HEALTH October 2016

Challenges of adapting to the American diet

For many Latinos, the adaptation to the American style of life is very difficult. One of the most common challenges is adaptation to the American diet. 

Similar to Latino culture, American cuisine is an important part of the culture. Even though there is similarity between them, some food and traditions are different. For example, the American diet generally includes less food at home and more food outside of the house, in a hurry. In the Latino culture, the families pass the meal together in the house and use the time to talk and relax. This disagreement between the cultures causes difficulties.

Furthermore, many Latino immigrants are in a lower socioeconomic class and don’t gain a lot of money. In this population, there is a proportion of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease much higher than in other classes. Also, the immigrants suffer from more food insecurity and it is very difficult to obtain healthy food. When a family lives far from a supermarket, it is difficult to prepare a healthy meal in the style of their home country.

The American diet consists of 50% carbohydrates, 15% protein, and 30% fat. Many times, it includes fast food which is cheap and accessible, restaurant food, and drinks with a lot of sugar and other carbohydrates. This diet contributes to the high proportion of obesity, cancer, and heart disease in the U.S. It is a worry of the Latino immigrant because they adapt to this unhealthy diet quickly due to the influence from social media, friends, and school.

There is a lot of influence outside of the house in social media and school for the American culture. It is important to preserve your own culture and emphasize the importance of food and Latino culture while learning about the American culture. One suggestion to preserve the Latino culture in the house is to eat the meal always with the family. One should use the hour of the meal to talk with the family and preserve the tradition as a time to enjoy the food and the company.


Clusky, M., Petersen, R., Wong, S.S. “Dietary Adaptation among Latino Immigrants: Impressions from Mothers of Adolescents.” The Forum For Family and Consumer Issues. NC State University. 2013. 

Gillette, H. “Hispanic Mothers Have Difficulty Adapting to U.S. Food Culture” The Huffington Post. 2013.

Greder, K., Romero de Slowing, F., Doudna, K. “Latina Immigrant Mothers: Negotiating New Food Environments to Preserve Cultural Food Practices and Healthy Child Eating.” Family and Consume Sciences Research Journal. 41.2 (2012): 145-160. 

Pérez-Escalmilla, R. “Dietary Quality Among Latinos: Is Acculturation Making Us Sick?” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 109.6 (2009): 988-91. Web.

Hello! My name is Katie Vaughan and I am a second year medical student at the University of Rochester. I attended Hamilton College and graduated in 2013 with degrees in Chemistry and Hispanic Studies. I enjoy playing ultimate frisbee, hiking, and cooking.

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