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Like all Oldways Heritage Diet Pyramids, the Latin American Heritage Diet Pyramid preserves and revitalizes centuries-old traditions and tastes. As shown on the pyramid, the traditional Latin American diet features whole-grain corn, vegetables, fruits, beans, rice, herbs and spices, combined with a strong emphasis on family life to support good health.

Whether you are living in Latin America, of Latin American descent and living elsewhere, or you simply enjoy vibrant Latin American heritage cuisine, there is so much to learn from the region’s culinary traditions and so many ways to start implementing small habits into your day-to-day.

Quinoa Salad with Corn, Black Beans, and Peppers

Eat more plants and less meat

When looking to incorporate more traditional eating practices, focusing on plants is a great place to start! Plant-based foods make up the base of each of our heritage diet pyramids — the Latin American Heritage Diet pyramid included. From legumes to fruits and vegetables, plants are staples in all heritage diets for good reason, and their nutritional value, flavors and versatility make them amazing go-to’s.

Additionally, research continues to show the remarkable health benefits of reducing meat intake and following dietary patterns that are built upon the consumption of plant foods. Here are some great places to start if you want to try traditional plant-based Latin American recipes both for flavor and good health:

Incorporate tubers into your diet


Tubers are a family of starchy root vegetables – they are plant stems or roots that swell underground as they store food for themselves. All that food is full of nutrients that are good for the plant—and for us! Some common Latin American tubers include yams, cassava, jicama and yuca.

Tubers are delicious, affordable, and versatile. Like a side of rice and beans, many Latin American meals are not complete without a tuber. Their subtle flavors are perfect bases for the many sauces found in Latin American heritage cooking (though, often all a tuber needs is a little oil and salt).

If you’re looking to incorporate these incredibly nutritious staples into your diet, give these recipes a try:

Mosh, a milky Guatemalan oatmeal beverage

Enjoy more Latin American whole grains

Whole grains are a significant part of heritage diets around the world, and Latin America is home to many whole grains, with cuisines that frequently use corn, rice, and ancient grains like amaranth and quinoa.

Corn, or maize, is one of the most fundamental grains of Latin America. Originally domesticated in Mexico, this grain was an essential crop for pre-Hispanic civilizations. Corn is part of the “Three Sisters,” an indigenous companion-planting technique where farmers plant corn, squash, and beans together. These three plants grow especially well in tandem because they provide nutritional benefits to each other and can be combined into delicious meals like these Three Sisters Tacos or this Three Sisters Wild Rice Salad.

There are many more ways to incorporate the wide array of Latin American whole grains into your diet. For more inspiration, check out these recipes:

Take care of your physical and mental health in other ways


Good health is not just about good food – it also requires healthy living all around! As with all Oldways heritage diets, living in accordance with traditional Latin American cultures is a way to optimize both physical and mental health. 

A healthy diet is a big part of a healthy lifestyle, and so are physical and emotional wellbeing. This means taking care of your body through good sleep habits and physical activity, and it also means taking care of your mind and spirit through fulfilling hobbies and close relationships.

Historically, Latin American communities have placed a lot of value on family and friendship, good food, physically active work, music, spirituality and artistic creation (like art, textiles, and pottery). Singing and dancing were often a part of gatherings among multi-generational groups. All of these are good habits that can work together with healthy eating to help our bodies feel their best, which leads to the final tip…

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Share meals with loved ones

Spending time with family and sharing meals over a large table is important in all cultures. To help lower stress and fatigue, which are risk factors for diet-related illnesses, it can be helpful to involve your family, friends, and loved ones in your journey to better health. A high level of social and familial support in Latin American culture is thought to have a protective effect on health.

All Oldways heritage diets include community at the base of the pyramid, and the sharing of meals is especially important in many Latin American cultures. Try some of these recipes if you’re planning to host family and friends:  

These tips are just a starting point for incorporating heritage diet habits into your life. If you want to learn more about Latin American foods and flavors, learn more about our A Taste of Latin Heritage (ATOLAH) cooking classes! Find a class near you in our class directory, or sign up for more information about becoming a teacher. Anyone can get certified to spread the word about this healthy and delicious lifestyle.

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