The Latino Way Food Group and Plate

By: Iris Mercado  

In 2016, 17.8% of the US population was of Latino/Hispanic origin making it the largest minority group. Latinos in the US have different eating patterns from the Non-Latinos, in addition to the diversity within them, leaving food as their common ground. Latinos eat the same food with different preparations and use many names for the same item creating confusion among themselves and health educators. Studies show that universal dietary guidelines may not be effective for different ethnic groups with distinct food preferences and needs. Therefore the purpose of this project is to raise awareness of the diverse eating patterns and food intake among the Latinos. The Latino Way Food Group was created based on field observations, public information and ecological data collected from Latinos. The significance of this model was further tested with focus groups, interviews and surveys. This revised Latino version of the USDA Food Group reflects their nutritional needs and food preferences. It also incorporates culinary traditions and eating patterns, acknowledging diversity of this group. The Latino Way Food Group intends to fill the gap left by the limited food and nutritional educational materials available by addressing the variety of cultural foods used by Latinos in the US. In addition, the Latino Way Food Group presents different names used by Latinos in the US for the same food item in English and Spanish and includes a culturally sensitive food group classification and a Latino Plate image.

Latinos, Food Groups
Food, Politics, and Cultures
Poster/Exhibit Session

Dr. Iris Mercado

Associate Professor, Health Education, CUNY- Hostos Community College

Dr. Iris Mercado has worked at Hostos Community College-CUNY since 2004 as a Tenured Assistant Professor teaching Nutrition and Health courses and is the Health Education Unit Coordinator. She holds a EdD in Health Education, MS in Public Health and Nutrition, BA in Nutrition and Dietetics and certificates in Weight Control Management and Sports Nutrition. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Dr. Mercado is currently working on a weight management book for Latinos in the US. Her areas of expertise are nutrition, weight management, health education, public health, and health promotion and prevention in regards to major chronic diseases. With over 27 years of experience as a health educator and nutritionist/dietitian, Dr. Mercado is committed to the belief that people can change behaviors and adopt a healthy lifestyle with the appropriate support and motivation. She intends to broaden the reach of her positive influence and continue motivating and affecting the lives of her students and clients by spreading health information through the Healthy Hostos blog and a weight management book for the Latino population. The book's main focus is to show people how to eat well and keep a healthy weight without giving up their cultural foods like “rice and beans”.