Exploring the Traditional Pinoy Diet Part 1

by TYason, O.D., M.A. Ed.

Pinoy occasions would almost always involve food.  Birthdays, baptisms, graduations, weddings, promotions, family gatherings – all the way up to funerals and trips to visit our beloved departed would undoubtedly have the presence of some sort of mini-feast.  No Pinoy gathering would be complete without food and shame on the Pinoy host if there would be nothing edible to offer his guests!

Our recipes are a fusion of the East and the West – rich in tradition and calories, steeped in a complexity of sweet, salty, spicy, sour or bitter combinations, and as varied as there are many provinces and regions in our country.

Households would have specialties taught to members of the clan from one generation to the next.  Some are closely guarded and have sprouted many a business or home business.  Some are generously shared and have evolved as new variants are made by the ever-creative and innovative Pinoy.

Raising Pinoy Kids with a Pinoy Palate

Living in the United States has posed a challenge for my family – given the abundance of processed foods and the easy availability of microwaveable treats straight from the freezers of Walmart, Kroger’s, Marsh’s, et al.

A recent trip to the dentist has revealed that my kids, born and raised for most of their years in the Philippines, have excellent and lovely teeth albeit the need for orthodontic treatment.  The dental technician was herself from Guam, a US Army veteran, who was assigned to the Philippines for some time.  We immediately connected as she compared the Pinoy diet (not-so-many sugary treats and drinks) vs. the common American (fats, carbo, sugar and whatever-else-can-kill-you-later-on diet).  And so, she compared my sons’ teeth vs. a majority of kids raised in America.

The difference is in the sugar and processed food.  Pop or softdrinks were the number one factor affecting many American kids/kids raised in America as they gulped them down in lieu of good ole H20.  (Alas!  I guiltily recall the many purchases of instant noodle, chichirya, hotdogs, chicken nuggets, soft drinks, powdered drinks, etc. I made back when we were in Manila and even now, in the US where the temptation to save on time has led us to purchase tv dinners, pop, and extremely sweet morsels of what-have-you.)

But we are noting the dietary changes and preferences of our boys.  One son indulges only in bacon, processed fried chicken or fish (never the home-made ones), sugary cereals, pop, candies and chocolates.  I see a cavity-ridden problem ahead and who knows what sort of lifestyle disease lies later on in life.  (And this was the kid who ate anything I put on his plate back in Manila – our staple pinakbet, munggo, kangkong, adobo, ginisang gulay in season, giniling, steamed or fried GG, tilapia, bangus, tinola; homemade canton, bihon or miki-bihon – all downed with no complaint and washed down with water.)

Hubby and I have a challenge ahead as the boy absolutely avoids these now and has reveled in the American fastfood diet.  Traditional Chinese and Japanese recipes have not been able to entice him from the junk.

It is sad, too, to note that more and more Pinoys back home are seduced by the ease of preparation of these processed foods now ubiquitous in Pinoy supermarkets and sari-sari stores.  Our tastebuds are changing.  Factor in Jollibee, McDo, KFC, Pizza Hut, Shakey’s, etc.  Factor in Knorr Seasoning, cubes, Magic Sarap, ready-made powders of adobo, kare-kare, guisado, etc. Will our traditional diet and palate ever survive the deluge of artificial flavors, preservatives, extenders, sweeteners, flavor enhancers, etc.?

We know that, at some point, health will be affected.  Yet, here it is, staring us in the face and it is quite tempting to relish the extra time given to us so that we don’t have to take so long to prepare each dish or the extra zing in our tastebuds from indulging in the forbidden.


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