All About Food in Spanish Using Countable and Uncountable Nouns
Alimento and comida are two words in Spanish that both literally mean “food.” In this sense, they are synonyms. However, upon closer examination, we will see that the meanings of these two terms are distinctly nuanced.
The national cuisine in Spain is quite different than that of Mexico, or the Central American countries, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and so on. A Spanish tortilla, for example, is an egg-based, baked dish, while a tortilla in Guatemala is a corn-based flat bread. Nevertheless, the ways Spanish-speakers use the words alimento and comida is relatively similar from region to region.
All About Alimentos
Alimento means “that which nourishes.” You use alimentos to make comida. Alimentos are the basic units of food, also known as the nutrients, raw components, or ingredients that combine to create a dish.
Alimento is a semi-technical word, but you don’t have to be a nutritionist to use it. Google the word alimentos and tons of sites about the nutritional value of food will come up. Alimentos is a measurable word, in that you have countable units of food. The word also translates to “foodstuffs,” although who actually uses that word in English? Nadie.
Some types of alimentos include the following:
- Vegetables – las hortalizas, los vegetales
- Meat – la carne
- Fruit – la fruta
- Dairy – los lácteos
- Seafood – los mariscos
- Poultry – los aves de corral
- Dog food – el alimento para perros
- Cat food – el alimento para gatos
As the name suggests, things that can be counted are countable nouns. Check out the following singular and plural examples.
- The recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of cinnamon. – La receta pide 2 cucharadas de canela.
- Maria made a pie with 8 apples. – María hizo una torta con 8 manzanas.
- Please give Fluffy half a cup of cat food each day. – Por favor, dé una media taza de alimento de gatos a Fluffy cada día.
- There are at least 30 Chinese restaurants in San Francisco’s Chinatown. – Hay por lo menos 30 restaurantes Chinos en el Chinatown de San Francisco.
On the other hand, la comida is “that which is eaten.” While the dictionary often translates it simply as “food,” una comida also refers to a type of prepared dish or meal. More specifically, in some countries, lunch or dinner may also be referred to as la comida (rather than el almuerzo or la cena).
The word comida is the most common Spanish word used for food in everyday conversation. Comida is uncountable and refers both to food in general and to types of prepared foods.
Some types of comida are:
- Fast food – comida rápida
- Vegetarian food – comida vegetariana
- Vegan food – comida vegana
- Chinese food – comida China
- Mexican food – comida Mexicana
- Thai food – comida Tailandesa
- Japanese food – comida Japonesa
- Indian food – comida Hindú
- Italian food – comida Italiana
- Street food – comida callejera
- Homemade food – comida casera
As you might have guessed, things that cannot be counted are called uncountable nouns. Nevertheless, they are always singular. Here are a few examples:
- There is no more coffee in the pot. – Se acabó el café de la cafetera.
- I would like cream. – Me gustaria la crema.
- My friend Raj makes the best Indian food. – Mi amigo Raj hace la mejor comida Hindú.
- Her favorite fruit is pineapple. – Su fruta favorita es la piña.
Comparison Chart: Alimentos vs Comida
La Pirámide de Alimentos
The new and improved food pyramid encourages you to eat leafy greens, legumes, nuts, and seeds most often. Fresh fruits and vegetables are next on the list. Poultry, fish, and eggs should be eaten sparingly. Dairy products even more sparingly. Finally, red meat, white flour, and sugar should only be consumed rarely (1-2 times per month).
Let’s take a look at the vocabulary from the Food Pyramid in Spanish!
Food Pyramid Vocabulary in Spanish
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