Obesity disproportionately affects Latinas living in the United States, and cultural food patterns contribute to this health concern.
The aim of this study was to synthesize the qualitative results of research regarding Latina food patterns in order to (a) identify common patterns across Latino culture and within Latino subcultures and (b) inform future research by determining gaps in the literature.
A systematic search of three databases produced 13 studies (15 manuscripts) that met the inclusion criteria for review. The Critical Appraisal Skills Program tool and the recommendations of Squires for evaluating translation methods in qualitative research were applied to appraise study quality. Authors coded through directed content analysis and an adaptation of the Joanna Briggs Institute Qualitative Assessment and Review Instrument coding template to extract themes. Coding focused on food patterns, obesity, population breakdown, immigration, acculturation, and barriers and facilitators to healthy eating. Other themes and categories emerged from this process to complement this approach.
Major findings included the following: (a) Immigration driven changes in scheduling, food choice, socioeconomic status, and family dynamics shape the complex psychology behind healthy food choices for Latina women; (b) in Latina populations, barriers and facilitators to healthy lifestyle choices around food are complex; and (c) there is a clear need to differentiate Latino populations by country of origin in future qualitative studies on eating behavior.
Healthcare providers need to recognize the complex influences behind eating behaviors among immigrant Latinas in order to design effective behavior change and goal-setting programs to support healthy lifestyles.
Lauren Gerchow, BSN, RN, is Master of Science in Nursing Student, College of Nursing, New York University.
Barbara Tagliaferro, BA, MA, is Research Coordinator, Section on Health Choice, Policy, and Evaluation, School of Medicine, Department of Population Health, New York University.
Allison Squires, PhD, RN, is Assistant Professor and Director of International Education, College of Nursing, New York University.
Joey Nicholson, MLIS, MPH, is Assistant Curator and Education and Curriculum Librarian, School of Medicine, New York University.
Stella M. Savarimuthu, is Medical Student, Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, Hempstead, New York.
Damara Gutnick, MD, is Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, New York University.
Melanie Jay, MD, MS, is Staff Physician and Clinician Investigator, Veterans Affairs Medical Center New York Harbor.
Accepted for publication January 21, 2014.
The authors acknowledge that funding sources for selected authors include HRSA AAU Grant 2D54HP05446-06-00, Pfizer MAP Fellowship in Health Disparities.
The authors have no conflicts of interest to report.
Corresponding author: Lauren Gerchow, BSN, RN, College of Nursing, New York University, 726 Broadway, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10003 (e-mail: LMG490@nyu.edu).