|Abstract or Summary
- The evolving United States demographics, evident from the most recent census, show a steady population growth for Hispanics. Research suggests that after immigrating to the United States, first-generation Hispanic populations seem vulnerable to weight gain and development of chronic disease. Many health professionals recognize the increased need for Spanish language support as well as sensitivity toward ethnic foods and cultural differences. Targeting these adults would help nutritionists/dietitians to better disseminate information that has the potential to benefit the immigrants and the future health of their second-generation Hispanic American children. The dietary acculturation literature is not well-developed regarding the measurement of acculturation or dietary acculturation specifically. Acculturation occurs when two or more cultures interact and results in changes in individuals' behaviors, values, and senses of identity. This limitation challenges our understanding of the lifestyle-dietary pattern adaptations which may impact the health status of Hispanic immigrants. Exploring dietary acculturation is useful for providing insight to improve and develop messages that facilitate adaptations of healthy dietary patterns. The purpose of this study was to explore how Hispanic immigrant families' dietary behaviors are impacted by influences of a new cultural and food environment. Additionally, an objective was to facilitate programming and other efforts that assist Hispanic populations in the adaptation of healthy lifestyles after immigrating to the U.S. The study included conducting qualitative interviews with Hispanic mothers (n=10) of pre-adolescent children ages 10-13. The participants had been living in the United States for an average of 16.9 years, with a range from 10 to 29 years. All the parents were foreign-born, first-generation immigrants. Eight participants were originally from Mexico, one from El Salvador, and one from Columbia. Language use at home was "only Spanish" for 60% (n=6), "Spanish better than English" for 30% (n=3), and "both equally" for 10% (n=1). Results from the short language-based acculturation scale revealed subjects had similar scores, with an average of 1.8 out of 5, despite a wide range of years in the U.S. Three major themes emerged from the qualitative analysis of the interviews. The themes reflect that lifestyle changes experienced with immigration influence dietary pattern adaptations, foreign-born immigrants desire to maintain their cultural traditions, and acculturation of their dietary patterns to the dominant culture occurs over time. The Hispanic mothers were the main food-preparers in the home and they believed they should expose their children to the foods and lifestyle of their native countries. The findings from the research suggest that future research should search for ways to support Hispanic mothers in maintaining healthier food traditions and resisting their children's preferences for less healthy choices. Educational materials aimed at immigrant Hispanic audiences should be provided in both English and Spanish. Finally, Hispanic immigrants should be counseled about lifestyle changes that impact time management, while being encouraged to pursue more opportunities for physical activity. Efforts to help maintain their cultural food practices and identify nutritious choices and acceptable alternatives may assist in adapting their diets positively.