A healthy diet is sometimes considered bad.

On the one hand, it is very important for health, on the other hand, it means limiting in Eurocentrism and denying oneself.

Even in the Caribbean, where I live, many diets are engraved on the American food pyramid, and then a healthy diet shows what the local community looks like.

However, nutrition and healthy eating are not a one-size-fits-all diet. Traditional foods and food culture also deserve a seat at the table.

In this article, I will explain why traditional foods are important with a healthy diet.

Traditional foods: Also called traditional foods: represent a geographical region, ethnic group, religious group, or cultural community, traditions, beliefs, and practices.

Traditional foods may include beliefs about how certain foods are prepared or used. They can also refer to the general culture of a group.

These foods and habits are passed down from generation to generation.

Traditional dishes may represent regions such as pizza, pasta and tomato soup from Italy or Kimchi, seafood and Asian delicacies. Alternatively, the integration of food traditions throughout the Caribbean, West Africa and East India may represent a colonial past.

Traditional foods can play a role in religious ceremonies and are often an integral part of our identities and family relationships.

A healthy diet includes traditional foods – but that message is less noticeable and less frequent.

The US Department of Agriculture (USAID) is one of the gold standard in the US dietary guidelines for the United States. It recommends contacting people, including their traditional food line (1).

The Canadian Dietary Code also emphasizes the importance of cultural and food traditions for healthy eating (2).

However, the field of food research still has a long way to go to ensure the effective and appropriate treatment of people who are not discriminated against, prejudiced, or discriminated against (3).

When I was trained to become a dietitian, cultural needs and eating habits were accepted, but there was limited demand or practical application. In some cases, there were few institutional resources for health care professionals.

What does a healthy diet really look like?

A healthy diet is made up of dairy, protein foods, grains, fruits and vegetables – a variety of nutrients – known as the top five food groups in the United States.

The main message is that each food group provides essential vitamins and minerals to support good health. The MyPlate Healthy plate replaces the food pyramid with half-cooked vegetables, one-fourth protein, and one-fourth grain (4).

However, the Caribbean is a melting pot of six food groups: main (starch, carbohydrate-rich foods), animal foods, grains, fruits, vegetables and fats or oils (5).

Traditional one-pot dishes cannot always be served separately on a plate. Instead, the food groups are united.

For example, traditional low-fat diets are made up of bread crumbs (the main ingredient of baked bread), meatless vegetables such as spinach and carrots, and meats such as chicken, fish or pork. .


Dietary guidelines show that traditional foods go hand in hand with a healthy diet. However, improved cultural competence and institutional resources are needed to facilitate the implementation of these guidelines.

Your desire to eat certain foods is often the result of targeted and successful food marketing. This transaction usually comes through the European Central Lens, which has no cultural consciousness (6).

For example, Google’s “Healthy Diet” lists details and images of asparagus, blueberry and Atlantic salmon – often in hands or on white family tables.

It represents an unspoken message that cultural representations or ethnic differences may not be healthy for local and cultural foods.

However, a truly healthy diet is a fluid concept that does not have a specific shape or ethnicity or does not include certain foods to count.

Here are some of the foods you see most commonly on health websites in the West, and some of their traditional-food items:

  • Although kale is a nutritious vegetable, it is also the root of that shrub and spinach.
  • Quinoa is an excellent source of protein and dietary fiber, but so are rice and beans.
  • Chicken breast is low in fat and is considered essential for a healthy diet, but if you remove the skin from other parts of the chicken, those pieces are also low in fat — and high in iron.
  • Atlantic salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, but so are local salmon and other fatty fish such as sardines.

If kale, quinoa and Atlantic salmon are not in your area, your diet is not automatically weak. Contrary to popular health and health messages, a healthy plate is not limited to Euro-centric foods, and traditional foods are not inferior or nutritious.

Healthy eating seems to be different in communities and environments based on accessibility, sustainability, and food cultures.


A healthy diet is a fluid concept that looks different depending on your region and cultural background. The message must be different.

Traditional foods and traditional food practices have a strong connection to the community and health care. They connect us with our past, nurture the present and create memories for the future. In addition, they play an important role in nutrition and success.

When my mother taught me how to make oil: one-pot bread, taro leaves, pumpkin, coconut milk, and smoked bones: I was interacting with our ancestral food traditions from West Africa at the same time and sharing family time.

Similarly, every time I prepare a vegetarian curry dish like turmeric or saffron, I come in contact with East Indian cuisine.

To those who do not know them, these foods do not seem to fit into the Western diet – but they are full of fiber, complex carbohydrates and vegetables.

How does culture affect what you eat?

Culture: Your diet, your religious and spiritual practices, and your attitude toward health, healing, and health care (7).

Research shows that your perception of certain foods and your willingness to try new ones often affect your cultural background. In addition, classifying what is seen as food and what is not is related to your culture (8, 9).

Therefore, a healthy diet must be interpreted and understood in a cultural context.

In the United States, for example, dinner may be the main meal of the day, and lunch may be a light salad or sandwich. In the Caribbean, however, lunch is often a very difficult meal, but dinner is light and often surprisingly like breakfast.

When food messages and advice are inclusive, lack diversity and understanding, we water science and enrich communities’ perspectives and practices.

In addition, a lack of trust and communication between the chef and the people he serves can lead to health differences and poor health outcomes (3).

If you do not trust your dietitian, you are less likely to follow their advice.


Traditional foods play important social roles and are important for the health of communities and individuals within them. Understanding the differences in cultural diets is important for successful dietary advice and strong health outcomes.

We must remember that the concept of healthy eating fits, even though traditional foods are not decent, popular on social media, or inconsistent with Western ideals.

These are a source of comfort, lifestyle and essential nutrition for many immigrant and non-immigrant families in the United States.

These traditional foods refer to a healthy diet by combining several food groups and incorporating different nutrients:

  • Ugandan: It is made from corn in Tanzania and is often used in traditional meat and vegetable dishes
  • Mama Datashi: It is popular in Bhutan, spicy, made with yak cheese and can include mushrooms, green beans and potatoes
  • Kalua pork; A traditional Hawaiian dish served with fried fish, eggs or taro
  • Cover Roasted pork is often served with potato pumpkins and German beer served in a saucepan or cream sauce.
  • Pelu: A popular dish in the Caribbean with caramel chicken, fried rice, pigeon and vegetables and herbs


Traditional foods go hand in hand with a healthy diet. Many such foods contain different food groups and ingredients in one meal.

Healthy eating is simply the consumption of many nutrients in a healthy diet.

Contrary to popular health and wellness messages, a healthy diet seems to be different in communities and regions. He does not look special or does not want certain foods.

Although US and Canadian dietary guidelines encourage the inclusion of traditional foods as part of a healthy diet, nutrition messages and counseling often lack the capacity and limitations to emphasize the importance of traditional foods.