National Nutrition Month

Balancing your Latina diet this National Nutrition Month®

Every food-loving Latina knows that the Latina diet has both pros and cons. With rich flavors and a variety of local produce, Latin American cuisine can certainly be very healthy. But sometimes we can also go a little overboard on the sweets, rich dairy products, and fatty meats. That’s why it’s important to focus on maintaining a balanced diet and National Nutrition Month® is the perfect time to get started on making some healthful changes to your diet. 

National Nutrition Month® is an annual campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Originally started as National Nutrition Week in 1973, it was eventually inaugurated as National Nutrition Month®  in 1980.

Now, during the month of March, everyone is invited to learn about making informed food choices and developing healthful eating and physical activity habits.

National Nutrition Month

Celebrate a World of Flavors. (Graphic source: National Nutrition Month®)

This year’s theme, “Celebrate a World of Flavors,” showcases how flavors from cultures around the world is a tasty way to nourish ourselves and appreciate our diversity. We are all unique with different bodies, goals, backgrounds and tastes! And a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist can tailor a healthful eating plan that is as special as you are.

“The theme Celebrate a World of Flavors gives every culture a place at the table,” said registered dietitian nutritionist Libby Mills, a national spokesperson for the Academy in Philadelphia, Pa. “Celebrating the cultural heritage, traditions and recipes from all people is a tasty way to nourish ourselves, learn about one another and find appreciation in our diversity.”

During National Nutrition Month®, the Academy encourages everyone to make informed food choices and develop sound eating and physical activity habits they can follow all year long. The Academy encourages seeking the advice of RDNs – the food and nutrition experts who can help develop individualized eating and activity plans to meet people’s health goals.

National Nutrition Month

Your favorite cultural foods can be part of a healthful eating plan!
Use these tips to choose foods that have vitamins, minerals, fiber and other important nutrients:

“Celebrate a World of Flavors highlights the unique, cultural variety of foods available to people from around the world and the role that registered dietitian nutritionist play in helping clients create healthy habits while celebrating their cultural foods and heritage,” said registered dietitian nutritionist Rahaf Al Bochi, a national spokesperson for the Academy in Baltimore, Md.

RDNs help clients fine-tune traditional recipes, provide alternative cooking methods and other healthful advice for incorporating family-favorite foods into everyday meals.

For more information and healthful tips, check out the resources provided by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics available in various languages including Spanish.

Balancing your Latina diet 

As Latinas, food is a big part of our culture. While many Latino dishes are full of healthy ingredients, it’s no secret that we love our carbs and dulces. Many Latin American dishes can also be heavy on fats such as whole-fat cheeses and fatty cuts of meat. Consuming too much of these foods in unbalanced proportions can lead to many health risks such as high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure, risk factors commonly found in Hispanic populations. 

However, there is no need to completely cut out the foods we love, but learning more about how to create a colorful, well-balanced plate will help us all be healthier in the long-run. 

You might be interested: 5 hearty autumnal vegan meals to try this month

Some tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: 

Personalize Your Plate 

  • Fill half your plate with fruits and veggies. Get creative with produce by trying an assortment of colors and textures.
  • Experiment with different grains. Try substituting whole grains for refined grains in recipes.
  • Choose lean protein foods. Vary your choices to include seafood, beans, peas and lentils, as well as eggs, lean cuts of meat and poultry that are prepared in a healthful way, such as baked or grilled instead of fried.
  • Complete your meal with dairy. Include low-fat or fat-free options like milk, yogurt, cheese, calcium-fortified soymilk, or lactose free milk.

Meal Planning Tips

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated or boring. Think about the foods you like from each food group – mixed dishes count, too! These are just a few examples of how different foods can be eaten as a meal to personalize your plate. If a food you enjoy is not listed here, consider which food group it meets when planning your meals.  

National Nutrition Month®

Meal plan suggestions from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (Source: Personalize Your Plate to Include Foods From Other Cultures–Latin American)

You might be interested: 5 teas and infusions popular in Latin America to improve sleep, focus, digestion, and more!

Building a balanced Latina diet doesn’t have to be a chore. With so many delicious ingredients and a passion for our food, us Latinas are sure to have fun cooking up some colorful, creative dishes to meet our health needs and our passion for flavor!

vegan diet

Latinas shift to vegan diet, improving focus and productivity at work

It’s no secret that what we eat impacts how we perform. The types of food we consume contributes to our mood, energy levels, and productivity. As part of World Vegan Month this November, we are diving into the benefits of a vegan diet. 

In general, plant-based eating can improve one’s health, it’s typically more affordable, and much more eco-friendly. In fact, a vegan diet uses much fewer resources, requiring five times less water than producing animal-based foods. 

For the Latinx population specifically, it has been found that diet-related health issues common within the community can be reduced through plant-based eating. 

Latinx and Hispanic individuals are more prone to health risks such as high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. Statistically, Latinos are also more likely to suffer from heart disease

Transitioning to a vegan diet, or simply incorporating more plant-based meals into one’s existing diet, can significantly help to reduce these health risks. Affordability also makes veganism an attractive alternative, especially for middle- to lower- income communities. 

“It’s much more cost-effective to prepare plant-based dishes using rice, beans, and vegetables than it is to feed one’s family using animal products,” said holistic nutritionist and bilingual foodie writer, Carolyn Scott-Hamilton, in an article with VegNews

Currently, about 3 percent of Latinos in the U.S. are vegetarian or vegan, according to the Vegetarian Resource Group. This number is close to the national average for adults: 3.5 percent for females and 3.2 percent for males. 

In fact, for many Mexican-Americans, a vegan diet is not far off from what their ancestors once ate in pre-Columbian times, according to NPR. Many traditional dishes by indigenous natives were plant-based. The meats we think of today as traditional to Latinx dishes–beef, bork, chicken, lamb–were brought over by the Spaniards. 

Boosting your productivity at work through plant-based eating 

In a study conducted by City Pantry on healthy eating habits, experts weighed in on how foods affect our levels of productivity and focus. 

According Dr Uma Naidoo – board-certified psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School and nutrition specialist – reducing inflammation is key to keeping energy and productivity levels up during the workday. 

“Low-grade inflammation flips off a metabolic switch in the chemical pathway that produces energy,” she said. “When inflammation is present in the body, less energy is available to the brain, so it’s important to eat anti-inflammatory foods to ensure workers wake up in a good mood and stay energized and focused through the entire morning.”

Foods to avoid are those high in artificial sweeteners, added and refined sugars, trans fats, and processed meats and cheeses. 

Plant-based foods are associated with lower levels of inflammation, which means incorporating more vegan options into your diet can improve your energy and focus throughout the day. 

You might be interested: 10 Snacks to boost productivity and get you through the work day

There is no one way to approach veganism and many often transition into the diet slowly. Others may choose to only eat plant-based on certain days, such as the Instagram account Meatless Mondays, which encourages people to swap out meat at least one day a week and provides a variety of fun and fresh meatless meals to try.

To start incorporating some vegan meal choices into your diet to boost your productivity, Dr. Naidoo recommends focusing on foods with natural fats such as nuts, avocados, and extra virgin olive oil.

 “Fat is a key component for mental health. Your brain is made up of 60 percent fat and in order to perform at its best, it requires a constant supply of omega-3-fatty acids,” Dr. Naidoo explained.

As busy women and entrepreneurs, staying focused and energized is so important. If you’re feeling low on energy, it might be time to reevaluate your food choices and shake things up! And what better month to try out plant-based eating than World Vegan Month? 

Latinas in Business Intern Fe-Licitty Branch contributed to this article. 

Innovating a classic: COCINA 54 introduces frozen, gluten-free empanadas

Looking for tasty, gluten-free empanadas made from scratch with fresh vegetables, antibiotic free meats, and ready in minutes? Look no more! COCINA 54 has you covered with their exclusive line of delicious frozen empanadas. 

Photo courtesy of Cecilia Panichelli

Introducing frozen, gluten-free empanadas

With a push for better-for-you products in recent years that also satisfy consumers’ need for convenience without sacrificing taste and quality, Cecilia Panichelli saw an opening in the market for her empanadas. 

Born and raised in Argentina, Cecilia moved to the US in 2000 to attend an exchange program at the University of Texas. She then spent 15 years working in the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) industry, working for companies such as Stubb’s Bar-B-Q, and later Nestle. 

For years her American friends would tell her how much they LOVED her empanadas. They just couldn’t get enough! Recognizing the demand for empanadas amongst Americans, Cecilia and her husband finally decided to start their own business, launching COCINA 54 in 2017. 

Photo courtesy of Cecilia Panichelli

“I had an extensive background in the CPG industry and my husband has always been an entrepreneur,” says Cecilia. “I did my research and found that consumers wanted products that were gluten-free, baked, and used fresh vegetables, but they also wanted grab & go items that fit their busy lifestyle. And finally they were craving BOLD international flavors. We know empanadas are super popular in Latin America for these same reasons so I felt it was the right time to launch them in the U.S.” 

So COCINA 54 began as a micro-business. Cecilia and her husband would make empanadas over the weekend and then deliver them to a few local stores in Austin, Texas, while they continued their day jobs. Consumers instantly fell in love with their empanadas, just as their friends had. In April of 2018 they moved from selling locally to selling in 150 stores all over Texas, launching 5 savory flavors from Traditional Beef to Bacon, Egg, & Cheese. 

Now their products can also be ordered online via their shop, reaching more mouths than ever before!  

The 20 year journey behind “overnight” success

Cecilia’s story may seem like she was an overnight success, but her journey began more than 20 years ago, back in Argentina when she was just a high school student dreaming big. 

Cecilia Panichelli, Co-founder of COCINA 54 (Photo courtesy of Cecilia Panichelli)

“Education, to me, is one of the most valuable tools that enables a person to follow their dreams,” says Cecilia.

Growing up in Argentina, Cecilia dreamed of attending the University of San Andres, the most prestigious private school in Argentina– also the most expensive. 

“I always lived a good middle class life, with working parents and food on the table. We even got to go on vacations. But this school, it was out of my family’s financial possibilities.” 

The realities of her family’s financial situation however did not deter her from her dream. Cecilia had set her mind to it, so somehow it would happen. She decided she would apply for a scholarship. And she decided she would get it. And she did! 

Attending San Andres was crucial to Cecilia’s journey toward her career and professional success. It opened new doors of possibility, showed Cecilia a different world of opportunities, and gave her the tools to face the next challenges of her life.

“It was the first time I would be moved out of my comfort zone,” she says. “What I didn’t realize is that this was just the beginning.” 

She quickly learned that growing a career or business as a Latina was not easy, especially when it came to securing capital. 

“As a Latina, and a barely 5-foot-tall woman, I found that it’s difficult to obtain access to capital, to get people to listen,” says Cecilia. “To this day, COCINA 54 is a self-funded business which limits the speed on which you grow as a business.” 

The market is ready for COCINA 54, with more and more people looking for healthier alternatives and becoming more aware of what they put in their bodies–now more than ever is the time for healthy, tasty, gluten-free empanadas. 

gluten-free empanadas

Photo courtesy of Cecilia Panichelli

And yet, even with a ready market, passionate and experience team, and an innovative product investors are still few and far between. 

“I continue to see investors write checks to other start-ups with none of the assets we bring to the table,” says Cecilia, reflecting on the struggles of accessing capital as a Latina business owner. “I do believe society is changing, but we still have a long way to go to truly have equal rights as women and as Hispanic businesses.”

You might be interested: Grammy-award winning Cherry Martinez offers free commercials to minority-owned businesses

Connecting with customers through gluten-free empanadas during Covid-19

Ironically, though, Cecilia notes that it is often because of the lack of funding for minority businesses, that Latinas are more likely to be set up to run profitable businesses. 

“Uncertainty is part of our Latino heritage. When I worked in Latin America, we would have to make a plan A, B, and C depending on inflation, devaluation. We are very used to turmoil and not knowing what comes next.” 

This always planning for the unknown has its perks. Latinas are always prepared and ready to think of quick solutions to keep the business afloat and thriving.

This mentality has been especially crucial during the current Covid-19 pandemic. Before Covid-19, COCINA 54 were not selling online. Now they’re reaching new customers all over the country, and getting to connect with their customers in new and unexpected ways. 

“We started to have a huge influx of online orders which allows you to connect with the end consumer directly, so we started getting messages from customers that we have never heard before,” says Cecilia, remembering one of her favorite customer messages.  

gluten-free empanadas“It was from a customer that loves our gluten-free empanadas and decided to send them to her white American grandma who was feeling a little down and having trouble preparing her food during quarantine. A week later, we received a note from her 90 year old grandmother saying: ‘These empanadas are so delicious! THANK YOU! I will spread the word to friends and book club ladies! These were my first empanadas and I will look forward to many others.‘” 

How funny and heartwarming! 

You might be interested:  Empanada Fork seals the deal with new products by Latina entrepreneur Hipatia Lopez

Think about what you can do better to improve your life 

For other minority women who are thinking of starting their own business or would like to achieve success in their profession or career, Cecilia’s advice is to reflect on where you are and whatever you are doing today, and think about what you can do better. How can you improve your situation? What actions will get you closer to your goals? 

Maybe it’s attending a prestigious school, or maybe it’s connecting with successful entrepreneurs in your field. Learn from your experiences, learn from others and find mentors, listen to them and ask them what you need. 

“If you are planning to get into the CPG world, you will need capital. You can’t quit your job today, you need a plan,” Cecilia advises. “How can you afford that dream? If your plan is to grow your career, I would say speak up more, ask for that additional project, for that raise. Make yourself visible. Be bold. And know that it is not overnight success. My journey started more than 20 years ago when I earned my scholarship.” 

Fast-forward 20 years, and she is changing the game for healthy, international frozen foods with her innovative better-for-you empanadas. 

If you would like to get a taste of COCINA 54’s tasty variety of healthy, ready to go, gluten-free empanadas, don’t hesitate to place your order today.  

You might be interested: Fashion shows must go on says Fashion Designers of Latin America Albania Rosario

Smiling Woman eating healthy

5 Simple steps to more energy, less stress and a healthier lifestyle

Elizabeth Santiago CeleBritAy CEO , skincare and health coach

Elizabeth Santiago CeleBritAy CEO, skincare and health coach

Welcome to our new Health and Skin Coach Elizabeth “Liz” Santiago!

Elizabeth is a Holistic Health & Skin coach emphasizing on healthier digestive system. She studied Ayurvedic and Holistic nutrition with Dr. Naina Marbali at Ayurvedic Beauty School and has nominal background in the field of Western medicine.

Elizabeth holds degrees in Chemistry, Biology and Herbology. She has helped hundreds of people achieve healthier life styles and is passionate about educating her clients on how proper nutrition can help them improve their skin. Liz is head skin care chemist & CEO of CeleBritAy New York, an award-winning skincare company specializing in organic, sustainable products.

As part of her introduction as a, Liz will provide a 30-minute free consult to the three first persons to comment on this article! Please leave your name and email address so she can contact you.



  • Do you feel sluggish and wished you had more energy?
  • Would you love to learn how to eat better without sacrificing what you love to eat?
  • Do you wish you could relieve the toxic and uncomfortable feeling of constipation?
  • Do want to achieve smooth and radiant skin inside and out?

As busy parents, spouses and entrepreneurs, it is important to give it your all. But how can you do that if you are constantly tired, overwhelmed and unfocused? It all starts with one simple, doable change at a time and a can-do attitude. Once you do this, your journey of a healthier lifestyle no matter how busy you are can begin.

Here are three simple but very effective steps toward more energy, less stress, and a healthier lifestyle for you and your family

1. Sleep woman sleeping on bed and wake up with alarm clock

The average American gets 4-6 hours of sleep per day. But did you know anything less than 8hrs of uninterrupted sleep per day for adults can lead to organ failure, fatigue, depression, Alzheimer, eating disorders, mood swings, headaches, low libido, and so much more! But how can you add more sleep in the day with your busy schedule? Follow below to start.

2. Morning

Nine (9) minutes of “Morning Self- Care” steps for busy lives: This will not only help you relax and eventually increase your sleep hours but also set positive intentions and live longer:

  1. 1 minute Morning Ritual- Relax & breathe
  2. Before doing your morning cleansing ritual, sit up on your bed and relax. Close your eyes. Slowing take in a deep breath, hold for 4-6seconds then release even slower. Do this for one to two minutes every day. This will set you up with positive intentions for the day and creates self-care awareness.
  3. 5-8 minutes of Morning Ritual- Rapid or slow movements (consult your physician before doing): Ex: jumping jacks, up and down stairs, running in place, stretching, yoga or my favorite, Qigong. Here is a free 5 minutes Qigong you can do performed my friend and Sifu Carl Romain.
Sifu Karl Romain,

Sifu Karl Romain,

3. First meal

Whether your first meal is in the morning or in the afternoon, make sure to start your day with alkaline foods and drinks. In fact, your diet should include 70-80 percent of alkaline food and 30-20 percent of acidic foods.   If we do not help our body get the appropriate alkaline pH, the body will continue to pull these minerals and eventually weaken our immune system, create fatigue, depression, eating and sleep disorders, brain fog, leaky gut (the breaking of the intestine lining), and so much more.

Why is this important? It’s important because our body is at its optimum when our body pH is slightly more alkaline then acid. When we eat acidic foods (see chart below), our blood becomes more acidic. And when our blood is more acidic, our body will try to heal itself by pulling alkaline minerals (ex: magnesium, calcium, potassium) from other organs, bones, and teeth to name a few and release it into our bloodstream to create a alkaline bloodstream.  

freshly squeezed lemon juice in small bowl

  1. Alkaline drink: Lemon Water is a quick and easy alkaline-rich drink you can make in the morning:  Add half of an organic lemon to 8-12 oz of water. Save the other half for lunch. Make sure to wash and rinse your lemon very well. Soap and water works well. If you cannot purchase organic lemons, conventional is fine. TIP: Warm or hot water is best if you suffer from blotting or constipation. Wait at least 30 minutes before drinking or eating anything.
  2. Homemade Green Juice: If you have more time, a homemade green juice is also a great alternative:  In a blender, add the following: 6-8 oz of Almond or Coconut Milk, a handful of cleaned and chopped, Kale, spinach, lettuce, 2-3 oz of Avocado, Juice of half a lemon, and organic dates for taste (optional). Blend at low speed then jump to high speed. Blend to desire consistency and ENJOY!

4. Lunch/dinner

Use the left over lemon from the morning and make yourself lemon water. Drink it 30 minutes before your favorite lunch meal to help with digestion and coat your intestines with alkaline minerals.  You have a busy life so prepping your lunch at night may not be ideal. The best next thing is to make sure you order a full plate of veggies (a salad or sautéed greens) and eat that first. Wait about 5-10 minutes before eating your favorite lunch.

TIP: Chew, chew and chew! The more you chew your food, the more nutrients the body can salad in a plate

5. Night

The night is a replica to the morning. End the day with a self-care act like the easy and quick 9 Morning self-care steps given above PLUS 

  1. Do not bring your cell phones to bed. If they serve as your alarm clock, then do yourself a favor and buy an alarm clock.
  2. Train yourself not to look at your cell phone 45mins before going to bed.
  3. Do not watch TV at least 45 minutes before going to bed
  4. And make sure your bedroom is your tech-free paradise
  5. Oh!, and don’t forget to have sex with your partner So here you have it! Simple, right!