Klinger: Dietary Guidelines should consider Hispanics’ needs

by Eric Schroeder
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HINSDALE, ILL. — The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee must consider the health and nutrition needs of U.S. Hispanics as work continues to update the guidelines, said Sylvia Klinger, founder of Hinsdale-based Hispanic Food Communications.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, there are nearly 50.5 million Hispanics living in the United States, representing about 16% of the U.S. total population. And among Hispanics, obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and other obesity related diseases are increasing.

In a May 16 letter to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, Ms. Klinger said preventive measures and nutritional care should start with culturally relevant guidelines and suggestions specific to the Hispanic population’s health and nutrition needs. She offered several recommendations for making the dietary guidelines more useable and relevant for Hispanics, including:

Adjust recommendations culturally. “For Hispanics who are new to the U.S., the Spanish Dietary Guidelines and MyPlate recommendations should include more Hispanic foods,” Ms. Klinger said. “When revising recommendations, consider culturally relevant menus and meal plans with primarily Hispanic foods, especially nutrient dense foods that are culturally familiar so they are easier to shop for and prepare. Health professionals must also become familiar with foods from different countries and regions so they can customize menus to include traditional recipes and foods.”

 • Link healthy eating patterns like DASH Diet to traditional Hispanic foods. “The traditional Hispanic diet is rich in vegetables and fruit, as well as whole grains like quinoa and amaranth, dried beans and dairy foods such as milk, yogurt and cheese,” Ms. Klinger said. “Build on cultural pride and connect the inherent strengths of nutrient rich foods in the Hispanic diet to the health benefits of the DASH diet.”

Show, don’t tell. “For many Hispanics, oversize portions are common, so they need to consider smaller portions,” Ms. Klinger said. “Measures such as ounces or cups are not intuitive to the average person. Demonstrate common portion sizes in the DGAC with images. Use familiar items, like a baseball or iPhone, as props to show portion sizes. This will help overcome language barriers as well.”

Suggest food substitutions. “Include tables or illustrations that show healthier alternatives to high-fat or high-calorie foods,” she said. “For some Hispanics, language barriers may make label reading difficult. Charts or tables with substitutions and illustrations may clarify better options. For example, low-fat yogurt could be a substitute for crema (Mexican sour cream) in a recipe.”

Include family members. “Consider how to write guidelines that embrace the Hispanic preference for buy-in from all family members,” Ms. Klinger said. “Mothers especially want to know that their families will accept changes to eating patterns. A sample grocery list of culturally relevant foods including whole grains, vegetables, fruit and low-fat dairy could help the family stay on track when shopping.”

 The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion has the administrative leadership for the 2015 edition of the dietary guidelines and is strongly supported by U.S.D.A.’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion in Committee and process management, and evidence analysis functions. The departments jointly review the committee’s recommendations and develop and publish the revised Dietary Guidelines for Americans policy document.

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has held three public meetings and is now in the process of reviewing current scientific evidence. The Committee also may hold additional public meetings if necessary.
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