Is the American Dream Unhealthy for Hispanics?

April 28, 2015 Author: Roy Eduardo Kokoyachuk

It’s the story that makes America great… Hispanics immigrate to the U.S., looking for a new and better life for their families.

One of things that the first generation brings with them is their traditional eating habits… Hispanic meals that are, at their core, much healthier than current US eating habits. According to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report submitted recently to HHS and USDA, for example:

  • Hispanics eat more rice than non-Hispanic whites
  • They are more likely to eat beef, but less likely to eat processed meats like hot dogs
  • Hispanics eat more eggs and legumes than non-Hispanic whites
  • They are less likely to consume fats, oils and sugars

But what happens with the next generation of those Hispanic families… and the one after that?

Evidently, as Hispanics become more acculturated over time, their eating habits become more “Americanized” – meaning less healthy choices, leading to, perhaps, long-term health issues.

According to, “For example, first-generation Mexican-American women, despite being of lower socioeconomic status than second-generation Mexican American or non-Hispanic white women, tend to have higher intakes of protein, vitamins A and C, folic acid, and calcium than these other groups. The diets of second-generation Mexican American women more closely resemble those of non-Hispanic white women of similar socioeconomic status.”

But the acculturation-based changes are more than just the foods Hispanics are eating. As they become more acculturated, they are also adopting more sedentary lifestyles… which is resulting, for example, in a dramatic increase in Type 2 diabetes. In fact, the prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes in Hispanics is 2-3X that of non-Hispanic whites.

So, what does all of this mean?

While there is clearly trending data that is not providing very good news, according to, more research still needs to be done. For example:

  • We need more longitudinal data on the impact of acculturation on food choices and health, starting the studies with young children
  • We need to better understand the impact of “family meals” – long a staple in the Hispanic community – on food choices and quantity
  • We also need to understand the differences in the sub-groups (Mexican-American vs. Cuban-American, etc.) within the Hispanic community

In the meantime, Hispanics might want to follow the traditional guidelines for diet (source:, including:

  • Stay active; enjoy meals with others often
  • Base all meals on fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, legumes and herbs & spices
  • Enjoy fish and seafood at least twice each week
  • Include poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt in moderation, but fairly often
  • Meats and sweets should be consumed least of all

Bottom line: don’t let the American Dream make you sick!

If you're interested in learning more about Hispanics' food habits, contact us and stay tuned for our upcoming reports on Millennials and their opinions on food, beverage and alcohol.