This past week the market research company NPD Group released a report explaining Latinos’ unique nutritional philosophy. According to the report’s findings, Latinos define a meal’s nutritional value based on personal enjoyment of the meal as demonstrated by how much of the meal a person consumes. When someone eats the entire meal, it is assumed that the meal is nutritious and the person eats well. Conversely, if someone does not eat everything on her plate then the meal is perceived as less nutritious. The report’s conclusion: for Latinos, the more you eat, the better nutritional quality and value the meal is perceived to have, and thus overeating is encouraged and expected to reassure the meal preparer he has done a good job cooking it.
I have definitely felt the pressure to overeat when I visit my relatives. Refusing additional servings becomes increasingly difficult as we get older, become more independent and visit frequency decreases. In the meantime, the family’s drive to connect by sharing food becomes stronger, almost more crucial. While we wait for bilingual nutrition labels and develop education initiatives to teach Latinos about organic and natural food let’s not allow our connection through food to fade away. We can do our part to help our families become healthier without eliminating our cultural traditions with the following tips.
3 Tips for Politely Dealing with Overeating Pressures:
Planned Honesty: Your family’s underlying drive to push you to overeat is really a desire to connect with you. When visiting a relative, be honest and tell him before you arrive that you will not be very hungry when you visit. Add a compliment for good measure, such as “I will not be very hungry but there’s no way I’ll miss out on your food”. This helps set the tone before you get there and eliminates any awkwardness when you are unable to finish that huge plate of food you know will come.
Bring Health: Culture and traditions are what keeps us together despite the distance from our homelands and from each other. Why not add to tradition instead of eliminating it? One way to do this is to pick a traditional dish, give it a health makeover, and bring it over to your family’s home. The other really effective and fun way is to choose a western vegetable or healthy meal and give it a Latino twist. These two strategies will satisfy your family’s wish to stay connected and educate and expose them to healthy meals in a non culturally threatening way. Win-win for everyone.
Bring Tupperware: Realistically speaking, sometimes we may express our desire to not overeat only to find our plates fuller at the next family dinner. It happens, often. Rather than getting annoyed, which I know is tempting; try being proactive by bringing Tupperware. You can choose not to eat the entire meal in one sitting and have the leftovers for lunch the next day without making a big deal of it. It saves you money and helps your family understand the size of your portions by providing constant and consistent feedback.
Remember, the more you practice not succumbing to the pressure to overeat, the bigger the impact on your health and the health of our community as a whole. Change begins with one; you.