The visual picture associated with the mention of the Caribbean includes palm trees, clean beaches and the perfect vacation spot, but unfortunately it is also the location for a high prevalence of overweight/obesity, and diet-related chronic diseases, like diabetes in the English-speaking Caribbean. Studies have shown that an increase in fruit and vegetable intake is related to a decrease in the incidence of NCDs, but over 85% of adults in the CARICOM countries fail to meet the daily recommended fruit and vegetable intake. This may be due to the increase of urbanization which has decreased the access to fresh fruits and vegetables, for example from people’s yards. In addition, the high prevalence of diabetes, double the global rate, has caused misconceptions in the amount of fruit intake.
Lesley-Ann Foster-Nicholas was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago and is a Loma Linda University School of Public Health alumna from the doctoral nutrition program. Prior to attending LLU, she worked as a dietitian in various community and clinical settings and found that low intakes of fruits and vegetables was attributed to the lack of knowledge about serving sizes, especially for locally grown fruits and vegetables. “This was especially true among diabetics who often avoided fruits because the were deemed “too sweet” and renal patients who feared the potassium content in fruits and vegetables. The entire concept of serving sizes is foreign, and those who understood it did not find it necessary,” said Lesley-Ann. She had the opportunity to partner with Healthy Caribbean Coalition to promote awareness concerning the necessary increase in fruit and vegetable intake and the use of serving sizes to assist in meal planning.
“Though there are established recommendations for fruit and vegetable intake in the U.S., these are often not readily translatable to the Caribbean. For instance, often the fruits that are listed on educational materials are more expensive than local produce." Said Celine Heskey, DrPH, RD and LLUSPH Nutrition Faculty. "Also, there can be a perception that imported fruits and vegetables are superior to locally available produce, which is not necessarily the case. We hope that these infographics will help individuals in the region to identify and increase their intake of fruits and vegetables, which could help to improve health outcomes in the Caribbean. We also hope that these infographics will help individuals in the region recognize that locally available produce is very much a part of a healthy dietary pattern.”