IDELIA DIAZ AND LARRY MORALES. Idelia Díaz and Mario Morales came to the U.S. from Guatemala to provide educational and career opportunities for their four children. But even though the seven-day workweek kept their head above water there was little time for anything else, including careful meal planning.
As with many families, their time crunch and limited resources caused traditional recipes and fresh produce to be replaced by fast food and snacks. But that changed when Idelia and Mario’s son Larry was diagnosed with borderline diabetes. “My children are the most cherished thing to me,” said Idelia. “I want them to grow up strong and live the best life possible.” Frightened by the diagnosis and determined to do their best for their family, Idelia and her husband took action.
First, they threw out all the food they had learned was contributing to their family’s unhealthy diet. In its place, they introduced fresh vegetables from a pick-your-own farm and the local supermarket. At first, their children made sour faces at dinnertime, but by making sure that veggies were always available, the Díazes gradually made them a staple in their home.
White bread was replaced with wheat, fried chicken with leaner options — and then came the exercise.
As part of their weekly routine, the Díazes started running together and playing family soccer games in Springfield’s Van Horn Park.
In three months, it was time for another doctor’s visit. This time, Idelia and Larry were in for good news. Their son had lost considerable weight and his blood-sugar levels were back under control: he was out of the danger zone.
And what of the changes to the family’s lifestyle? “Nobody in this house is going to eat unhealthy food again,” said Idelia. “We didn’t just make a change for Larry when he needed it; we made a change for everyone in our family.”
Idelia also admits to a side benefit. “I really like it when friends stop by and ask, “What are you guys doing to be so in shape?”” It’s not a secret, she explains to them, and proudly passes on what she’s learned.