Two years ago, while preparing for knee replacement surgery, Nerrissa Mixon received some troubling news. Routine blood work showed she was prediabetic. Nerrissa, 59, saw this as a wake-up call.
“My mother had diabetes and as her primary care giver, I watched her suffer with that disease,” said Nerrissa, a Philadelphia resident. “I didn’t want that for myself, so I reached out to my health plan to find out about my benefits for nutritional counseling so I could become healthier.”
Empowered to Make a Change
That call changed a lot for Nerrissa: It led her to the team of Registered Dietitians at Family Food, including Rachel Robinson.
“Rachel was phenomenal in assessing my situation, my medical history, my eating habits, and helping me formulate a loosely structured meal plan. Together, we created little steps that could get me to my personal goal of becoming a vegan,” she said.
Rachel introduced Nerrissa to different vegan menus and exposed her to a lot of foods she didn’t eat, like chickpeas and tofu. “I was surprised how delicious tofu can be when prepared as a scramble with different spices. I also learned that I could eat a healthier variety of foods and be just as full and satisfied.”
Having spent years making home-cooked meals for her two now grown children, Nerissa enjoys her time in the kitchen. “I’ve been doing some experimenting lately with egg rolls and wraps,” she said.
Nerrissa was pleasantly surprised that changing her diet didn’t take as much effort as she thought it would. “There are so many inexpensive and accessible vegan products,” she said.
Support When and Where You Need It
Finding the right nutritional counselor is important to create a trusting relationship, she added. “Rachel is incredibly supportive and never judgmental. And one of the best things is that before the restrictions imposed by COVID-19, she even came to my house for our sessions.” This year they will meet every other month by phone or video conference.
“Family Food has a long-standing commitment to making high quality, culturally relevant nutrition services easy to access in the Philadelphia region,” says Family Food Executive Director, Krista Yoder Latortue. “For over a decade, Family Food has served as the go-to nutrition experts in Philadelphia where clients are sure to receive a personalized, proven, and impactful nutrition experience.”
Going from being an occasional meat eater to a vegan wasn’t as hard for Nerrissa as she thought it might be. “It’s been two years and my body has fully adjusted to this diet,” she said. “In fact, if I eat meat or fish, I can definitely tell the difference in how I feel. I’m more sluggish and sleepy.”
While Nerrissa’s personal goal to become a vegan is a worthy one, it’s not for everyone. “Family Food’s Registered Dietitians support each client to identify small changes that can be made to their current eating habits that will have long-lasting impact. The best nutrition goals are those that honor the individual’s health goals, food preferences, and tastes. Healthy eating isn’t a one size fits all by any means.”
Take Control of Your Health
As an African American, Nerrissa is well aware of increased health risks for heart disease, diabetes, and obesity among this population. It’s why she was inspired to take action to improve her own health. It’s also why Independence launched the Our Community. Our Health. campaign with The Philadelphia Tribune to raise awareness and provide resources to improve the health of Africans Americans across the city.
“It’s perfectly fine to say you don’t know how to eat healthy or that you’re scared to make a change. There’s no failure or shame in that. There’s nothing wrong with talking to someone and getting more information to make better choices. Wellness is in our control. We don’t have to continue to do things how we’ve always done them.”
Learn more about free nutritional services at Family Food or call 1-800-203-8657. For more information about how African Americans are affected by chronic diseases like diabetes, visit the Our Community. Our Health. website.