WHY THE DEMAND FOR ORGANIC FOODS IS GROWING

Organic Farmers are HEROES.
Peter Wendt

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.

 

 

 

 

HOW TO PREPARE HEALTHY SNACKS FOR YOUR CHILDREN

Snacking for children

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.

You may want to read a post I did on why you should be reading food labels as well.

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.

1.Fruits

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.

3.Salads

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.

5.Dried fruits

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.

6.Sandwiches

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!

YOUR CHILD’S NUTRITION:THE BUILDING BLOCKS

 

monday inspiration (1)

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 .

  • Making fruits are easily available at home,get a bowl which you ensure is always filled with some fruit of some kind.
  • Let the children go shopping with you and let them choose the fruits and vegetables themselves.They are more likely to eat the fruits and vegetables they enjoy .
  • Get creative in how you serve your fruits and vegetables.For vegetables apart from cooking them for short period of time under high heat,try grilling them,serving them in salads sliced or grated.
  • Include fruits and vegetables as a part of every meal. Vegetables come in  such colorful colors hat there would be no excuse not to have them on your plate,they add such lovely color to a meal.
  • Add chopped or blended  fruits to plain yoghurt .
  • Eat fruits rather than blending them to make juice as fruits contain natural sugars and drinking large amounts of juice is likely to lead to a child being overweight because of all the sugar it contains.

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.

 

CAN COLDS,FLU IN CHILDREN BE MANAGED DIFFERENTLY ?

food

If you have raised or are raising children ,you probably know by heart the most common antibiotics prescribed to children .

Names like Klacid,Zinnat,Augmentin and Amoxi roll easily off your tongue. Most children within the course of an year will have visited a doctor and got to take an antibiotic at least 4 times each year. At least i can say that for my children.

And so i took some time to read up on antibiotics and understand how they work and when they should be given. Then last week while flipping through TV channels i chanced upon a documentary by the BBC that was talking about how scientists are worried about our rising resistance to the commonly used antibiotics .

What got me really worried was i remembered reading  an article that said we seem to be developing resistance to the most commonly used ones faster than we can develop new ones.

The last class of antibiotics was discovered three decades ago .

You can read the BBC article on the rise in antibiotic resistance.

Back to my story….

It is in the background of all of this that i sat down to discuss with a close family member whose children are the same age as mine on whether our children were being given too many antibiotics when we took them to hospital.

And if so, could we learn to manage colds,coughs and flu differently. That is when she shared something i found pretty interesting….

Her son who suffers from several bouts of colds and flu had had such a serious bout of flu he had had to go for nebulization .

When the pharmacist whom she picks her prescriptions from told her the boy was taking too many antibiotics she decided to visit an ENT specialist.

The ENT advised her to give her 4 year old  zinc supplements and they came out of the doctors without any antibiotics prescribed and  what a huge relief it was! So she has been using the supplements for a few weeks now together with some echinecea drops.

Zinc is an important mineral required by the body,in an article in Medical News Today ,intake of the recommended daily allowance of zinc is especially important for young children as it reduces the risk of infections and respiratory diseases.

While zinc supplements are available and should only be taken after advise from a qualified doctor,it is much better to get them from food.

Some of the foods from where you can get your RDA of zinc include beef,yogurt,peas,and peanuts.

Echinecea on the other hand is a herb whose leaves,flower and root are used to make medicine.

Echinecea has been shown to modestly reduce symptoms of colds but research is not clear on whether it prevents colds.It works by releasing chemicals in the body that reduce inflammation and relieves cold and flu symptoms.

In light of all these findings i would like to hear and learn from fellow mothers who have used supplements or echinecea with successful results.

Not only will we help each other learn how we can reduce incidences of colds and flu,we may also start asking more questions the next time we get a dose of antibiotics prescribed for our little ones.

If there are any doctors reading this could you also please enlighten us on how best to manage colds,flu in our little ones.

Let us learn together.

Xx,

Ina