Wearing a red polo shirt and blue scrubs, Laura Bazyler, a licensed dietician and nutritionist, breezes through Sedanos in Homestead like a speed-walking pied piper. She is followed by 13 shoppers who have three things in common: modest incomes, Hispanic roots, and diabetes.
Bazyler, with the Open Door Health Center, and her 13 charges will spend the next hour going aisle to aisle learning to choose healthy foods, one of many diabetic support services offered by the free clinic in Homestead.
You want to do most of your shopping around the perimeter of the store where the unprocessed foods are: the fruits and vegetables, eggs and fresh meat, she says.
Open Door translator Esperanza Perez repeats after Bazyler in Spanish. Other shoppers join the group, interested in the conversation. Bazyler holds up green bunches of cilantro and parsley and colorful peppers to add flavor to your food without salt.
Oldemia Arrasola listens attentively.
I have to be upbeat, says the youthful-looking grandmother originally from Durango, Mexico. Two years ago I was diagnosed with lupus as well as diabetes.
Arrasolas father and grandmother had to have their legs amputated because of the disease. Taking control of her diet with the help of Open Doors free screenings and support group, she is keeping the effects of the diseases at bay.
Most of what is known about diabetes in Hispanic Americans comes from four studies: the San Antonio Heart Study, the San Luis Valley Diabetes Study, the Starr County Study, and the Hispanic Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (HHANES). They show that non-insulin-dependent diabetes is two to three times higher in Mexican Americans than in non-Hispanic whites.
For Open Door clients, Just life is a challenge. Often they dont know theyre diabetic because they lack health care. They might not have transportation for a doctors visit. Many cant read or write English. Some cant speak it, Bazyler says.
The struggles of life on a small income also lead to defeatist thinking: Whatever I do it wont matter. Or magical thinking: My parents lived long, so will I.
But tactical experiences like the shopping tour make a difference. Paulino Gallgos, a single father, loves the tortillas of his native El Limon, Mexico, but these days he fills them with fish and mangoes more often than pork.
Julia Saavedra loads up on tomatoes, green peppers and red onions Better for you than white onions, advises Bazyler and packages of dried beans no fat, no sodium, high in fiber and protein.
I shop for whats on special and have no loyalty to any store, Saavedra says, with good reason: The recession reduced her husband Luiss landscape and construction work to one or two days a week. She holds a nursery job on weekdays and a restaurant job on weekends while he takes care of the kids.
They wake me up at seven with Daddy, its time for breakfast at McDonalds, or at night, Daddy, take us to Dunkin Donuts, says husband Saavedra. Often he takes them, and eats with them. He is the only one in his family with diabetes.
A lively discussion ensues as Marguerita Villa Senor asks about the vegetable oil she routinely uses. Bazyler shows her the word canola its better for you on the Wesson and Mazola brands.