiago Navarrete, Leydi’s son, who learned to cook with her and his grandmother. Leydi believes it is important for future generations to not only preserve traditions but also to change habits that may pose health risks. After the nutrition workshop, the eating habits of the Navarrete-Lavadores family were reinforced; they no longer buy sodas, which was very common in their home.
Want to read Leydi and Santiago's recipe?