06/27/2014 06:29 pm ET Updated Jul 30, 2014

Retaining Our Culinary Heritage While Eating Healthy With Ronaldo's Cocina

“Sin vida, no hay cultura – without life, there is no culture”

A few years ago, these were the first words I said to my business partner, Juan “PapoSwiggity” Santiago when I was reflecting on my near death experience with pneumonia. My hospital stay was long and the meds that were used to save my life had side effects that would change the course of my life. I was now a Type 2 Diabetic. This was a catalyst in my life, I started thinking about my health more and focused a lot of my energy online to starting a conversation about health via my partnership with the Por Tu Familia initiative of the American Diabetes Association and creating a platform to have this very necessary conversation.

I realized that helping others would allow me to help myself so I started looking for people of influence – educators, health workers, doctors and chefs – to start re-shaping how people think about food. The goal was to partner with people who believed that we can be healthy by making small changes and retain our culinary heritage. During my search... I had a great opportunity to meet (and work with) Chef Ronaldo Linares, a Cuban/Colombian/American, salsa-dancing, MMA-fighting, US Marine who happens to be a classically trained restaurateur living his dream. Ronaldo’s cuisine is Rustic/Refined drawing inspiration from the traditional dishes of his Colombian mother, an accomplished home cook, and his Cuban father, a French trained chef.

He has been since blogging on Sofrito For Your Soul and leading the charge in influencing others about healthy eating via his You Tube channel. When he found out I would be traveling around NYC with Nici and Bryce exploring culture, he extended an invitation to have dinner at his home in Piscataway, NJ. It was a long drive but boy was it worth it.

His plan was to make us a spring salad with quinoa and a citrus avocado dressing with seared codfish (bacalao) skewers.

As much as I knew I would love it, I did not think that the kids would really want to eat healthy after being out in El Barrio all day. Ronaldo simply said... “that is bogus” and he set things up as he would one of his videos to give us a live demo. In his demo he talked about each ingredient and their health benefits (as well as cultural significance). The kids were captivated by his energy and were very interested in seeing how this all came together.

I have to admit, Ronaldo was right... education is key and his presentation had these kids re-thinking their food choices. He served this delicious plate with some really cool infused waters and the kids loved it. He proved that you can eat healthfully and maintain culinary heritage with small tweaks and some education on how our bodies responds to what we eat.

I want to thank our friends at Toyota for lending us a 2015 highlander so that we could make our way to Piscataway safely and in style.

Gracias Ronaldo!

Want to know more about the Eating Healthy? Feel free to follow us, @UrbanJibaro and @Chef_Ronaldo on Twitter or visit my website