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Can cultural foods be a part of a healthy diet?

Updated: Nov 11, 2021

Our personal food choices are unique- they are influenced by how we grew up and our life experiences. This influence is known as food culture. Food culture is the connection, beliefs, and experience we have with food and our food system. Food culture has the power to take us back to another time or place and gives us the ability to connect and relate to one another. For example, during holidays cooking and eating tamales is a tradition some families have. The food choices we make because of our food culture supports our emotional, spiritual, and physical health.

It is important to acknowledge that our food choices are also influenced by media and unrealistic body standards. Messages around what, how much, and how often we should eat are forced into our world. Be cautious when listening to these types of messages because they do not know your food culture. They provide a "one size fits all" diet. It is often assumed that everyone is the same, however what works for one person may not work for you. Just as your food culture is unique, your health is unique too.

Our cultural foods can be part of a healthy diet. Give yourself permission to eat the foods that bring you memories, honor your traditions, and connect you with your family or friends. You will not make or break your health from one meal or even one day of eating. Most nutrition recommendations are intended to be an average over time. You do not have to eat perfectly to be healthy. It is important to have a flexible mindset and understand that food is much more than what is on your plate.

Monthly Challenge

Create a list of foods that are part of your food culture. Write down and reflect on what that food means to you and what memories come from that food. Next time you are cooking that food for your family or friends, share why that food is important to you.

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