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Food Traditions and Overweight among Pakistanis in Norway: A Qualitative Interview Study

Tasmia A Khalid, Kari Glavin and Per Lagerløv

Background: Pakistanis living in their host countries are more frequently overweight than in their home country. Overweight Pakistanis develop metabolic syndrome more easily than the native inhabitants, and type 2 diabetes are frequent. Objective: To describe food traditions of secondgeneration Pakistani mothers to attain knowledge about possible factors promoting overweight. Method: Qualitative interviews with mothers recruited by snowballing method in a Pakistani community. The individual interviews were audiotaped and transcribed. Using text condensation and content analysis, we searched for main themes contributing to the development of overweight. Results: Nine mothers were enrolled. We identified three main themes: composition of food, organization of meals and the significance of meals for mothers and grandparents. Traditional meals contained much oil and butter and the children were less enthusiastic about this. The meals were served buffet-style throughout the day with few communal meals. Frequent “get-together parties” with plenty of food and sweets united the families. Remnant food and sweets were consumed during the week. Mothers were eager to please family members and therefore did not regulate what or how much was eaten. Grandparents were not opposed when they spoiled their grandchildren with food. Conclusion: The main factor promoting overweight in Pakistani families living in Norway seemed to be the abundance of food and sweets. Meals were served without restrictions. Serving portions instead of having buffets, and limiting the assortments of sweets may be a first step to guard against overweight. The younger Pakistani generation may contribute by limiting the consumption of food with high caloric density.