1. Tell us about the work you do at FRC.
I have several roles, but my main one is directed to facilitate opportunities for health and wellness. My obesity prevention research program focuses on finding and understanding the multiple geneses of unhealthy fat accumulation, to translate and integrate evidence-based information into community engagement and didactic implementation. In summary, I could encompass my programs “FROM WOMB TO TOMB, THROUGH GOWN TO TOWN” since I work with children (STRONG-Kids), college-age individuals (UP-AMIGOS) and whole families (including grandparents in ABRIENDO CAMINOS).
Our overarching message throughout the community program has a simple rule: “MAS o MENOS” (more or less), MAS foods that have more nutrition value and MENOS foods that do not have a lot of nutritional value. This basic rule “MAS o MENOS” has shown effectiveness in promoting healthy nutrition and active life-style behaviors among low-income, low-literacy Hispanic-heritage families.
At the FRC, I am the facilitator of Hispanic Health Programs with the Cooperative Extension and a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. I also have appointments with the Division of Nutritional Sciences and the Carle-Illinois College of Medicine. I am fortunate to have long-term collaborations with many FRC affiliates.
2. The First 1,000 Days Symposium is coming up Sept. 4-5, 2018. FRC is honored to have you as a speaker. What will you be speaking about and why is it important?
Dr. Donovan and I will summarize our collaborative efforts on better understand the joint influence of genetics (nature) and the environment (nurture, culture, family) on the development of unhealthy behaviors in dietary intake, physical (in)activity or family dynamics. In the long term, if we understand those influences, new effective management could be implemented to reach healthy weight and optimal development in children.
3. What do you like to do outside of work? Do you have any hobbies?
I enjoy gardening, it gives me an opportunity to relax. Gardening reminds me that many conditions need to be right to obtain good outcomes, as it happens with research and community outreach. Among the many common factors include: patience, perseverance, respect, resiliency and an aim on greater goal. I also play the guitar; it helps me to keep myself on an activity that is artistic and creative.
4. What is your favorite meal / recipe?
Mexican food is my favorite; few know that there are international influences not only of Spanish cuisine but also French, Mediterranean, African and Asian ideas in many Mexican dishes. I have many recipes in my home-cookbook, but lately a simple one is to have a nice winter or summer squash sprinkled with garlic, cayenne or chili powder in the oven. Easy, practical and full of fiber!! A full meal includes a side salad with a portion of a cold-water fish (salmon or cod, just steamed).