Decolonize Your Diet: Mexican-American Plant-Based Recipes for Health and Healing

More than just a cookbook, Decolonize Your Diet redefines what is meant by “traditional” Mexican food by reaching back through hundreds of years of history to reclaim heritage crops as a source of protection from modern diseases of development. Authors Luz Calvo and Catriona Rueda Esquibel are life partners; when Luz was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, they both radically changed their diets and began seeking out recipes featuring healthy, vegetarian Mexican foods. They promote a diet that is rich in plants indigenous to the Americas (corn, beans, squash, greens, herbs, and seeds), and are passionate about the idea that Latinxs in America, specifically Mexicans, need to ditch the fast food and return to their own culture’s food roots for both physical health and spiritual fulfillment.

Praise for Decolonize Your Diet

“The cookbook combines ancient wisdom with modern-day conveniences, using lesser-known ingredients such as jicama, nopales and chayotes in creative ways. But it’s more than that…The book is also a well-researched ‘love letter’ to all the abuelas (grandmothers) out there, who have kept alive these culinary traditions for thousands of years.” 

UC Food Observer

About the Authors

Catrióna Rueda Esquibel received her PhD in the History of Consciousness Program at UC Santa Cruz (1999). She is the Interim Associate Dean in the College of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University. She is the author of With her Machete in her Hand (U of Texas Press, 2006). Her father’s family has lived in northern New Mexico for more than twelve generations. On her mother’s side, her great-great-grandmother, great-grandmother, and grandmother all migrated from Sonora to Los Angeles between 1913 and 1919.  Catriona is interested in diet and diabetes because her father and many of his siblings were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. In one generation, as they moved from New Mexico to Los Angeles, their diet went from grass-fed beef, home-raised chickens, and home-grown vegetables and local herbs on the ranch to highly processed foods.

Luz Calvo received their PhD in the History of Consciousness Program at UC Santa Cruz in 2001. Luz is a professor of Ethnic Studies at Cal State East Bay, where they teach a course entitled, “Decolonize Your Diet: Food Justice in Communities of Color.” Luz traces their food genealogy to her paternal grandparents, who ran a Mexican restaurant in San Fernando, California, from the 1940s through the 1970s.  The Calvo business began when the grandparents began selling tacos to the cannery workers, with their grandfather purchasing fresh, seasonal ingredients from the LA Central market, and their grandmother preparing and packaging the tacos. Luz coedited the volume, Mexican-Origin Foods, Foodways, and Social Movements: Decolonial Perspectives.

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Real Food Reads Recipes

Cauliflower Ceviche

From Decolonize Your Diet


1 large head cauliflower

1 bunch cilantro

1 small white onion, coarsely chopped

1–3 fresh jalapeño chilies, to taste

2 garlic cloves, peeled

3 tomatoes, diced

1/3 cup lime juice

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

⅛ teaspoon white pepper

12–14 healthy tostada shells, a large bag of tortilla chips, or 12–14 butter lettuce leaves

2 avocados, peeled, seeded, and cubed


Working in batches, use a food processor to mince cauliflower, cilantro, onion, chiles, and garlic. Don’t try to process too much in one batch. Process until vegetables are pea-sized, or use a sharp knife to mince.

Transfer to a salad bowl and toss with tomatoes, lime juice, salt, and pepper.

Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour before serving. Serve on tostada shells, with tortilla chips or in lettuce cups. Top with cubes of avocado.

Header photo by Bart Heird