Eating Healthier to Prevent a 21st Century Epidemic – Amalia’s Kitchen

Type 2 diabetes is a 21st century epidemic – the one that can be prevented through healthy eating education.

Growing up in Guatemala taught me good eating habits for life. After all, fruits and vegetables, plentiful and wide-ranging, grow naturally in fertile soil under the Guatemalan sun. Home- cooked meals are inherently balanced, containing plenty of locally grown crops.

Eating healthy to prevent A 21st Century Epidemic

Vegetables Market at Chichicastenango

Having a vegetable-eating base as a habit has been a godsend for me living in the United States, where food is abundant and convenient. So convenient, that is easy to lose oneself in the sea of choices in supermarkets, fast-food restaurants, food trucks and myriad specialty food stores that have emerged in the last few years. And to top it all, we are constantly bombarded with food messaging about what we should be eating for good health and wellness.

Eating healthier is nothing new, yet somehow no one gets it right. We are now riding a new food trend with a different spin called the plant-based diet. The word is that this is the way people should always eat. But what is this diet all about? Haven’t we been eating plant-based foods all along? Is this another fad diet?

Fad diets come and go and gain popularity for a period of time and then they fade. They go away because they don’t work. They are too-good-to-be-true promises of losing weight for better health.

Eating healthy to prevent A 21st Century Epidemic

Amalia shopping for fresh ingredients.

The fact still is that chronic diseases linked to overweight and obesity continue to rise despite all the attention around healthy eating. There is so much information about food that confuses people, and this is in part to blame for poor eating habits. The other part may be linked to eating less in family-style settings.

There is also a correlation of socio-economic status versus health, as making smarter choices requires the ability to buy a wider variety of foods. Despite it all, Type 2 diabetes is a 21st century epidemic – the one that can be prevented through healthy eating education.

I have the fortune to serve on the board of the American Diabetes Association of Minnesota, and this partnership has brought me closer to the reality of this very preventable disease. It has opened my eyes widely and made me a stronger advocate for better eating habits for families. Children are now being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at an early age, and the bigger concern is that this disease has no symptoms in the early stages.

Eating healthy to prevent A 21st Century Epidemic

Fresh Yuca

I put the responsibility of healthy eating in the hands of all of us adults who should know better. We have the power of making quality eating choices for the sake of our families. There really is no valid excuse for not taking the time to educate ourselves for the well-being of our children. This has a direct impact on our wallet as healthcare costs continue to rise (with lesser coverage), further straining family finances.

It is never too late to start developing healthier eating habits. Some quick ideas are reading about the subject online, taking a cooking class, going on a vegetable market exploration journey, hiring a dietitian, or cooking with someone you know is a good cook. It really isn’t that hard; it only takes willpower.

Here is a quick and easy recipe to kick-start a way to better eating or to add variety to your already healthy diet.

¡Buen provecho!

Eating healthy to prevent A 21st Century Epidemic

Plátanos Cocidos

Guatemalan Plantains with Cinnamon
Recipe by Amalia Moreno-Damgaard

Plantains are such a special treat in Guatemala and a very common food at any time. This is a heavenly, delicious treat that does not require much effort in the kitchen. The key is to start with very ripe plantains with very dark brown peels and soft to the touch.

2 ripe plantains, unpeeled, cut into large chunks
½ stick canela (Ceylon cinnamon)
2 tbsp sugar
2 cups water

Combine the plantains, canela, sugar and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a quick boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the plantains are cooked (3-5 minutes). When cooked, the plantains look shiny and swollen.

Peel the plantains. Serve them topped with a little honey or a dollop of crema. Alternatively, mash the plantains and flavor them with a little ground cinnamon and honey.

REVUE magazine article by Chef Amalia Moreno-Damgaard

Amalias kitchen GuatemalaAmalia Moreno-Damgaard is an award-winning bestselling chef author born and raised in Guatemala City currently living in the Twin Cities. She provides individuals and companies with a taste and understanding of Latin cultures through healthy gourmet cuisine education, consulting, bilingual speaking and writing and fun culinary experiences.

Her cookbook “Amalia’s Guatemalan Kitchen-Gourmet Cuisine With A Cultural Flair” has won 9 international awards.


  • Mel Jordan

    Amalia > you know better regarding the recipe Platanos Cocidos
    the ingredient 2 TABLESPOONS OF SUGAR no way Amalia you are
    ignorant to suggest SUGAR latinos already consume too much sugar
    as it is > The cinnamon is sufficient for that recipe
    Mel Jordan

  • Terry Kovick Biskovich

    Mel Jordan ~ Amalia has suggested a really delicious dessert that more than satisfies a ‘sweet tooth’ (this is not a single portion recipe), I can’t imagine you’d expect everyone to completely abandon sugar ~ a rather harsh comment or so it seems to me.

  • Picking a correct food is very important if you are diabetes Patient. It will Surely Help your blood sugar or Keep it constant. Amalia has suggested a Delicious Dish but first you need to understand what type of food affect your sugar count.

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