Are You Passing Down the Wrong Family Traditions?
Grandma’s Recipes May Also Carry a Legacy of Ills; Expert Shares Tips for Change
High blood pressure ran in Dee Louis-Scott’s family, along with a talent for preparing delicious, beautiful meals that kept everyone at the table for hours.
“I hear many families with a history of medical problems who say they can’t do anything about it because it’s ‘genetics,’ ” says Louis-Scott, author of “Believe in the Magic,” www.mattiefisher.com, an inspirational biography of her late mother, Mattie Fisher.
“But for families like ours it wasn’t just ‘genetics.’ It was also handing down treasured family recipes for great-tasting foods loaded with unhealthy fats and salt.”
After a frightening emergency room visit during which mother and daughter learned Fisher’s blood pressure was an alarming 240/180, Louis-Scott’s mom made changes. For starters, she cut most of the sodium out of her diet.
“The first time she made collard greens without ham hocks or salt pork, they tasted awful,” Louis-Scott says. “But she kept experimenting and after a few tries, she had a healthy version that tasted good!”
A year after starting to monitor her sodium, Fisher’s weight had dropped from 250 pounds to less than 200.
Louis-Scott shares this story because she sees that many families, especially African-Americans, are prone to preventable, diet-related chronic health issues.
She offers these suggestions for some new family traditions:
• Explore complementary and alternative medicine traditions, which often include a dietary component. “I’m a big believer in the mind-body-spirit connection,” Louis-Scott says. “If you find an integrated approach that works for you and your family, you’ll have a much easier time making lifestyle changes.” She practices many of the elements of Ayurveda, an ancient natural healing system that originated in India. It starts with a questionnaire to determine your body type, or dosha – Vata (airy); Pitta (fiery); Kapha (earthy). Once you know your body type, you learn which foods, exercises and lifestyle elements will best support your health.
• Cut back on sodium without cutting back on flavor. You’ll be surprised by how much you don’t miss mega-amounts of sodium in your food. People generally don’t detect a 25 percent reduction in sodium, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Some tricks for reducing sodium intake: When buying frozen or prepared foods, check the nutrition label. If one serving has more than 1 milligram of salt for each calorie, put it back on the shelf, Louis-Scott says. Skip the fat-free salad dressings, which usually have more sodium to make up for the reduction in fat. (And a little bit of fat won’t make you fat!) Avoid or limit popular high-sodium foods such as pizza with meat toppings, catsup, hot dogs and white bread.
• Establish fun new weeknight traditions, like Meatless Taco Tuesdays. Like adults, children are more apt to accept and even embrace change if they’re invited to participate – and if it’s fun. Instead of a rushed fast-food meal on a busy school night, make it Meatless Taco Tuesday. Come up with some recipes for vegetarian tacos or fish tacos (hint: you can get lots of great ideas online) to prepare together. Or, older kids can take turns being the Tuesday taco chef. Who can come up with the tastiest original combination? “Another idea is to explore new vegetables at the produce stand,” Louis-Scott says. “When was the last time you had a turnip? Have the kids help you pick one new vegetable to try each week. You just might discover flavors you never expected to love!”
Today, Louis-Scott points out, developing a chronic condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease can be as financially devastating as it is physically.
“At some point, one generation needs to say, ‘It’s time to stop passing down these traditions and create some new ones,’ ” she says.
About Dee Louis-Scott
Dee Louis-Scott is retired after working 30 years as a federal employee. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration. Scott has co-chaired the Black Family Technology Awareness Association’s Youth STEM Fair for nine years; its mission is to encourage studies in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math curriculum in urban communities. Twenty years since the death of her heroic mother, Mattie Fisher, Louis-Scott honors her life, which was experienced in a time in American history when it was a double-curse to be a black woman.