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Customs and beliefs influencing diet and eating habits

Updated on January 30, 2014


Although it does not appear in the teachings many Buddhists follow a vegetarian diet as Buddha commends a harmless life. Ordained Buddhists may decline anything but a vegetarian diet and in addition may refuse food after midday (unless for medicinal uses) as this acknowledges that people often indulge a craving for food by eating more than is needed. Intoxicants such as alcohols, tranquilizers, sedatives, and opiates are likely to be resisted as these drugs can interfere with their judgement and their awareness as well.


Afro-Caribbean Christians traditionally are supposed to refrain from eating meat during Lent, a 40-day period before Easter. In Christian communities fish as an alternative to meat is also traditionally served on Fridays.

Within Christian Orthodoxy there are no dietary restrictions except during periods of fasting, which are seen as spiritual catharsis. For them abstaining means abstaining from animal and dairy products.

Roman Catholics have similar tradition with that of Afro-Caribbean Christians refraining from eating meat during Lent.

As for the Protestants, there are no dietary restrictions in relation to their customs.

The SDA or Seventh Day Adventist refrain from eating meat products throughout their life.


Hindus restrict what they eat and drink on religious grounds and some may refuse food that has been prepared by other people as they cannot be sure that the cooking methods have adhered to the purity code of the religion. They may also avoid processed foods or any food containing animal products.The cow is a sacred animal that is generally protected and revered but the pig is perceived as a scavenging animal whose meat is dirty so Hindus will not eat beef or pork.

Muslim (Islam)

Permissible food is referred to as halal. Non-permissible food is called haram. Halal foods include halal meat, fish, fresh fruit and vegetables, milk, eggs and cheese. Halal meat comes from an animal that has been slaughtered during a prayer ritual. During the month of Ramadan Muslims are only allowed to eat at certain times of the day. Muslims who are ill are exempt from fasting, but some still fast and may also omit or refuse medication. The use of tobacco, alcohol and other intoxicating substances is prohibited.


Jewish people are required to eat kosher food, which is food that is fit to be eaten in accordance with Jewish law. There are lots of laws relating to kosher food so it is always advisable to ask patients or their families what their custom is.

Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints)

No particular dietary laws or customs.


What is acceptable is down to individual choice but natural food that is as pure and fresh as possible (known as ital) is highly valued. Pork, predatory fish and some types of crustaceans are regarded as especially unwholesome. Dairy products, sweets, sugar-based beverages, white flour, preserved foods and anything containing salt is generally avoided. Most Rastafarians are known to be vegans.


Dietary customs vary from not eating beef, fish or eggs to vegetarianism. Ritualistic fasting is forbidden by the faith but may be performed as part of a patient’s culture, especially by Sikhs whose families originated in or near Hindu towns or villages.


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