Dominican Diet

Welcome to Margot Restaurant!

Margot's is arguably the most authentic Dominican restaurant in WaHI. With all the classic dishes of the island you can't go wrong with this menu (Try the fried pork chops/chuleta frita). Here we will discuss Dominican culture in relation to diet, specifically la bandera dominicana!

I. La Bandera Dominicana/The Dominican Flag
Dominican Bandera!!
La Bandera Dominicana-Typical Dominican plate of food.
La bandera Dominicana is an affectionate name given to the typical plate of food in a Dominican household. This consists of a portion of white rice, beans, meat, and a small salad, as well as some characteristic side dishes. These side dishes include many plantain dishes like mangu (mashed plantains with onions and oil), maduros (very ripe plantains baked with sugar and rum), and tostones (fried and smashed plantains).
The beans are often stewed for most of the day before being eaten. The meat is mostly chicken or beef, with occasional pork. Fish is very rarely consumed without being fried first. As can be seen from the above photo, the side salad is often times iceburg lettuce with tomato and peppers.

While absolutely delicious, there are some nutritional concerns with this plate. The most glaring is the lack of vegetables. The CDC and many other health organizations recommend having half of your plate be vegetables (26). Also, often times the portion of rice is several times the recommended serving size of half a cup. With chronic illness and obesity as two major concerns in our community, this diet is not ideal without moderation.

Here we are faced with a dilemma as providers. We want to help our patients get healthier, however, comidia criolla is an incredibly important part of Dominican cultural identity. Having our plate of food named after the nation's flag is just one example of the seriousness with which food is taken in our households! So, how can we make la bandera healthier without threatening cultural identity?

One initiative in the neighborhood is being carried out in El Presidente Restaurant, located in the Audubon Ballroom Building. This restaurant has partnered with CHALK to try and push forward the My Plate initiative from the NYC department of health, to learn more about this initiative click here. These are the models they are attempting to use.

Mi Plato.jpg
Mi Plato2.jpg

Here we see the recommended 1/2 plate of vegetables as well as an easy to read schematic of how to choose your meals for both breakfast (left) and lunch/dinner. Here you see that all the parts of la bandera are preserved but the portions and ingredients are slightly changed. We have the same side salad as before and a 1/4 of the plate but it is now combined with a 1/4 plate of a green vegetable such as broccoli. The meat selections are lean and healthy meats for the most part, such as chicken, turkey, and fish. The rice here is moro which is a combination of rice and beans cooked together. The use of moro instead of rice and beans makes it easier to control portion sizes. Taken together this is an easy way to open up the discussion of diet change while respecting the typical dominican menu.

II. What is a Bodega?

A bodega is a small corner store that sells just about everything. Originally, this term was used for a grocery store in a predominantly latino area. Now this term has expanded to include just about all corner stores in the city. They served as an alternative to the large super markets located on major avenues. In the Dominican Republic these bodegas are everywhere, although there they are called colmados, and their consumers are mainly the poorest communities (11). Here in New York, this term has taken on a different definition and is almost synonymous with convenience. Here is where many people in the community will end up buying their produce and staples such as milk, rice, and beans. What these store owners stock their shelves with has a direct effect on our patient's diets.
Another interesting aspect of bodegas is that they often serve as a "hang out" for the tenants of apartment buildings near the establishment. There you will often hear customers discussing sports or politics. On particularly nice days you might even see a group of customers playing dominos outside, a typical game in the Dominican Republic.

Recognizing the impact that bodegas have on a communities health, the NYC health department launched a Healthy Bodegas Initiative in 2006 to try increase the availability and demand of healthy foods in bodegas. This initiative includes programs to try and move bodegas to stock 1% instead of whole milk, have more fresh local produce available, and stock low sodium canned goods to name a few.The result from their 2010 report has been promising. By being culturally aware of the role bodegas play in certain communities in NYC the department of health has positively impacted the community through this initiative (11). Yet another example of how taking a moment to truly learn from and appreciate your patients social context can lead to the discovery of new and innovative ways to positively impact their health.
Liberato Food Market is located on the corner of Audubon and 183rd and is now offering healthier food options as well as lowering its carbon foot print through a green initiative. Photo Credit: Mariela Lombard | NY Daily News

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