Article: Plant-based diet helps family prevent chronic disease


Rene Silvey, Jr. is one of my amazing nutrition students from Cosumnes River College. He had the courage to take the information that we discussed in class and not only incorporate it into his own life, but also share it with his family and inspire them to substantially improve their health. I want to share part of his story and one of his family’s new favorite recipes made by Mary Copeland, his father’s girlfriend.

My family values our Mexican heritage and share a very strong foundation of unity. I am a Jr., and along with taking my father’s name, I take responsible to continue our family’s legacy. I have learned over the past few years, that in order for my family and me to live long, prosperous lives, we must first take action in making deliberate choices about what we eat. I never realized the power that we have to choose health for ourselves and each other. My family has felt the burden of chronic disease and suffered the consequences, thinking that it was just in our “genes.”  My uncle has battled with obesity for years, and was so large and plagued with back pain, that he was unable to play with his children. I have had my own struggles with weight and had never thought about a connection to the way we interacted as a family. However, one of the ways that our family used to show love, was with unhealthy food. All of that “loving” plumped me up to a 190 pound sixth grader, and set my father up with the beginning stages of diabetes and a painful and dangerous condition known as diverticulitis.

Now we live a plant-based lifestyle, and it feels phenomenal and empowering!  Watching each other obtain new levels of energy and improved health is awesome, especially because we tend to be a bit “hot under the collar” when tensions rise. More energy and feeling better means having a better attitude, and having a better attitude opens the door for new kinds of motivation. At a lean 155 pounds, I thrive throughout very rigorous workouts, that include 325 pound deadlifts! Ever since my father has changed the way he eats, he has lost 20 pounds, and is setting new goals for himself, and now he wants to see what else he can do with his body. My father and I both help support each other every day, and the connection that we share is unfathomable; the bond has never been greater, all because we changed what we eat. He tells me himself that there’s no point in going back to the way we ate before, his experience with a plant-based lifestyle has really opened his eyes to new possibilities that he never even thought were achievable.

There is an incredible amount of power generated when we stand up for each other’s health and fight against the forces that cause disease and steal our precious quality of life. The chronic diseases that plague or society, not only threaten our ability to financially and physically take care of our families, but also prevent us from making wonderful memories with those we love the most.  Working together as a family to change eating habits can open the floodgates to a variety of benefits, in addition to each family member achieving different goals. Is it time for you to work towards wellness with your family, one bite at a time?


Mary’s Sriracha Tofu


1 medium red onion, diced small

16 oz pkg firm tofu, drained and wrapped in paper towel to remove excess water

½ – 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon of ground cumin

1 teaspoon of Sriracha sauce

1 teaspoon of ginger garlic paste or fresh garlic (pressed or minced)

1 teaspoon of rice vinegar

A few tablespoons of vegetable broth, as needed to deglaze pan

Salt and pepper to taste


Crumble/shred the tofu with a fork and set aside. When the pan is hot, add the onion, and stir once it begins to brown, adding a few teaspoons of veggie broth, if needed. Once onion has softened and caramelized (3-4 minutes, depending on heat), add tofu, letting a nice brown crust form, before stirring.  Add the red pepper flakes, cumin and garlic (or ginger garlic paste), and cook for 30-40 seconds. Add Sriracha and vinegar, and cook for 2 more minutes, taste for seasoning. Serve in a whole grain tortilla or lettuce wrap with peppers, brown rice, black beans, cilantro and avocado, if desired.

Timaree Hagenburger, of Lodi, is a registered dietitian and certified health fitness specialist with a master’s degree in public health. She is a nutrition professor at Cosumnes River College, who conducts corporate wellness work throughout the area, has a regular segment on California Bountiful TV, more info at

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