Planning diet for Southeast Asians

During the past few decades the number of Southeast Asian refugees has increased dramatically worldwide. In the US immigrants from Southeast Asia have become the third largest ethnic group after blacks and Hispanics. Among these immigrants are numerous groups, each with a district language, culture and food habits. 

The traditional Southeast Asian (Hmong) diet is high in complex carbohydrates and low in refined carbohydrates, predominantly from rice that is eaten at every meal. The Southeast Asian Hmong diet includes large amounts of fruits, vegetables, and soy products, and smaller amounts of meat, poultry, fish. Common spices include lemon grass, coriander, chili peppers, green onion, basil, cilantro, ginger and garlic. Lemon and lime juice often are used in place of salad dressings and salt; soy and fish sauces and monosodium glutamate are common seasonings.

Although lactose intolerance has been reported to be a problem in many Southeast Asians, many adults are able to drink it in small amounts without any discomfort. If the immigrants are refugees, they may be at nutritional risk because of low access to food supplies and parasitic anemias. General malnutrition, hypertension, dental caries, and iron deficiency anemia have been identified as problems among incoming refugees.

Common food choices associated within cultural group.

Grain group: rice, wheat, buckwheat, corn, millet and sorghum products.

Vegetable group: agathi flowers, amaranth, artichokes, bamboo shoots, beets, bitter melon, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, cucumbers, drumstick plant, eggplant, lotus root, manioc, mushrooms, okra, pandanus, plantain flowers, sago palm, spinach, squash, turnips, yams, water chestnuts, water convulus, water lilies.

Fruit group: apples, apricots, avocadoes, bananas, coconut, dates, figs, grapes, guava, jackfruit, limes, litchis, loquats, mangoes, melon, nongus, oranges, papaya, peaches, pears, persimmons, pineapple, plums, pomegranate, pomelos, star fruit, sugar cane, tangerines, watermelon.

Milk, yogurt and cheese group: milk (evaporated and fermented products), cheese and milk based desserts.

Meat, fish, eggs and nuts group: beef, goat, mutton, pork, chicken, duck and a variety of fish, seafood, legumes and nuts.

Fats and sweets group: coconut oil, ghee, mustard oil, peanut oil, sesame seed oil, sunflower oil, sugar cane, jaggery and molasses.

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