As a busy mom with an endless to do list, I was dependent on processed food.
By the time I reached 25, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and prediabetes. But one day, as I watched my 2-year-old daughter play, I knew if I continued down this path, she would follow in my footsteps. I needed to create a new family legacy - for myself and for her.
Growing up, I didn't know what "healthy" meant. I equated it with extremes, exercise gurus and trendy diets. Considering my family’s history of heart disease, I wasn’t sure where to start. We loved food and flavor, so food had to be tasty. All of the diets I had tried over the years were making me sicker. The food was terrible. I knew I had to go a different direction. I began studying regions around the world where people were the healthiest and lived the longest. The common thread among them was they ate real food.
I began by clearing out my cupboards, by eating real food. I focused on a healthy lifestyle, not a number on the scale, and I "accidentally" lost over 100 pounds. I finally realized healthy could mean balanced, and I developed a passion for cooking and nutrition. I knew it was my mission to help others.
I'm now a mom to two children with a rare genetic health condition, and I am a living kidney donor. I am also a fierce believer that food is medicine. I wanted to make products in alignment with that and make it easier to live a healthier lifestyle.
My journey led me to becoming a personal chef to professional athletes (including several Super Bowl, NBA and WNBA champions), appearing on the Food Network, the cover of Woman’s Day and Woman's World magazines, radio shows, facilitating the American Heart Association BetterU Program, and more.
Being so busy, and working with so many people, I began to notice how inconvenient, not to mention expensive, it seemed to achieve balance between healthy eating and living the full, beautifully chaotic lives many of us live!
Prior to becoming a chef, I used to rely on salty, dried packet spice blends, or sugar, salt (and often chemical) laden sauces to achieve the global flavors I loved and admired. Convenience usually came at the expense of health, and healthy convenience often came at the expense of great taste.
As a chef, I spent years studying the recipes, techniques, and flavors from the vibrant cuisines around the world where many of my clients came from. I worked hard to bring my clients the authentic dishes and flavors of their home or heritage in a healthy way. This usually meant prepping tons of ingredients, devoting hours to making a single dish, and spending a small fortune on pure spices and herbs.
My clients didn't want the same dishes over and over again, yet they wanted the familiar flavors they knew and loved. My job was also to pack as much nutrition into them as possible, which wasn't always so easy with picky eaters (many of us moms struggle with this, too)!
I began creating blender sauces that combined fruits, vegetables, whole spices and herbs to use as flavor bases that had no added sugar, and were low in sodium. Each client had their own custom blend, and I could use these versatile recipe starters to bring the flavors they wanted to everything I cooked for them - even meatloaf!
These "fusion" recipes became some of my client's favorite meals, they were getting the nutrition boost they needed, and - this was a bonus - I was getting in and out of my client's kitchens faster with much less prep work and much less clean-up! My clients began asking for me to leave some of the sauces behind so they could make some meals themselves, or for visiting family. I even got requests to leave extra sauce so my client's mothers, or family members, could take the sauce home with them because they loved the flavors so much!
After a day of cooking for others, I longed for these healthy cooking sauces and flavor bases in my own cupboard. How amazing it would be to have something quick, healthy, and flavorful on hand to make dinner for my own family! It was exactly what I had been looking for, and I knew I couldn’t be the only one with this need.
And thus, Mesa de Vida was born.
Chef Kirsten Helle Sandoval & family
Mesa de Vida is a Woman & Family Owned Small Business that values equity and inclusion.
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