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Local Notions of Healthy Eating and National Dietary Guidelines: A Comparison in Vulnerable Salvadoran Communities

Fuster, Melissa, Messer, Ellen, Houser, Robert F., Deman, Hedi, De Fulladolsa, Patricia Palma, Bermudez, Odilia I.
Food & foodways 2013 v.21 no.4 pp. 288-314
Dietary Guidelines, alcohols, candy, focus groups, foodways, fruits, healthy diet, interviews, nutrition knowledge, sugars, vegetables, El Salvador
This study presents an assessment of local definitions and perceptions concerning healthy eating through a study in four resource-poor border communities in El Salvador. The study included focus groups, key-informant interviews, and observations of the food environment. Local definitions of healthy eating elicited through focus groups were compared to the national Salvadoran dietary guidelines recommendations. The comparison revealed several areas of overlap (including the importance of dietary variety, fruits, and vegetables, among others) and omissions (mention of limiting sweets/candy, salt, sugar, and alcohol). Focus group participants expressed concerns over the origin of their foods and whether food contained harmful chemicals. These conversations also revealed the contradictions between nutrition knowledge and preferences for foods classified as unhealthy. This article concludes with a discussion about barriers to healthy eating identified in the focus groups and through the food environment assessment.