New Hispanic nutrition guidelines promote healthy eating

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

A Californian nutrition council has published guidelines for
Hispanic consumers in an effort to encourage good nutrition amongst
the nation's most unhealthy population.

The nutrition information, published by the Dairy Council of California, places strong, but not exclusive, emphasis on dairy products.

The industry body said it aims to help families make good food choices even when limited by busy time schedules. The recommendations could further prompt the dietary supplement industry to follow suit and target the specific needs of the Hispanic population.

"With today's families having less time together due to more mothers in the workplace and busier schedules overall, making every effort to have family meals at home will allow parents to not only watch what their kids eat, but also give parents the opportunity to act as role models, which can be a very effective tool in keeping kids healthy,"​ said Monica Montes of the Dairy Council of California.

The group yesterday announced that its website MealsMatter.org provides nutritional tips in Spanish as well as English, to cater for the nation's growing Hispanic population.

"Latin foods are full of flavor, and making simple changes to traditional recipes will significantly improve the nutrition content of the dishes. Cooking with low-fat milk and reduced-fat cheeses keeps the flavor while eliminating extra fat,"​ said Montes.

Other suggestions include baking or grilling meats and vegetables instead of frying them, or serving kids low-fat milk instead of soda to boost nutrients and help eliminate extra sugar in their diets.

Indeed, with the buying power of Latinos last year totaling $768bn, the growing importance of this consumer segment has resulted in a stream of new foods and flavors appearing on the US market, designed specifically to appeal to Hispanic tastes.

And this consumer group is only set to grow further.

According to estimates by Hispanic Telligence, based on an analysis of US Bureau of Economic Analysis figures, the Hispanic purchasing power between 1994 and 2004 revealed a compound annual growth rate of 7.7 percent- nearly three times the 2.8 percent total US rate of disposable income.

But Hispanics are twice as likely as Caucasian Americans to develop diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. Two million Hispanics currently suffer from diabetes, while over 60 percent are classed as overweight.

This "genetic predisposition"​ to health has prompted a number of nutrition groups to encourage good eating habits designed specifically for this segment of the population.

Indeed, one nutrition organization, the Latino Nutrition Coalition (LNC), recognized the need for separate guidelines for this group as early as 1996, when it established a dietary pyramid for Latinos.

Set up by nutrition advocacy group Oldways and sister group to the Whole Grains Council, the LNC this year introduced a booklet designed to back up the pyramid, which was based on the concept of the US Department of Agriculture's original model of a dietary pyramid.

Available in supermarkets, the guide provides visual and easy-to-understand dietary guidelines and also recommends certain product brands belonging to members of the coalition when these fit in with the diet plan.

Related topics: Suppliers, Dairy-based ingredients

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