Hispanic Diet: Making It More Healthful

January 11, 2017   /

The Hispanic population’s diet varies widely, depending on the family’s country of origin. However, the following tips apply to most of the Hispanic population.

Fish and shellfish
Fish and shellfish are a traditional part of the Hispanic diet. A survey of Hispanic people living in New York showed that the most commonly chosen types of fish and shellfish were tuna and shrimp. Frying was the most popular way to prepare fish and shellfish.

Make sure your clients know about:

  • Fish preparation by broiling, baking, grilling, barbecuing, or steaming
  • Fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids
  • Methods for choosing fresh fish
  • Food safety as it relates to the storage and preparation of fresh fish, as well as health advisories for sport-caught fish

Traditional foods
The Hispanic population would do well to prepare more traditional Hispanic foods and to eat fewer “American-style” meals.

Risk of poor diet
The Hispanic community is more at risk for suffering from food insecurity and  lack of access to healthy foods.

You can help by reviewing and/or teaching:

  • Ways to choose less expensive food items that still provide plenty of nutrients
  • The importance of rinsing canned vegetables to reduce the sodium content
  • Methods of planning menus that utilize the same food products to produce many different meals
  • Referrals to agencies and organizations that provide supplemental food or food assistance

Fast food
Provide your clients with information on how to make:

  • More nutritious choices at popular fast-food restaurants
  • Very quick meals at home, which provide more nutritional benefits than fast food

Lactose intolerance is common among the Hispanic population, especially among Mexican individuals. Even those people of Hispanic descent who do not have lactose intolerance may believe that they do, so you should recommend that they undergo testing or complete an elimination diet.

Your clients will find it helpful if you can provide:

  • A list of other food items that provide calcium and vitamin D
  • Lactose-free recipes

Milk is an important part of the Hispanic diet for those who do not believe they are lactose intolerant, especially café con leche in the morning. Studies have shown that the Hispanic population often chooses whole milk and butter.

Ask your clients to choose:

  • Reduced-fat milk
  • Reduced-fat milk products

Many Hispanic people, particularly those from the Caribbean, enjoy beans as a staple in their diet.

Encourage the use of beans in menus, because they are:

  • Low in fat
  • Free of saturated fat
  • Cholesterol free
  • High in protein
  • A source of folate, potassium, iron, and magnesium
  • A food that provides plenty of fiber

Whole-grain foods
The traditional Hispanic diet usually provides plenty of whole-grain foods.

Recommend that your clients choose the following on a regular basis:

  • Corn tortillas
  • Corn tacos
  • Brown rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Whole-grain bread

Portion control
Teach your clients to use:

  • Smaller dishes
  • Proper serving sizes, using portion control with as many family members as possible

Meat is extremely important to the traditional Hispanic diet, with pork as the most popular meat.

Share this information with your clients:

  • The traditional Hispanic diet, which calls for very lean cuts of meat, is recommended (this part of the diet tends to change during the acculturation process)
  • Preparation techniques to use that result in a healthier meat-based meal
  • Meat products not to choose (eg, processed meat products, such as hot dogs and bologna)
  • Menu suggestions and recipes using goat (very popular among the Hispanic population)


References and recommended readings
American Diabetes Association®. Do Latino foods and diabetes mix? Diabetes.org website. http://www.diabetes.org/mfa-recipes/tips/2012-05/do-latino-foods-and-diabetes.html. Accessed June 17, 2014.

Latino diet foods. Oldways website. http://oldwayspt.org/resources/heritage-pyramids/latino-diet-pyramid/latino-diet-foods. Accessed June 17, 2014.

Pérez-Escamilla R, Putnick P. The role of acculturation in nutrition, lifestyle, and incidence of type 2 diabetes among Latinos. J Nutr. 2007;137(4):860-870. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/137/4/860.full.pdf+html. Accessed June 17, 2014.