Celebrate Traditional Foods in Your Practice with Resources for Hispanic Americans

As National Hispanic Heritage Month 2021 draws to a close, we want to take this moment to highlight the importance of bridging the gap between recommended Dietary Guidelines for Americans eating patterns and traditional cultural foodways.

A brief on 2020 U.S. Census data released by the Bureau in August 2021 says it all. Based on updated and more precise methodology, they have determined that “the U.S. population is much more multiracial and more diverse than what we measured in the past.” In fact, their data show that the multiracial population has increased 276% between 2010 – 2020. Much of this change stemmed from the ability to identify “in combination” multiracial populations in each racial category. What does this mean? Well, for starters, it means that our “melting pot” of a nation is just that. The composition of our citizens is not homogenous; nor has it ever been. We all have a responsibility to ensure that nutrition education reflects this fact.

Dietary Guidelines for all Americans

It’s the perfect time for this data, with an Administration that is hyper-focused on public health and equity, whether it be in virology or nutrition. We now have an opportune window to highlight multiracial food patterns and options, as well as to demonstrate to Americans how the Dietary Guidelines apply to the way they eat.

At Nutrition On Demand, we have been working for more than a year on a robust, science-based approach to disseminate Federal Dietary Guidelines to Hispanic Americans in an approachable, flavorful, and, importantly,  culturally-relevant way. We have been working in collaboration with our clients, the Hass Avocado Board and the McCormick Science Institute, Sylvia Klinger – a Hispanic American registered dietitian nutritionist and expert in the field, and others as part of USDA’s MyPlate Partnership.

Why Hispanic Americans?

Hispanic Americans are:

  1. One of the fastest growing segments of our population. Population growth from 2010-2020 indicate that those who report not being of Hispanic or Latino origin grew by 4% compared to 23% in those who self-identify as Hispanic.
  2. At increased risk of nutrition insecurity. Feeding America reports that Hispanic Americans are 2.5 times more likely to experience hunger compared to white Americans. The rate of food insecurity in the Latinx population was 16% in 2019. With the COVID-19 pandemic, this rose to 19% in 2020.  
  3. At increased risk of diet-related chronic diseases. As with most Americans, the leading causes of death for the Hispanic population are diet-related diseases. Forty-four percent of the Hispanic population in the U.S. has hypertension, with half of Hispanic men having elevated blood pressure. Additionally, the prevalence of diagnosed diabetes is highest among the Hispanic population when compared to the non-Hispanic white and black populations. Obesity is prevalent among Hispanic men and women, with the only subgroup of the population having a higher obesity prevalence being non-Hispanic black Americans.
  4. Experiencing a decline in diet quality as they acculturate to the typical American diet. A September 2021 study published in The Journal of Nutrition and based on the largest population-based cohort of Hispanics/Latinos of diverse origin (Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos), showed that, in general, with increased years of living in the U.S., comes decreased healthfulness of eating patterns.

Creating Comprehensive, Turnkey Consumer Resources for Professionals

In 2021, our collective team set out to create a compendium of resources for health professionals to use with Hispanic American consumers to support healthy eating patterns. We committed to, not just translating English materials into Spanish, but rather understanding the foods and food patterns of various Hispanic American sub-populations and to highlight those in our materials.

The result is a toolkit that we plan to build upon over time. Currently it includes:

  • MiPlato Your Way – a parallel resource to the MyPlate Plan featuring commonly-consumed foods listed in each of the food groups and traditional recipes
  • 5 MiPlato Meal Tips – a two-page resource based on Start Simple with MyPlate
  • A health professional companion resource with details of the development process and the references used to inform and create these materials

We also have several other resources slated to come soon!

  • MiPlato Meal Makeover Cookbook (yet to be titled) – featuring healthy makeovers of ten traditional recipes from various Spanish-speaking countries and regions. Recipes were redeveloped by the lead research chef at McCormick Science Institute to maximize flavor while bolstering fruit, vegetable, and fiber content. Additionally, these makeovers resulted in decreased saturated fat, sodium, and added sugar in meals. McCormick conducted a home-use study of 153 Hispanic Americans to receive feedback on taste, ease of preparation, and intent to make the dish again. Results overwhelmingly revealed that consumers understood these recipes were healthier yet loved the flavors and intend to make them again. As one consumer put it, ““I liked how refreshing the ceviche tasted with cucumber and avocado and the spice blend made the tostadas have a tasty kick.”
  • Videos featuring McCormick Science Institute research chefs demonstrating how to prepare, cook, and pair these recipes at home.

All components of the toolkit are rooted in the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MiPlato, tailored for the most prevalent Hispanic subgroups in our country, and focused on flavorful, healthy eating. Each resource is available in English and Spanish. To help the Latinx population in the U.S. enjoy traditional foods and recipes, while optimizing health, we encourage nutrition professionals to use these educational materials in their practice.

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