I feel more a part of a culture when I can indulge in their traditional foods and really get to know them.
Being from Trinidad and Tobago (“Trinbago”), my experience with food has naturally been varied.
Trinbago’s cuisine is a true melting pot with elements from the English, French, and Spanish colonial eras as well as cuisines from Africa, East India, China, and, more recently, Venezuela.
The food pyramid and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) MyPlate guidelines, which don’t correspond with many traditional meals, were the main topics of my official nutrition education, nevertheless.
Traditional one-pot recipes combine these food groups into a meal that cannot be clearly plated, despite MyPlate’s recommendation that a balanced plate consists of half non-starchy vegetables, one-quarter protein, and one-quarter grains.
The MyPlate pattern makes it impossible to serve dishes like pelau, a Caribbean one-pot meal made with caramelized chicken, parboiled rice, pigeon peas, and a variety of veggies and seasonings.
Thus, as a dietitian and food enthusiast, I found it difficult and frustrating to make culturally appropriate, healthful meals.
If these traditional meals don’t follow the MyPlate guidelines, are they really healthy, or does the commonly accepted Western idea of healthy, balanced meals lack cultural sensitivity? I started to question.
It took me a while to come up with a notion of healthy eating that welcomes inclusion and the subtleties of cultural meals.
I’ll take you along for some of that adventure and demonstrate what I discovered.