November is the beginning of the holiday season and that means not only a time for giving thanks and giving gifts, it’s also a time when we enjoy some of our favorite foods and desserts. And while many of us will be celebrating the holidays apart from our extended families this year, or perhaps alone, many also will be looking for those comfort foods to at least remind us of a time before COVID-19.
But, if you’re like many El Pasoans who suffer from diabetes, obesity or other health risks, you may feel like you are forced to choose between enjoying delicious holiday meals or sticking to your diet.
The Sabrosa Vida program is here to dispel that myth. The program was created by the El Paso Diabetes Association with funding from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation’s Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) initiative.
“It’s really about cutting down on those starchy veggies and grains like potatoes and rice — not necessarily cutting them out — and focusing on green veggies, like spinach, carrots and collard greens, that are high in fiber, as well as portion control,” says Sandra Gonzalez, executive director of the El Paso Diabetes Association. “There is a misconception that in order to eat healthy, you have to stop eating delicious food and that’s not the case. Sabrosa Vida can teach you how.”
Sabrosa Vida is a series of classes that includes cooking lessons from local chefs, who not only teach recipes, but also how to shop healthy on a budget, how to make healthy substitutions to traditional favorites and how to read labels on packaged foods.
“These are not really things they teach you in school,” participant Lucy Payan said.
Payan told me she has lost 20 pounds since completing the Sabrosa Vida course. She began taking the courses in order to have more energy when spending time with her grandkids. She also says that her new healthy habits haven’t created any drastic changes in her holiday grocery shopping.
“We might stay away from those unhealthy carbs and try to eat more greens this year,” Payan said. “But you can still enjoy what you like; it’s just portions. Eating more protein, more greens and watch out for how much of the bad stuff you eat.”
Sabrosa Vida classes are open to the entire community, not just those trying to manage their diabetes. November is also Diabetes Awareness Month and it’s a reminder that, even if you don’t have diabetes, we could all stand to eat a bit healthier, even during the holiday season.
“We want to empower the community and continue to educate our community,” Gonzalez said. “Let’s say one person joins Sabrosa Vida and they are the main shopper or cook for a family of four or five. That’s really four or five El Pasoans we are touching and who may be getting something out of these classes and learning that there are ways to eat healthy, eat delicious and it doesn’t cost you a fortune.”
Jana Renner is program officer for the Paso del Norte Health Foundation. She may be reached at [email protected] and 915-218-2616.