Nutrition and diet in the Latino community

When they come to the United States, the nutrition and diet of many Hispanic and Latino immigrants can be affected, leaving them at a higher risk of chronic health problems.

According to Michael Puglisi, assistant extension professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Connecticut, the Latino and Hispanic diet mainly consists of carbs, grains, and meat.


“A big part of the culture is eating white rice,” Puglisi said. “A healthier and more nutritious option would be switching to brown rice, but since white rice is a staple, it’s difficult to change that habit.”

A recent study from the state Department of Public Health found that 38.1% of Hispanic children drink sugar sweetened beverages at least once per day in comparison to only 20.5% for non-Hispanic white children.

In America fast food such as McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, and Taco Bell, is plentiful, relatively cheap and convenient.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the current dietary concerns include overconsumption of calories, added sugars and added fat while under consuming whole grain, fruits, and vegetables.

In addition, Puglisi said that in Latino and Hispanic communities, there has been a reduction in physical activity. According to the state Department of Public Health, 31.4% of Hispanic adults in Connecticut indicated that they did not complete any physical activity in a day, in comparison to 20% for non-Hispanic white adults. An average of 31.4% of Hispanic children are obese and more likely to grow up to be an obese adult.

Lack of physical activity and eating unhealthy foods has 15.1% of the Hispanic population diagnosed with pre-diabetes and 9.1% have been diagnosed with diabetes.

“This indicates that there is not only a large group that is at risk not only for diabetes, but what we call ‘metabolic syndrome,’ which can place a person at elevated risk for high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.” Puglisi said.

Finding balance

“We try to advise people to eat smaller portions and add more vegetables and fruits to their diet.” Puglisi said. Eating less processed foods and doing more physical activity are steps to take.

Finding healthy options may be difficult, but Stephanie Guartan, owner of La Azogueñita Deli & Juice Bar in Wallingford, tries to make it easier.

Guartan, who graduated from Binghamton University in New York, uses her knowledge to help make juices that are healthy.

“With my mom being diabetic in the family I had to change and rearrange our diet,” Guartan said. “Then I started researching and using what I knew from school to see what foods are good for your body … if you have kidney problems then good food to have are celery and cucumbers.”

Guartan recalled helping two customers who were pre-diabetic.

“I was able to help create something that was fit for them,” she said. “They came in for a whole month and felt so much better and his glucose level actually went down.

“I’m very happy to be able to help the community and give them healthy and natural options.” Guartan added.

To check out the juices at La Azogueñita Deli & Juice Bar visit their location at 211 South Colony Road.

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