Skip to content

Understanding Filipino Eating Habits

Filipino eating habits are deeply rooted in their cultural and historical background. Rice is the staple food in the Filipino diet, and it is often served with a variety of dishes that feature a mix of meat, vegetables, and seafood. Filipino cuisine is known for its unique blend of flavors, which are a combination of sweet, sour, and salty tastes.

Food is significant in Filipino culture because it is often used as a symbol of celebration, hospitality, and family ties. In Filipino households, it is common to have large meals and serve food to guests, as a sign of respect and generosity. Eating together is seen as an important social activity, and it is believed that sharing food strengthens familial and social bonds.

Filipinos have a variety of traditional dishes that are often associated with important events and celebrations. For example, lechon (roast pig) is a popular dish served during Christmas and other special occasions, while pancit (noodles) is often served during birthdays as a symbol of long life. Adobo, a popular Filipino dish made with chicken or pork cooked in soy sauce and vinegar, is a national dish that is enjoyed by many Filipinos.

In addition to traditional dishes, Filipino cuisine has been influenced by various cultures, including Spanish, Chinese, and American. This has resulted in a unique fusion of flavors and dishes that reflect the country’s diverse cultural heritage.

Traditional Filipino Eating Habits

Family-style dining

Filipinos traditionally eat meals in a communal style, with the food placed in the middle of the table and everyone helping themselves. It’s a way to foster a sense of unity and togetherness, and is often seen as a way to build relationships with one another. For example, during fiestas or special occasions, Filipino families would prepare a large feast and invite relatives, friends, and neighbors to share the meal together.

Use of hands for eating

In some Filipino communities, it is still common to eat using their hands, particularly when eating rice and other finger foods. This traditional way of eating is called “kamayan” and is a way to promote a more intimate and personal dining experience. It’s also believed to bring out the natural flavors of the food. For example, some popular dishes that are traditionally eaten using hands include grilled fish, roasted pork, and boiled shrimp.

Sharing food with others

Filipinos are known for their hospitality and generosity, and one way they express this is through sharing food with others. This could be through bringing food to a potluck, inviting someone over for dinner, or even giving food to someone in need. It’s a way to build relationships and show care for others. For example, in rural areas, it’s common for farmers to share their harvest with neighbors and friends.

Preparing meals with love and care

Filipino cooking is often done with love and care, with many dishes requiring a lot of preparation and attention to detail. It’s a way to show affection for family and friends and to make sure that the food served is of high quality. For example, “sinigang,” a popular Filipino soup made with tamarind, meat or seafood, and vegetables, requires a lot of time and effort to prepare, with some families having their own secret recipe.

Following religious and cultural practices

Religious and cultural practices play a significant role in Filipino eating habits. For example, during Lent, many Filipinos abstain from meat and instead eat fish and vegetables. Some regions also have their own unique practices, such as the “noche buena” or Christmas Eve feast, where families gather to share a large meal together. Additionally, some regions have specific dishes that are associated with certain festivals or events. For example, “puto bumbong,” a purple-colored rice cake, is traditionally eaten during the Christmas season in some regions.

Modern Filipino eating habits

Adoption of Western eating habits

As the Philippines becomes more modernized and exposed to different cultures, there has been an increase in the adoption of Western eating habits among Filipinos. This includes eating more processed foods, fast food, and snacks. For example, the popularity of fast-food chains like McDonald’s, KFC, and Jollibee has increased in recent years, and many young Filipinos prefer these options over traditional meals.

Convenience and fast food culture

The convenience and fast food culture have also become more prevalent in the Philippines, particularly in urban areas with busy lifestyles. This has led to food delivery services’ popularity and food delivery apps’ rise. For example, GrabFood and Foodpanda are two popular food delivery apps in the Philippines, where people can order food from their favorite restaurants and have it delivered to their doorstep.

Emphasis on health and wellness

There has been a growing emphasis on health and wellness in the Philippines, and many Filipinos are becoming more health-conscious. This has led to the popularity of health food stores and restaurants that offer organic, plant-based, and gluten-free options. For example, SaladStop, a Singaporean salad chain, has opened branches in the Philippines, offering a wide range of salads and healthy food options.

Increasingly diverse food choices

Filipinos are also becoming more adventurous with their food choices, and there has been an increase in the popularity of international cuisine in the Philippines. This has led to the rise of specialty restaurants that offer a range of international dishes. For example, Korean food has become very popular in the Philippines, and Korean barbecue restaurants have become a favorite among Filipinos.

Meal times and selections

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner habits

Filipinos typically have breakfast between 6:00 am to 8:00 am, lunch between 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm, and dinner between 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Breakfast is often a light meal, while lunch is the main meal of the day, and dinner is usually lighter. However, meal times can vary depending on individual schedules and lifestyles.

Snacking habits and choices

Filipinos enjoy snacking throughout the day. Common snack choices include “kakanin” (rice cakes), “turon” (deep-fried bananas wrapped in spring roll wrappers), “pandesal” (bread rolls), and “chicharon” (deep-fried pork rinds). Street food such as “fish balls,” “kwek kwek” (deep-fried quail eggs), and “isaw” (grilled chicken intestines) are also popular snacks.

Popular Filipino dishes for each meal

For breakfast, popular dishes include “tapsilog” (cured beef with garlic rice and fried egg), “longsilog” (sweet sausage with garlic rice and fried egg), and “tocilog” (sweet cured pork with garlic rice and fried egg). For lunch, common dishes include “adobo” (meat stewed in vinegar, soy sauce, and spices), “sinigang” (sour soup with meat or seafood and vegetables), and “lechon” (roasted pig). For dinner, Filipinos often eat leftovers from lunch or have a lighter meal such as “pancit” (stir-fried noodles) or “sinangag” (garlic fried rice) with a protein dish.

Regional food specialties

The Philippines has many regional food specialties. In the Visayas region, “kinilaw” (raw fish marinated in vinegar and spices) is a popular dish. In the Bicol region, “Bicol Express” (spicy pork stew) is a favorite. In the Ilocos region, “bagnet” (crispy deep-fried pork belly) is a specialty. In the Muslim regions of Mindanao, “biriyani” (spiced rice with meat) is a popular dish. Other regional specialties include “pinakbet” (vegetable stew) from the Ilocos region, “satti” (grilled meat on a stick) from Zamboanga, and “inutak” (sticky rice cake) from Bicol.

Social eating habits

Celebratory feasts and gatherings

Filipinos love to celebrate with food, and elaborate feasts often mark special occasions. These feasts are typically served family-style and include a variety of dishes to share. Common dishes for celebratory feasts include “lechon” (roasted pig), “pancit” (stir-fried noodles), “adobo” (meat stewed in vinegar, soy sauce, and spices), and “kare-kare” (stewed oxtail in peanut sauce). The host is expected to provide plenty of food for guests, and guests are expected to eat heartily and express their appreciation for the meal.

Eating habits during festivals and special occasions

Filipinos have a number of festivals and special occasions throughout the year that involve food. During these events, street vendors sell traditional Filipino snacks and dishes, and families prepare special meals to share with loved ones. One such festival is the “Sinulog” festival in Cebu, which celebrates the Sto. Niño (Child Jesus) and involves a street parade and feasting. Another is the “Kadayawan” festival in Davao, which celebrates the bountiful harvest and involves a food fair featuring regional specialties.

Etiquette and customs during social meals

Filipinos have a number of customs and etiquette practices when it comes to social meals. For example, it is customary to say “salamat po” (thank you) to the host or cook before and after a meal. Filipinos use utensils such as spoons and forks, but also often use their hands, particularly when eating with traditional dishes like “kamayan” (eating with one’s hands). It is polite to wait for the host or oldest person at the table to start eating before beginning to eat, and it is customary to offer food to others before taking a serving for oneself. Filipinos also often practice “pakikisama,” which involves going along with the group and avoiding confrontation or disagreement during meals. Finally, it is important to finish all the food on one’s plate, as leaving food behind is seen as wasteful and disrespectful.

Health and wellness eating habits

Filipino eating habits for health and wellness have been influenced by traditional practices and modern health recommendations. Some traditional Filipino health practices include the use of herbal remedies and the belief in the importance of balance and moderation in eating. In addition, Filipinos often incorporate healthy food choices in their diets, such as vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins like fish and chicken.

To maintain a healthy diet, Filipinos also avoid excessive sugar, salt, and fat in their food choices. For example, they may use natural sweeteners like coconut sugar or honey instead of using sugar to sweeten drinks and desserts. They also avoid using too much salt in their cooking and opt for healthier fats like olive oil or avocado oil.

Managing portion sizes is another important aspect of Filipino eating habits for health and wellness. Instead of overeating or indulging in large portions, Filipinos often practice “pagkain nang kaunti,” or eating in moderation. They may use smaller plates to control portion sizes or share meals with others to avoid overeating.

Overall, traditional Filipino health practices, healthy food choices, avoiding excessive sugar, salt, and fat, and managing portion sizes are all important components of Filipino eating habits for health and wellness.

Food and lifestyle-related diseases

Several lifestyle-related diseases are prevalent in the Philippines.


Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels. In the Philippines, diabetes is a growing health problem and is often linked to lifestyle factors such as a diet high in sugar and fat, lack of exercise, and obesity.


Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a condition in which the force of blood against the walls of the arteries is consistently too high. This can lead to a range of health problems, including heart disease and stroke. In the Philippines, hypertension is often linked to lifestyle factors such as a diet high in salt, lack of exercise, and stress.

Cardiovascular disease

Cardiovascular disease is a group of conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels. Lifestyle factors such as a diet high in fat and cholesterol, lack of exercise, and smoking can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

In summary, Filipino eating habits are deeply rooted in the country’s culture and history. Family-style dining, using hands for eating, sharing food with others, preparing meals with love and care, and following religious and cultural practices are some of the traditional Filipino eating habits. On the other hand, the modern Filipino eating habits include adopting Western eating habits, convenience and fast food culture, emphasis on health and wellness, and increasingly diverse food choices.

Filipino meal times typically consist of breakfast, lunch, and dinner with snacking habits in between. Popular Filipino dishes for each meal include sinangag (garlic fried rice) and tocino (sweet cured pork) for breakfast, adobo (meat stew) for lunch, and grilled seafood for dinner. Regional food specialties like lechon (roasted pig) from Cebu and sisig (sizzling pork dish) from Pampanga are also popular.

Social eating habits in the Philippines involve celebratory feasts and gatherings during festivals and special occasions. Etiquette and customs during social meals include offering food to guests first and using utensils correctly.

To promote health and wellness, Filipinos can adopt healthy food choices, avoid excessive sugar, salt, and fat, manage portion sizes, and incorporate traditional Filipino health practices.

In terms of the future prospects for the evolution of Filipino food culture, the country’s increasing exposure to global food trends and growing interest in healthy and sustainable food options may lead to the development of new and innovative dishes. At the same time, preserving and promoting traditional Filipino dishes and eating habits will remain an important aspect of the country’s food culture.