Eating Habits and Meal Patterns

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The cuisine of Pacific Islander Americans varies slightly from culture to culture and is a blend of native foods and European, Japanese, American, and Asian influences. As with many cultures, food plays a central role in the culture. Pacific Islander Americans typically eat three meals a day. Breakfast is usually cereal and coffee; traditional meals are eaten for lunch or dinner; and fruits, fruit juices, vegetables, and nuts (e.g., peanuts and macadamia) are eaten in abundance. Milk and other dairy products are uncommon and there is a high prevalence of lactose intolerance among Pacific Islander Americans. Thus, calcium deficiency is prevalent.

Starchy foods are the foundation of the traditional diet. For example, the traditional Hawaiian diet is 75 to 80 percent starch, 7 to 12 percent fat, and 12 to 15 percent protein. Starch in the traditional diet comes primarily from root vegetables (e.g., taro, cassava, yam, green bananas, and breadfruit). In addition, the traditional diet is plentiful in fresh fruits, juices, nuts, and greens. Traditional meals include poi (boiled taro), breadfruit, green bananas, fish, or pork. Many dishes are cooked in coconut milk, and seaweed is often used as a vegetable or a condiment.

prevalence: describing the number of cases in a population at any one time lactose intolerance: inability to digest lactose, or milk sugar calcium: mineral essential for bones and teeth protein: complex molecule composed of amino acids that performs vital functions in the cell; necessary part of the diet

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