THE BLOG
10/13/2014 12:32 pm ET Updated Dec 13, 2014

Hispanic Heritage Month: Celebrating Healthy Latino Families

As a proud Latina, the ethos behind Hispanic Heritage Month is something that I observe 365 days a year. My heritage, and the accomplishments of Hispanics who have worked to make this country richer and stronger, is something I reflect on often. Nonetheless, in this dedicated month, and in an effort to raise awareness about who we are and what issues are important to us, I would like to commend all those Latino doctors, advocates, elected officials and other individuals who champion policies that encourage healthier, more active Hispanic families.

It is no secret that our Latino community suffers from higher rates of diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

According to the Pew Research Hispanic Trends Center, adults in the Latino community are more likely to be obese and more likely than non-Hispanic white Americans to develop diabetes and other chronic health problems as a result. And the sad truth is many Latinos don't realize they have a problem. Last year, CNN reported on a study of Hispanic women entering public health clinics, which found that "25% of the overweight Hispanic women perceived their weight as 'normal,' while only 15% of non-Latino white women did."

Trained medical professionals can prescribe the best course of action to treat some of these illnesses, but there is no question that a good start is being healthy. That means being smart about what we eat and making sure we exercise on a regular basis.

There is a lot of misinformation out there about the food we eat and the foods Hispanics have enjoyed for decades. The truth is Latinos have a diet that is historically rich in fish, beans, whole grains and a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. It is one that recognizes the benefits of good nutrition. Somewhere, over time, we went from this simple, healthy start to the processed, fried foods of today.

As a mother of two, I'm trying hard to change the eating habits in my home. For example, I've started taking some of my family's favorite recipes and making them healthier. It's hard to make these kinds of changes at home, but it's incredibly important to instill good eating habits in our children. Instead of frying tostones or patacones, a traditional deep fried delicacy of my childhood, I bake them. They are still as delicious ever. And our Sunday morning breakfast would not be complete without a pitcher of freshly pureed Jugo de Maracuya -- a tropical Colombian fruit juice. These are not just healthy alternatives, they are a reminder of my own childhood growing up in Colombia and Mexico City.

For me, it goes beyond my home and into my work. I've seen the benefits of achieving a healthy lifestyle with my company, Herbalife. Practicing what we preach, healthy options such as protein bars, shakes and teas are available throughout our corporate offices. I am reminded daily of how important nutrition is for me, my colleagues and my company.

Working for a global nutrition company gives me the opportunity to meet Hispanics who have changed their lives to adopt a healthier lifestyle using our products and engaging in an active lifestyle. Witnessing their enthusiasm and commitment to reaching their own health goals and helping other Latinos be healthy is nothing short of inspirational.

I would encourage Hispanics everywhere to celebrate and reflect on our contributions and achievements. I only ask that you do it while snacking on a protein bar or aerobic dancing with close friends, or getting up at 5:00a.m. for Boot Camp.

Whatever approach works for you, let's start to take control of our health and applaud those who have led the charge to create healthier families all across the country. Let's raise up a glass -- of aloe water -- to these leaders in our community.