Food Pyramid Gets Ethnic Flavor

Dietitian's trusty reshaped for Asian, Latino and Mediterranean tastes.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The food pyramid has gone global.

    When the 2010 census is done, we're expected to see just how much the country's population has changed.  But it's already clear in grocery stores and restaurants that Americans like a lot of ethnic food.

    Not All Food Pyramids Are Alike

    [CHI] Not All Food Pyramids Are Alike
    The standard American food pyramid gets rearranged when it comes to ethnic foods. (Published Wednesday, May 12, 2010)

    And now the dietitian's trusty tool has been reshaped for Asian, Latino and Mediterranean tastes.  A research group called Oldways Preservation Trust has even created food pyramids targeting children.
     
    "When you see your food, it speaks your language," said dietitian Sylvia Melendez Klinger.  "It's a great way to understand that the foods from your home country can still play a role [in your diet]."
     
    For public health officials, it's another way to reach the Latino population in the United States, which has one of the highest rates of obesity and obesity-related complications in the country.
     
    Of course, it's not just a problem here.  Registered dietitian Jeannie Houchins says the problem of obesity is a global world wide issue.  The difference is that in developed countries, it's not just what we eat, but how much of it we consume.

    Houchins says people have become too accustomed to outsize portions, and for immigrants to this country, that's a bad habit to pick up.
     
    Asian immigrants, for example, are used to family dining, with all the dishes are placed in the middle and a bit is taken from each plate. 

    "Everything is shared," Houchins explains, "Versus one big meal that's solely for you."

    Having your own plate, which can be replenished, is where overeating can creep in.

    Each of the redesigned pyramids emphasizes portion sizes, and Klinger points out they also remind people of eating patterns specific to their culture that may not be helpful.

    "A typical Hispanic family will have seven tortillas with a meal.  That's seven hundred calories before you even touch your meal," she said.
     
    Still, as yucca root root, tamarinds and bok choy make their way into the mainstream American diet, there's one advantage, and that's many more interesting ways to eat nutritiously.
     
    Of course, the most well known food pyramid is the one created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  That can be accessed at MyPyramid.gov.