“…the leaner we are, the healthier we are. And of course, the more physically fit [we are], the better off we are when it comes to over all health.”
Dr David Lau,University of Calgary
A couple of days ago,to be specific on Tuesday I posted an article from the Independent on How Clean eating was having an effect on young women and had gone on to demonize certain food groups,you may want to read it,please do.
Thereafter followed a vibrant conversation from the people who read it and rearing its head very often were these 3 letters -BMI.
BMI or Body Mass Index as we know it has been bandied around by health and medical professionals and we have scared people into thinking that it is the be all,end all and ultimate marker of good health.What scientist have found is that BMI scores vary among different groups and some like countries in South Asia have developed their own way of calculating BMI’s among their populations.
At its inception , the BMI was a simple,easy tool to screen populations at a time when Western populations were having to come to terms with the increase in obesity in their populations that were becoming more prosperous and were seeing changes in dietary habits.
Health and medical professionals now use the BMI to determine “how much body fat ” you are carrying .Research however shows that the amount of body fat individuals carry varies across ethnic groups.
For most people in Kenya ,finding their BMI score is a scary thing , especially when they find out that they score a higher or lower than average score and fall on either of two extremes, severely underweight or morbidly obese.
As a guide a Body Mass Index was developed thanks to a population of individuals who were all of European descent.Any casual observer can l see that as Africans our physiology is different from Europeans and since the BMI does not differentiate between body fat and muscles we will have different scores among different ethnic groups .
But what is the Body Mass Index really and how did it come about and is it really a good indicator of how healthy you are or of how much weight you should gain or lose?
To better understand what the Body Mass Index is,we have to go back in history ,more than 150 years ago to the 1830’s through to the 1850’S when the BMI was first developed by the Belgian Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet.
As a tool for studying population trends and giving a rough idea of the health status of groups to medical professionals it proved very useful .What it was not able to point out was the amount of visceral fat individuals carried with them.
Visceral fat you said…this is the fat that is around your abdomen and internal organs and is the dangerous kind of fat that will predispose you to conditions like diabetes Type 2,hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases.
The amount of visceral fat we carry is more worrying than the BMI score .
When you first get your BMI,remember it is the value got from the weight of an individual divided by their height squared and will give you kg/m squared.
The resulting value is used to classify individuals as underweight,normal weight,overweight or obese.As such when describing an individual’s BMI score,one often hears the description of the resulting value being how far from the ideal one’s weight is from what is desirable for their height.
Over the years there has been an increase in the concern of using a universal cut off point to determine the health of individuals and scientists have been calling for a more individualized approach to determine the health of individuals as Body Mass Index has been shown to differ among ethnic groups .
In a paper titled Ethnicity and BMI ,that was published in the British Journal of Nutrition by Amy Luke a Professor from the University of Loyola’S Department of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology,she wrote:
“The WHO’s 2004 call for more research to be conducted in diverse populations seems quite important and necessary if the relationships between BMI,body fat and chronic disease are to be better defined.”
Individuals who are more athletic and have more muscle than fat may also inadvertently find themselves in the overweight bracket and shorter people find themselves being classified as thinner than they really are.
As a result with the BMI , it does not differentiate between body fat and muscle and people will sometimes find themselves in the wrong classification. Some scientists have argued that using a waist to height ratio would give a better and more specific evaluation of a person’s health .
Why a waist to height ratio ?
Because a waist to height ratio is a better indicator of abdominal fat and abdominal fat has been shown to be a better predictor of individuals predisposed to obesity related health conditions.
However,the jury is still out on this and the BMI remains king. .
To be clear, the Body Mass Index is a good tool for population studies but not for individualized health care.The World Health Organization has defined obesity as a condition in which excess body fat affects the health and well-being of an individual and it has used the Body Mass Index as a tool to classify individuals ,research however has shown that Body Mass Index across ethnic ,cultural groups differs and genetics and environmental factors also affect our well being.
When the BMI was developed humans were leaner and having mainly focused on Western societies where diets were different from lets say individuals in Africa and Asian countries,the Index was and is a guide and could be used with other more specific tests to determine the health of individuals .
In this paper published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE ,scientist from Leeds Beckett University do say that Body Mass Index while remaining a useful tool for population screening is not able to identify individuals at risk of developing obesity related medical conditions.
Do we then get rid of the BMI and stop using it as a guide to screen individuals at risk of health complications ?
No,we should not, instead of chasing a number that determines how perfectly healthy we are,it will be more useful to adopt a healthier lifestyle by making healthier food choices and adopting more active lifestyles .
Active lifestyles where we incorporate more exercise will ensure we burn more of the visceral fat we carry,making healthier food choices like cutting back on alcohol,cutting back on deep fried foods,eating more fiber rich foods are ways of ensuring that you can lose the abdominal fat you carry with you and reduce you waist to height body fat ratio.
My challenge to the great scientists and researchers in Africa would be for us to adopt more multi pronged approaches to tackle the heath challenges of the continents population .Countries in South Asia have been able to do so.
We could do more research on the increasing number of lifestyle conditions that are on the rise on the continent and share ideas of how we can help our populations adopt more healthy lifestyles.We should promote consumption of more indigenous foods,advocate for more active lifestyles and create policies that will advance healthier lifestyles.
For now do not just rely on your BMI,take a more active step towards living healthier by making more healthy food choices and becoming more active.
The last post I did on why sugar is not good for your body elicited a lot of interest and questions from people on whether there are ways to manage sugar cravings in a healthy manner.
Before I explore ways of how to manage sugar cravings I thought I should mention a hard and cold truth about sugar .
Sugar has no nutritional value whatsoever,yes it does sweeten some foods and drinks the craving for sugar is derived from the pleasure it triggers through the release of dopamine into our brain.
Sugar has no proteins,vitamins or minerals that the human being would need in order to be healthy .
The danger with the added sugar we take in is that it plays havoc with our metabolism and it also contributes to a lot of the lifestyle diseases we see on the rise.Everything from obesity,heart disease,tooth decay are related to consuming more sugar than our body needs.
Sugar gives you nothing but empty calories and consuming foods high in sugar and fats leads to nutritional deficiencies as well as it affects the consumption of other healthy foods.This deficiency on certain nutrients then leads to deficiencies that compromise our health and leave our immunity exposed.
The way to stave your sugar craving is to look for healthy alternatives to sugar that give you more than the sugar high and are high in nutritional value.
1.Take a fruit and leave out the sugar in your hot beverages.
Instead of having your tea with sugar,leave it out and instead have a fruit with your breakfast.Not a fruit smoothie because fruits have sugar in them in the form of fructose and over consumption of sugar in the form of fructose is unhealthy as all excess fructose will get turned by your body into fat.
2.Make your snack choices healthy ones.
To stave off the hunger pangs when you are feeling low on sugar at 3 pm Monday afternoon,take a fruit instead of the afternoon mug of tea.
Note:Intake of fruits should be limited to about 2-3 in a day.
Nuts and seeds also make very healthy snack choices nuts provide essential vitamins from the B group,Vitamin E and minerals like potassium,calcium and magnesium and they will leave you fuller for longer as they slowly get broken down and sugar gets released into your body in amounts your body can use.
3.Take note of your calories
Take your calories from whole grains,starchy root vegetables like sweet potatoes,grains,cereals and not from baked foods .When you make healthier choices about where you will get your calories from,these sources of carbohydrates as highlighted are also sources of other micro nutrients that your body needs.
As you grow older your body needs less calories and what your body needed when you were 20 will change as you head towards your 30’s and 40’s when you become less active and your body’s metabolism slows down.
Sometimes the hunger pangs we think we have that force us to reach out for something sweet may actually be a sign from our body that we a dehydrated.Pick up that glass of water instead of a doughnut ,a cookie or a fruit drink.
5.Make your food choices healthy choices.
Instead of eating three large meals during the day,stagger your meals through out the day in small portions and make sure they are made up of foods from all the major food groups,cereals/grains,milk and dairy,fruits and vegetables,nuts and seeds.By taking your foods from the natural sources you are ensuring your body is able to metabolize the food in such a manner that stabilizes your blood sugars through out the day rather than experiencing the highs and the dramatic falls that come with consumption of processed foods which are high in sugar and fat.
6.Get to exercise
If you are struggling with your sugar craving,getting physically active will help you mange those cravings as it forces you make more healthier food choices,take in more water and you will definitely have to take in more than sugar for your muscles to get working and to be physically fit.
Exercising will force you to be more conscious of your food choices and it will lead you to healthier ones.
Managing your sugar cravings is not easy but it can be done if you know how sugar affects your body and brain you will make healthier food choices.To find out how your body and brain are affected you may want to read the previous post.
If you find this information useful or you would like me to address something you are interested in knowing more of,please let us know in the comments section.
By now you know that sugar is not good for you,yet every time you seem to try to go cold turkey and stay off it you keep coming back unable to let go off what can only be described as an addiction.You cannot have tea or coffee without it and you prefer calling your addiction a sweet tooth.
But do you have a sweet tooth or what exactly is it about sugar that makes life so much sweeter (pun intended) ?
Yet everywhere we look there is something sugary and sweet calling out to us and tea,coffee does not really taste the same without a teaspoon or two or maybe three of sugar.
We cannot tell exactly why tea in our sugar or tea hits such a sweet spot and many people swear that they cannot take tea without sugar .If you have a cup in the morning another at 10 am and another at 4 pm and with each cup you take about 2 teaspoons of sugar that equals to about 6-9 teaspoons of sugar,depending on how much you put in per cup/mug.
If you are a woman a total of 6 teaspoons of sugar daily is recommended.
Now imagine you take a soda during the day,it is hot ,then you decide to take with you a fruit smoothie of about 4 different fruits as you drive to work,meet a friend for coffee after work and you each order for a slice of the moist carrot cake you were told is fresh from the oven,how many teaspoons of sugar do you think that will total to
It will equal to a lot of teaspoons of sugar.
Sugar occurring naturally in food are an energy source for the body’s cells .When we consume carbohydrates they get broken down by the enzyme carbohydrase which breaks down the starch in foods into sugars.
It is not just carbohydrates that contain sugar ,fruits also contain sugar made up of two simple sugars sucrose and fructose.It is why making a habit of drinking fruit smoothies made up of 3-4 fruits daily is not a good idea while trying to mange your wait is not a good idea as in the final end it will get converted to sugar and any extra sugar you do not use your body stores it in the form of fat.
“It is better to eat your fruit rather than drink it.”
When sugars are added to food it is because they play an important role ,they add texture taste and color to baked food products .Sugar is added to yoghurt,to tomato paste and sauce for added as well to balance flavor, and to o dried fruits as a preservative,to bread act as an energy source for yeast as well as in tea coffee to add taste to these drinks.
Naturally occurring sugars are beneficial to your body,it is the added sugars that pose are not good.The American Heart Association recommends that you get your sugars from complex carbohydrates starchy vegetables,whole grain breads, and other cereals because these foods take longer to digest and the release of sugar into your blood gives steadier sugar levels as they take longer to digest.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends not more than 6 teaspoons of sugar for women and not more than 9 teaspoons for men daily.That is about 100 calories and 150 calories respectively for women and men respectively.
Sugar does play a role in a healthy diet ,it is the the source of sugar and the over consumption of sugars from other sources that pose a problem to your health.When you over consume a lot of sugary foods and drinks your body experiences rapid spikes and falls in blood sugar levels.The rapid rises and falls of your blood sugars drives your pancreas crazy!
Blood sugar levels are regulated by insulin which is released from your pancreas.Insulin is a hormone that prompts your body cells to absorb sugar that the cells need to use for their cell functions and the excess then gets stored as fat.When your blood sugar falls the pancreas prompts the release of the hormone glucagon that has the liver releasing the stored sugar for use by the body cells.
We live at a time when there has been an increase in the number of people living with Type 2 Diabetes and the onset of diabetes in Type 2 keeps going lower.A major cause of these could be the foods we are taking in,especially foods high in added sugars.Type 2 develops over a period of time when the body is unable to use the insulin it producees in the correct way.The body then becomes unable to respond to the insulin it produces and this prompts the pancreas to release more insulin.This over production of insulin wears the insulin producing cells out and eventually the body stops responding to the insulin it produces and that is when Type 2 Diabetes is diagonised.
Type 2 diabetes at the outset can be managed with a healthy diet and physical activity but with time one will need to take tablets and maybe have insulin injections as well.
The reason why the over consumption of sugary foods is discouraged is mainly because sugar plays havoc with your body’s metabolism. Occasional indulgence in a cookie or a slice of cake is okay but it should not become a daily habit.Management of your weight is important as excess weight makes your body unresponsive to insulin which will lead to over production of insulin and eventually your pancreas will lose its insulin producing cells which will lead to pre diabetes,then diabetes type 2 as your body loses the capacity to be able to produce and respond to insulin which is needed to regulate your blood sugar levels.
While it is very easy to avoid soda,cake,cookies,ice cream and other foods where it is obvious sugar has been added,there are other places where we have hidden sugars.
A good habit to start practicing is reading food labels ,as sugar gets hidden in commercially produced foods and the names used may confuse most people .Sugar in the food you buy from the store will be hiding with names like corn syrup,fructose,dextrose,maple syrup,fruit concentrate,caramel,molasses and many other titles.
Having struggled with kicking off sugar in my teens,I finally did so in my early twenties and I know how hard it can be to keep off sugar . Sugar is actually a “drug” and its consumption from other sources other than the naturally occurring ones releases the feel good hormone dopamine into your brain making you cry out more,more ,more.It is why it is so hard to give up sugar because we have already created neural pathways for this pleasure habit and the reason why it becomes hard to give up. Just like learning a new skill is hard,we have to create new neural pathways in place of the old ones by replacing our cravings for sugar with healthy ones like eating more fruits,nuts,drinking more water and taking pleasure from these healthier habits.
It can be done,and you can take your tea without sugar and enjoy it,have your coffee without sugar and thoroughly enjoy it and yes even your cereals do not need the sugar as well and the plain yoghurt actually tastes better when you add
fruits real fruits to it.
If you found this article useful or helpful,please let us know in the comments section .
If you follow the Organic Farmers Market in Nairobi which I have for a couple of years,you may have noticed that there are now more places where they have organized for Kenyans to buy organic food as well as more vendors, which means there has been an increase in the demand for organic food from the Kenyan market.
You must have wondered about what all the noise is about Organic farming and why suddenly there has been a surge in the demand as well as consumption of organic produce. I thought this post would be helpful in helping us appreciate organic farming as well as see why the demand for organic food has grown.
Organic farming is a system of agricultural production that involves the cultivation of crops and the rearing of animals using natural ways.
Conserve Energy defines it as a process that involves the use of biological materials,avoiding synthetic substances to maintain soil fertility and ecological balance thereby minimizing pollution and wastage.With a world population that is more than 7 billion and a land size that remains the same yet it is fighting with encroachment from human settlement,the demand for arable land is on the rise and people are looking for all manner of ways to make the most of the available land and animal resources.
One of the ways unscrupulous people have found to get more from their land and animals in order to make a few quick dollars is to pump it with chemicals,pesticides as well as speed up the maturity of farm animals like chicken by injecting them with growth hormones.
The bottom line in all of these endeavors is not a concern for the people who will eventually buy these foods from the supermarkets,it is
profit greed that is the only driver for such practices that puts the lives of other human lives at risk.
It is true organic food costs more , because of the work involved as it is a very labor intensive exercise.It is also true that you expose yourself to less risk if you choose to go organic.
About 4 years back,I lived on a farm in Nakuru where we grew vegetables and other crops I also took up some organic farming on the side as an experiment project as well as to keep me busy.
My crops of choice were potatoes,zucchinis,carrots , to prepare I read widely and found that potatoes do very well especially if you mix dried manure into the soil and so I went about asking for dung from the farmers that owned cows around where we lived.I got a lot of it as well as a lot of curious looks as to what I needed cow dung it for.
But the venture came with a lot of challenges as well.The area where we lived was infested with moles ,how to get rid of them without using chemicals?
And we set about looking for a mole catcher,they do not exist anymore by the way and before we found we had a village of molehills on the farm as well as lost a lot of potatoes.
Up until the time we harvested the potatoes and carrots I never used a single drop of pesticide on them and they did fairly well.They potatoes and carrots came in all manner of sizes and we lost some as well to pests,but I had done it ,grown something without use of a single pesticide or chemical.
The need for organic farming is driven by the need for more sustainable methods of farming that ensure we will still be able to produce enough food 50 years from now on when the world population is estimated will be at more than 10 billion.
For those that have tasted organically grown fruits and vegetables you agree with me that they taste better than what you get from the supermarket shelves.Eggs from free range chicken are also more tastier ,have a yolk with the must delicious yellow color and just a bit smaller than the eggs that you get at the supermarket.
We consume a variety of pesticides and chemicals from foods like chicken,beef and other dairy products as well as from fruits and vegetables .The chemicals from pesticides and other drugs like antibiotics used to treat these animals have found their way into our food and we have started seeing resistance to the most widely available antibiotics used to treat very common infections.
Scientists are having to work very hard to keep up with the microbial mutations are now resisting the currently available antibiotics.
These resistance is leaving scientists and researchers worried as it means the increased resistance by disease causing bacteria to these drugs will expose us to infections which currently available antibiotics will not be able to treat.
The discovery of the latest antibiotic was reported this April and it was done by Canadian scientists,it was the first in antibiotic discovery in
3 decades 30 years and the drug is still years away from being available to the public.
The increasing public awareness on what is going on,increasing incidences of disease and the effects of environmentally unsustainable decades of farming methods have pushed organic farming front and centre.
If you are in Nairobi, follow the Organic Farmers Market on Facebook to see where the market will be next and get to interact with the farmers working hard to ensure we produce food in a more sustainable ad environmentally friendly manner than we are d right now.
Why is organic farming important and why should you care,I have a few reasons to think about why organic matters and who knows maybe you may take it up or talk to someone about it then we have a new generation of organic farmers.We may even meet at the Organic market.
1.Buying organic foods creates a demand in the market and will push farmers to be more responsible especially over the use of pesticides and other chemicals as they grow crops or rear their animals.This is already happening in some countries where consumers are demanding more responsibility over the use of drugs and pesticides.
In this way we are promoting a more sustainable model that ensures the earth is able to feed the future generations that come after us.
2.Buying organic foods means that you get the foods fresh,these foods have not been treated with any preservatives or had nay additives added to them to lengthen their shelf life.
The shelf life of organic foods is very short because of their very minimal journey from the farm to your plate which is what has encouraged the farm to fork movement globally and has had people support local farmers by buying local foods.
3.Buying organic has helped promoted the growth of agriculture as a means of livelihood especially among young people. Across the globe young adults are taking up agriculture and providing us with food.It has helped stem the increase in the number of the unemployed,helped increase food production as well as seen technology revolutionize farming.Europe has seen the number of its youthful population taking up farming,you may find this article from The Economist really interesting.
In Kenya as well we have several groups on social media platforms talking nothing but farming.See how dailies are falling over themselves to provide information on farming especially in the Saturday paper .
Young people are going back to the farms to ensure there is food for the more than 7 billion of us.
4.Buying organic and consuming organic ensures you know where your food comes from,how it gets produced and what goes into the production process.You are reducing your exposure to the chemical toxins that could put you at risk of developing certain life threatening conditions through the ingestion of chemicals that may have been used in their production ,processing or packing.
5.By buying organic you get to interact with the farmers that grow your food and there are benefits to that.There is nothing like meeting the person or people that put so much work to ensure you do not go hungry and appreciating the work they do.Human interaction especially in an age where technology is taking over how we socialize with each other,a conversation with another human being is always a great way to spend the weekend.I think one of the reasons people in big cities like Nairobi are always angry and stressed is because we speak so little to each to other,yet we know healthy relationships are part of living a fulfilled and healthy lifestyle.
6.Taking your children with you to the organic market for grocery shopping and let them feel,touch,sell and taste food.As I mentioned in an earlier post taking your children grocery shopping is a way of getting them involved in meal planning and ensuring they adopt healthy eating habits early in life.
They will get to know how to choose fresh ingredients,how fresh food looks like and most important they will learn to value the hard work of the people like farmers who work behind the scenes to make sure we get fed.
And just in case your children hardly ever get to travel upcountry,they will know food does not grow in the supermarket :-).
7.Buying organic is an opportunity to increase the awareness on more sustainable forms of agriculture and hopefully this will lead to legislation by governments as well as push them to develop policies that can protect as well as promote organic farming.
Do you buy or grown organic food?would you love to be featured on our blog,please get in touch with us.
As always your feedback,comments and suggestions are welcome.See you in the comments section.
Having listened to a lot of people share the challenges that come with losing weight or making a healthier choice of what they put into their bodies,I do find that a lot of them have the mistaken belief that to live healthy is somehow more expensive.
It is not.
It is also interesting to see that most people choose to eat out rather than carry lunch or a snack to work which I think is healthier because then you know exactly what has gone into preparing that meal.
Carrying lunch or a snack to work was something I did when was employed some time back and the greatest motivation for doing so was because I got to save some of the money I would have used for lunch on something else like shoes or a handbag.
And no,I really do not mean that you should not enjoy lunch with friends and colleagues every now and then, you can .
To live healthy and to lose weight is affordable because we live in a country blessed with an abundance of healthy food.
When writing down meal plans for people who either want to adopt a healthier lifestyle or lose weight or manage any condition my first rule of thumb is to always get to hear from them what it is that they like eating .
Some of the questions I ask is what foods they enjoy eating and how using those choices I can help them make more healthier choices.Getting to know other foods then enjoy eating helps me show them how they can incorporate healthier choices from the foods that are available to them and that they can afford.
That is how I come up with a meal plan.
The first thing in being able to lose weight or adopt a healthier lifestyle is to take stock of where you are and how you got there and a great tool that will tell you exactly how you ended up there is by keeping a food diary.
A food diary is a record of everything you eat through out the day,how often and in what amounts.It includes keeping track of what you ate for breakfast,lunch,dinner and any snacks in between.You need also to have an idea of how many tablespoons of oil you use in preparing your meals,how much margarine/butter and the number of teaspoons of sugar you are taking in.
A food diary can surprise you and just by looking at it you will be surprised at how much you really take in.With a detailed food diary a Nutritionist is able to calculate exactly how many calories you are taking in.
Now,back to discussing living healthy is not expensive and I will show how you can do that in just 3 simple ways.
1.Know where to shop
In Kenya we are blessed with an abundance of food and we are spoilt for choice when it comes to what we can eat and are willing to spend.You just have to know where you need to be shopping.
Vegetables and fruits especially come cheap and we have no excuse to not eat more of them .Sources of carbohydrates like rice,maize flour,wheat flour,traditional grains like millet and sorghum are very readily available.You can get them at the supermarket,neighborhood kiosk or in the numerous open air markets scattered throughout Nairobi.
Toi market that is located on Ngong Road is a great place to buy vegetables cheaply and City Market gives you fairer prices on beef,chicken and fish fillets.Ngara Market and City Market just opposite the Aga Khan hospital will also give you a wide variety of fresh vegetables to pick from.
There are also the organic markets organized at various venues around Nairobi by the Organic Farmers Market as well as farmers around Nairobi who do deliveries of their produce every week.
It is the sources of protein that make mealtimes more expensive but you do not have to have beef,chicken,fish fillets to meet your nutritional requirements for protein.More affordable sources of protein are legumes like various varieties of beans,dried peas,omena(Lake Victoria sardines) offer youd the proteins your body needs without breaking the bank.
Omena can be bought for cheap at Toi Market.
“Yes,good food does not have to be eaten with a fork.It is all around us if we are willing to make the right choice.”
2.Carrying lunch or snacks to work
Which do you think is easier,carrying lunch to work or buying food 5 times a week from a restaurant ?
When you carry lunch to work then you have more choice over what exactly is in your plate and especially if you are losing weight then you need to know what it is you are putting into your body.
Having watched how our food habits have been changing over the years,I am happy to see the opening of more restaurants that are serving real food as well as the demand from Kenyans for healthier food rather than the choice of fries, deep fried chicken and soda that was available some years back.
This demand has seen restaurants that are serving traditional Kenyan foods as well as foods from other cultures find a home as well as enthusiastic foodies in Nairobi.
There has been an increase as well in the number of entrepreneurs setting up companies giving the Kenyan consumer more healthy food choices.
3.Learn how to cook
Maybe after reading the first two you thought how can I eat healthy when I cannot cook and I do not have time to learn?
You can learn how to cook by enrolling for a cooking class,one of my favourite Chefs on Facebook is Chef Raphael,he offers cooking lessons for groups as well as individuals.
If you cannot enroll for a class,but a cookery book from any of the bookshops,follow food bloggers or watch the food shows available on TV or YouTube as well.
A quick search of this blog will give you some recipes,easy ones I promise using local ingredients that you will enjoy.
When you cook for yourself you get to experiment and once you get cooking you will be surprised at what you can whip up with simple ingredients and a sense of creativity.
Eating healthy is only one side of the healthy living coin,physical exercise is the second side.
One of the most affordable ways of exercising available to anyone on planet earth is walking.Physical exercise is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle and every human being of whatever age will thrive with physical activity.
Physical activity also helps reduce the risk of developing certain conditions that may come with weight gain and it also helps improve physical as well as psychological well-being.
As always I love hearing feedback from readers,how are you living healthy or making more healthy choices,what has helped and what do you think I have left out from my list that has helped you and would help someone else?
Please share your feedback in the comments section.
A woman wields the greatest power over her household as she determines what gets eaten in her house ,she determines how healthy her family will be and most of us forget the power we have.You solely can set the course over what kind of eating habits your children will carry with them through out their lives and well into adulthood.
As a woman many times I have found myself asking this very simple question- ” why am I here?” .
I don’t know if many others struggle with the same question ?This feeling that even though I may be doing very well in my career,business,relationships….I am not yet quite there.
It feels like we are in some kind of waiting room,you know like the one at the docotrs where you have to wait out your turn?
Hospital waiting rooms and waiting rooms of any kind are interesting places to get to see what people do when they have nothing to do but wait their turn.
Some are busy on their phones,reading newspapers ,magazine or a book or just people watching.
When you have children and have to take your children to the paedetrician,it is a great time to meet other mother,fathers as well though they are pretty rare.As a nutritionist it is also a time to see the kind of snacks children carry with them.Snacks are a great way to keep children busy,their very short attentions spans (15 minutes with my kids)means that they get bored pretty fast.They have very creative ways of keeping you busy as a parent with their trips to the dispenser pouring out cup after cup of water or making repeated trips to the bathroom to wash their hands.
Snack time is an opportunity parents can use to teach children to pick the healthy option rather than the one that looks tempting.Whether it is a hospital visit or packing snacks for school ,whatever snacks we put into their hands should more often than not be a choice that feeds their bodies and their taste buds as well.
Snack time is an opportunity to meet our nutritional requirements and growing children require more micro nutrients which are the vitamins and minerals than adults do.Giving them a choice of fruits,nuts as well as vegetables is a healthy way of meeting their nutritional needs.
The trick to getting children eat more vegetables and fruits is to present it in a very attractive manner.
After the last post on the building blocks of your child’s nutrition some readers asked if I could give some ideas on healthy snacks they could give to their children .
Just before I share the suggestions I have prepared I thought I should say some things to every woman who is doing her best to raise her children to eat better and have healthier habits.
A woman yields the greatest power over her household as she determine what get eaten and most do not know it.You are the one that sets the course over what kind of eating habits your children will carry with them through out their lives.
A woman has the power to determine the kind of lifestyle her children,grand children and future great grand children will live.
A woman determines what ends up on the plates of her children,by the choice of the kind of foods she chooses to wean her child on, she is developing her child’s taste buds for healthy food .
The reason why we are told to wean children on a variety of natural foods is to develop their taste for nature’s goodness and not food from little jars or boxes that is filled with a lot of sugar,salt and other additives and preservatives.
As much as possible try and develop healthy eating habits in your children as early as you can.
And even when you may have missed the opportunity earlier on,as long as they live under your roof you still have the power to change the course of their eating habits.
Children who develop healthy eating habits from an early age have fewer incidences of disease and hospital visits.They are more likely to perform better in school as well as socially.
The foods that are great and healthy alternatives are foods you can pick from your local kiosk or grocery shop and when it comes to fruits,the best choices are the fruits in season,these offer you a fresh as well as cheaper alternative than those that are out of season.
Fruits are best eaten whole not blended.
Blending a few fruits for juice may seem healthy on the surface but fruits contain fructose a sugar and drinking too much fruit juice means children while enjoying nature’s goodness in a glass of juice are also taking in too much sugar.
2-3 fruits daily are enough to meet a child’s dietary requirements .
Instead of blending 2-3 fruits to make fruit juice have your children eat the fruit whole,if it is an orange,slice it and let them have the orange.If an apple let them crunch their teeth through the skin of the apple or let them peel the banana .Peeling bananas is a good way to develop your child’s fine motor skills as well.
As we live in the tropics,Kenya is never out of fruits,we enjoy a wide variety of fruits all year round,be sure to have your child eat at least 2 in a day by packing them as a snack for school and having another as an after school snack.
Salads are a great way for getting your children to meet their dietary requirements for vitamins and minerals .
Making salads is a fun and easy way to get children to eat more of their vegetables.
Better still is if you use your own dressing,forget the one you buy from the supermarket that is loaded with preservatives,sugar and salt.Home made salad dressing are easy and tasty.
Try making them with some olive oil,freshly squeezed lemon juice ,black pepper,pinch of salt ,honey and use that dressing to toss your grated cabbage and carrot,or lettuce tomatoes and carrots.
Salads can be served for dinner or over the weekend and are a great way to get kids involved in preparing healthy meals ,lessons that they will definitely carry with them through adult hood and when they bring up their own children as well.
4.Nuts and seeds
Before you start giving your children nuts and seeds,ensure they do not have any nut allergies.
Cashew nuts,macadamia nuts are favorites with most children , we also have peanuts(some children have peanut allergies) we also have almonds,hazel nuts that are not produced locally and cost more but are also healthy choices and are stocked in a variety of stores.
Before packing nuts and seeds as a snack for children ensure they are past the age of 4 years and can comfortably eat them in your presence as they are a choking hazard for younger children.
There are also nut butters available and these nut butters can be used on bread,on sandwiches as well and are healthier than margarine as well as most commercially produced fruit jams.
Dried fruits like sultanas,dates and raisins are also good but not too much though as sugar is used as a preservative to lengthen their shelf life.These you can mix in with your favourite nuts to create some variety or added to breads you make at home and to cakes as well.
Salads can be jazzed up with some nuts,dried fruits and seeds like sesame seeds as well.
Everybody loves bread(at least I thought so until we started thinking gluten was evil)
You may want to read :WHY YOU MAY NOT REALLY BE ALLERGIC TO GLUTEN.
You can make sandwiches from left over chicken and add tomatoes and with a simple simple dressing of olive oil and lemon you will have a really delicious sandwich.You can add some crunch to it by first grilling the bread,rubbing some garlic clove on it and what you will end up with your children will keep asking for every time you have left over chicken.
One of my favorites as well as my kids is placing a slice of bread on a plate and layering it with thinly sliced avocado pieces ,slices of tomatoes and topping it with a slice of bread then slicing the bread diagonally into 4 cute triangular pieces.
You can come up with as many sandwich varieties as you like depending on what your family likes and as long as it is a healthy.Make your sandwiches irresistible by cutting them into fancy shapes using cookie cutters,your children will love them.
The secret to getting it right with sandwiches is to buy sandwich bread which is denser in order to hold the filling(s )and pick a healthy filling as well.
Fillings for sandwiches can be anything from fruits like avocado,tomato to salads like guacamole or left over roast beef,chicken,turkey or tuna.
6.Making your own fruit yoghurts
A lot of the fruit yoghurts available in the market have a lot of sugar in them,a great idea is to buy plain yoghurt and it with a fruit of your choice and pack it for your child which they can have as a mid morning or after school snack when they come back home.
Fruits that will give you a really great flavor when blended with yoghurt are strawberries,bananas,avocado,blueberries and just one fruit per serving of yoghurt at a time .
A few years back I bought a popsicle maker and would often make popsicles with fruit yoghurt. The kids loved it especially when the weather was hot.
You may want to read :BENEFITS OF YOGHURT
A great way to ensure you do not have to push your children to choose healthy snack options is to always have a fruit bowl in the house,make sure its filled with fruits like bananas,oranges,apples ,grapes and by keeping a jar of nuts and seeds as well so that when the hunger pangs strike then they know where they can refill from.
If this post helpful,we would love to hear from you.It is readers like Wambui and everyone else who sends in their questions that keep us writing.
We may not always get it right all the time but when we can get it right 75% of the time when we pick a fruit over a packet of crisps then we are doing the right thing.
See you in the comments section and thank you Wambui!
“Black or white?”is a question increasingly being asked when you walk into a restaurant and ask for tea.
Black is what it sounds like black tea while white is if you would like a dash or two or three of milk.
Tea holds a special place in Kenyan households and hearts,it is the drink of choice that we give to welcome visitors into our homes and is a sign of the high esteem with which we hold them .
Tea is the preferred beverage o choice in most Kenyan households and many people will swear that their mothers way of preparing tea is the best.There have been broken hearts where tea was involved and it was brewed not quite up to perfection.
Some people do take their tea up a notch by adding spices like tea masala,cardamons,cinnamon or fresh ginger or rosemary.Al little while back I had a recipe for Chai Tea .
Tea drinking is embraced across many cultures in Africa,Europe,Asia the middle East and in the Americas.
Countries like China,Japan,Russia,England,India,Turkey,Egypt and Morocco have tea drinking traditions spanning hundreds of years.You have not really enjoyed tea until you have attended a Chinese or Japanese tea ceremony where in both of of these cultures tea holds a special seat of honor .
The tradition of tea drinking as a way to maintain a healthy lifestyle goes back hundred of years .According to early Buddhist texts,tea was described as a potent medicine for promoting good health,aiding digestion and relieving the symptoms that accompanied the common cold.
There are many varieties of tea available apart form the black tea,there is green ,white ,herbal and more recently we have been hearing of purple tea and its benefits.
For a country of tea drinkers like Kenya as well as for anyone who enjoys their tea,are there any benefits to a daily cup of your favorite hot beverage?
Apart from the effects tea has of refreshing and restoring us (I am sure you know a few people who cannot function without their favorite hot beverage),science is just now discovering the health benefits that accompany tea drinking.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics,the biggest evidence in support of tea drinking has been attributed to the antioxidants it contains that have been found to improve heart health.
These anti oxidants found in both green and black tea which are different from what we get from fruits have been attributed to have disease fighting capabilities.
The work of antioxidants is to look for free radicals roaming around your body and to get rid of them.These free radicals are the cause of many degenerative diseases and also occur as a result of aging.
Antioxidants work by detoxifying the body of these free agents so that they do not cause disease through the damage of body cells.
Countries like Japan and China that have a tea drinking culture reportedly have less incidences of heart disease and some cancers according to John Weisburger, PhD, senior researcher at the Institute for Cancer Prevention in Valhalla, N.Y.
Caffeine is the stimulant found in tea as well as coffee is a mental booster ,elevates our moods and gets us started in the morning .Like all good things to be able to enjoy the benefits of tea it should be taken in moderation.
Drinking more than 3 tea cups(not mugs) of tea is advisable and it should not be given to young children and adolescents as it hinders the absorption of iron which young and growing bodies need lots of in order to grow.
Just out of curiosity I would love to know just how many cups anyone reading this takes of tea and how best they like it,brewed or instant though I must say instant tea has nothing on brewed tea(I might be biased).
As always we love reading your comments and suggestions,looking forward to seeing you in the comments later.
After having been to a couple of places where people take adult beverages and where I spend a lot of time people watching I have been struck by a few things.
There are more people drink than are consuming food.
And women are drinking nearly as much or more than men are (sometimes not always).
Drinking on an empty stomach does you no good whether you are a man or a woman and women are more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol than men.
First let start with what alcohol does to your body and let us start by watching this short video.
In many developed countries there are guidelines as to how much alcohol a woman or a man can take in a single sitting.The rest of this article is based on those guidelines.
I borrowed the guidelines from the Center for Addiction and mental health because there are many other guidelines supplied by other bodies and they recommend the same amounts of alcohol for both men and women.Research however has shown that women and men absorb and metabolize alcohol very differently.
If you are going to choose to drink the recommended amounts for women and men are as follows;
Not more than 2 drinks a day for women,10 in a week is the maximum amount.
For men,not more than 4 drinks in a single sitting and not more than 14 in a week.
Women have less water in their bodies than men therefore their absorption rate for alcohol is higher than men with whom they may be taking a similar amount.
Research has also shown that women suffer more organ damage than men from the effects of too much alcohol intake.You may want to read this report that was done by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
When you take alcohol, about 20% of it gets absorbed in the stomach but most of it will get absorbed in your small intestines .Your body will absorb alcohol faster than it absorbs nutrients and all of this action of absorption of nutrients from food happens in the small intestines.
In the ratio of preference for what your liver will metabolize whether nutrients from food or alcohol,your body will pick alcohol.(Me thinks its because alcohol is a foreign substance and so the body wants to get it out of the system
Your liver is where alcohol gets metabolized and it takes an hour for the liver to process one standard drink of alcohol.A standard drink of alcohol is equal to a can of beer(5% alcohol),a glass of wine or a shot of liquor or spirit.
It is recommended not to take more than a drink in the space of an hour, more than this and your body gets saturated with alcohol and cannot absorb any nutrients from food you take as it is busy metabolizing alcohol.(A good reason to be alternating each drink with water).
What alcohol then does is that it interferes with the way nutrients from food get absorbed by the body.We have already seen that when taken together with food ,the metabolism of alcohol takes first place before anything else and interferes with how other nutrients from food get metabolized and absorbed and interferes with an individuals nutritional status.
When alcohol is being metabolized by the body it produces toxic substances that interfere with vital body organs like the liver.It is the reason why over consumption of alcohol leads to liver damage which can affect metabolism,blood clotting,drug metabolism and other body functions.
Alcohol has no nutritional value whatsoever as it consists of (mostly)water,pure alcohol(ethanol) and sugars in variable amounts which depends on type of alcoholic beverage.
Alcohol will interfere with your nutrition in two ways.
1.Through insufficient intake of nutrients.
2.Through intake of high fat diet and reduced physical activity it will lead to obesity.
Two nutrients of which alcohol intake affects their absorption and metabolism are proteins and nutrients.
Proteins are used by the body to build and repair tissues and are a major component of every cell in your body and vitamins play a very major role in your bodily functions-functions such as digestion,metabolism and immunity.
Part of managing alcohol intake as well as its effects is drinking responsibly.
1.Eating before drinking and avoiding drinking on an empty stomach.Having a high protein meal at least an hour before drinking is a good idea as well as snacking on something while drinking.
2.Not drinking more than the recommended amount of alcohol depending on your gender.
3.Alternating your drinking with water.
4.Keeping track of how much you are drinking.
5.Not drinking alcohol while on medication.
6.Not driving after drinking.
Having heard as well as seen the effects of having people’s drinks spiked I thought I should add these two as well.
7.Do not just sit there drinking fro 5 hours,move around,dance take a walk and do not leave your drink unattended .
8.Go out and drink with people you know well and trust.
Has this post been helpful,we would love to hear back from you.We love and appreciate feedback.
If you were to ask my children what would make a perfect way of spending the weekend if left to themselves,it would be to sit in front of the TV for most of the day .
Do you know other children that are like mine ?
Being a parent,I get my greatest joy by telling them what is good for them in very few words and more action like switching off the TV and
asking them,ordering them outside to go and play.
It would be easier to let them watch TV all day but what fun would there be in that and what childhood memories am I creating when I am letting them spend the whole day in front of the TV.
I was thinking about the fights we have over the TV over the weekend when I read in the Saturday Nation that among the top 2 ailments that children over the age of 5 years in Nairobi have is malnutrition.
It took me aback because Nairobi being the capital city should be doing better than that,we seem to live in apparent affluence and food seems to be readily available for most residents of the capital city ,that should result in an above average nutrition status for most children but it does not.
What should we do to stem the rise in the incidences of malnutrition,be it over-nutrition or under nutrition ?
What can we do to stop the increasing number of children weighing in at more than they should?
I hope that this is the start of a conversation of how many more mothers and father can ensure that their children are having more of the right foods and less of the foods that come in cartons and tins.
1.Making healthy eating a lifestyle choice
Over some weekends I accompany the medics team at my church for medical missions around our neighborhood and as a nutritionist I spend time listening as well as talking to mothers about nutrition.
Apart from the normal complaint about how fast children get bored with certain foods,it is apparent that most mothers in the capital city no matter their economic status know what is good for their children.They know what their children should be eating and what their bodies need.
The challenge comes in turning the information that we have into life long lifestyle habits that our children can carry through out their lives .
No matter what stage children are in we can help them form healthier eating habits and we start at home with what we serve.
Start them on healthy eating habits while they are still very young.Let them know the joys of eating food made from fresh ingredients.
Start taking them grocery shopping as early as you possibly can.Let them know how to choose the freshest fruits and vegetables and let them have a feel and look at how fresh really looks like.
“To create really great food,you do not have to make complicated meals,the tastiest foods are the ones made from fresh ingredients.”
A secret to the question as to “how to know what is fresh ?” is that fresh is always what is on season and fresh is always cheaper.
Kenya is blessed with an abundance of food,vegetables ,fruits are in plenty and we have no reason not to ensure children are eating at least 2 servings of fruits and 3 servings of vegetables every day.
Fruits and vegetables are the source of micro nutrients which are essential for the proper functioning of a growing body’s functions.Children with the demands that growth puts on their bodies,we need to make sure they are meeting their dietary requirements.
For many parents who have a problem getting their children to eat fruits and vegetables,a few ideas to try in order to get them to eat more of these foods are .
2.Letting children play
Children need play as much as they need food.
Play helps children develop physical strength and it is also important as part of healthy brain development.Play is how children learn to interact with the world around them.
The American Academy of Pediatrics in a 2007 paper titled The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds by Kenneth R. Ginsburg had this to say :
Pediatricians should emphasize the advantages of active play and discourage parents from the overuse of passive entertainment (eg, television and computer games)
With access to internet connectivity we are seeing fewer children venturing out to play,they are spending more time on their mobile devices than outside with other children or even their parents.It is now becoming more common to see children especially those in urban centers who weigh more than they should for their age and height.
Kids need to be more physically engaged ,this will reduce the incidences of child obesity that are on the rise.Children with a healthy weight have been shown to be healthier,more socially competent as well as more able to concentrate in school.
3.A parent is the best role model
A parent is the best role model of what healthy living should be like.
Children are not very good at following instructions but they are great at being perfect imitators.
When we make healthier choices with what we put on our plates,what we stock in our kitchens our children carry these habits they have watched us practice with them when they grow up and in turn they will influence their own children.
We can change the future of generations to come just by the simple decision we make of what we eat.
Make sure it is the right one.
Was this article helpful,we would love to hear from you.Head over to the comments section with comments or questions about what we just talked about.