Of all the great things the U.S. of A. has to offer, our "western diet" is not at the top of the list.
In fact, immigrating to the U.S. could be harmful for some families' long-term health!
A recent study shows that acculturated Mexican American teens are prone to obesity. Second generation teenagers are 2.5 times as likely to be obese, and third generation twice as likely to be obese than their first generation counterparts.
What is harming Mexican American teens who form part of the fastest-growing segment of our population?
The "western" diet.
Teens are opting for a junk food diet of sugary drinks and saturated fats instead of reaching for fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as grains.
The "western diet" effect is not just scary but deadly: increased likelihood of suffering from depression, diabetes, and heart attacks. I don't mean to be Negative Natalie but the news gets worse: this generation of young people in America is projected to live shorter lives than their padres.
That just doesn't seem right.
Immigrants come to America with hope for a better life for their children--not deteriorating health and well-being, as well as high financial and emotional costs.
So what can we do?
- Resolve to bring some of abuela's cooking back to your table. Brush off those family recipes and teach them to your kids. I know that when my Mexican suegra makes fresh salsa and guacamole (chock full of fresh vegetables!) and my suegra abuela prepares tamales from scratch, the last thing on my mind is a greasy bag of french fries.
- As a community, teach healthy nutrition and fitness habits to our youth. As a teacher, I know young people will make healthy choices if we provide them the information, resources, and support to do so (which can be lacking in today's teach-to-the-test atmosphere). I frequently incorporate cooking lessons into my classes and have witnessed teenagers excited about making and eating even brussel sprouts.
"Great tips Natalie, but I don't have time."
I've heard that before.
Health author Michael Pollan inspires my "Food Rules" in seven words:
Simple, nutritious, and delicious, like abuela's cooking.
A teacher by day, The Wise Latina Club's Natalie Wagner Fierro is the co-founder of the Institute for Student Health. She equally loves food (cooking or dining in Washington's restaurants) and burning calories by distance running, practicing yoga, and archery. Click here to read more about and connect with Natalie.Instead of opting for fast food, what healthy, traditional dishes can you teach your kids to make?