Cedars-Sinai Blog

Students' Healthy Habits Inspire the Entire Family

Santiago family in the kitchen

Mom Azucena Santiago makes healthy snacks with her daughters Liz and Rosa Lopez at their Los Angeles home.

Healthy changes are happening at Azucena Santiago's home. Ever since 2 of her children started participating in the Cedars-Sinai Healthy Habits program at Virginia Road Elementary school, her family has been inspired to adopt a healthier lifestyle. The program is designed to combat childhood obesity by teaching children in underserved Los Angeles communities about better food options.

Santiago family

Liz Lopez, Rosa Lopez, Raul Lopez, and mom Azucena Santiago are making healthier choices for their family.

In the program, Azucena's daughters, Liz, 10, and Rosa, 7, tried foods like raspberries and zucchini—and came home wanting more. Their interest in new fruits and veggies was contagious, and soon even their 4-year-old brother was happy eating carrots and cucumber slices instead of candy.

"A lot of kids eat junk food and I don't want that anymore," says fifth-grader Liz. "I want to eat healthy. It gives you energy to do things."

At school, Healthy Habits educators taught the girls the importance of having a nutritious breakfast. Using a recipe from the program, Rosa and Liz regularly help their mom make breakfast quesadillas stuffed with tomatoes, peppers, and onions. They also help make after-school snacks. Their favorite is colorful vegetables and nonfat yogurt dip.

During their 10-week Healthy Habits workshops, the kids were asked to describe the foods they tried in class. Rosa tried kiwi for the first time and learned she really liked it–even though some of her classmates thought it was slimy and squishy.

Azucena was inspired by her daughters' new passion for healthy meals, so she joined the Healthy Habits workshop designed for parents. She's even become involved in a community coalition that's campaigning to get local markets to display healthy foods more prominently.

These days, the whole family has joined in, making a collective effort towards better eating. Azucena's husband Raul takes homemade salads to work and is exercising regularly. He's lost 20 pounds in 6 months and he's the first one to get the family out the door and to the park for family fitness time.

"We're happier now that we're more active," says Azucena. "We feel better. It takes the stress away."

Healthy Habits is just one of the ways Cedars-Sinai is working toward a healthier Los Angeles. Learn more about our community benefit programs.