AZ Latino families learn tools of healthy eating, exercise

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A $25,000 grant from Aetna Foundation has made it possible for a Valley nonprofit to provide Latino families an opportunity to learn about health and nutrition in a fun and unifying way.

"At first people are very apprehensive about standing up and doing physical activity … we're in the fifth week and everybody is getting and everybody is participating. Parents are encouraging children, and children are encouraging the parents to keep moving," said Betty Hurtado, the class facilitator of the Salsa, Sabor y Salud program that incorporates physical activity with nutrition education.

"I've been dancing. I didn't even think I could do it," said Amelia Espinoza, who looks forward to the free eight-week course, which she attends with her daughter and two teenage grandchildren.

Salsa, Sabor y Salud is designed to teach families like hers the importance of combining eating right with exercising regularly.

"We want to just keep building our family and not only our family but our health," Espinoza said.

That's exactly what this program is about; from understanding the five food groups to portion control, the program is all about learning to make healthy choices.

"In the Latino population, there's a lot of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cholesterol, high cholesterol so it's really focusing on helping families to understand more of what are the steps you can take to have a better life, to live … healthy," Hurtado said.

She even walks families through the process of planting seeds and then growing their own fruits and vegetables at home.

"I planted corn. I love corn. I did cucumber for my daughter," Espinoza said about the lesson.

They are simple steps she said can add up to a healthier, longer life.

"We also emphasize taking small steps to success. It's not going to happen overnight. You can do a little each day," Hurtado added.

The classes are taught in English and Spanish through the Family Involvement Center in Phoenix. The next series of classes begins on April 2.

Email pac@familyinvolvementcenter.org or call (602) 288-0155 for registration information.

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