We all know what the Kenya Bureau of Standards does ,which is not ensuring unsafe and harmful food substances do not get to the consumer.Remember the illegal alcohol drinks laced with methanol that by passed all the stringent measures put in place by the standards body,yes that is how efficient we are.
In 2007 there was an article published in the Daily Telegraph that linked eating sausages with an increased risk for cancer.Reason for this was that an ingredient added to sausage meat and burger meat posed a risk to humans,the article can be found here.
Between January and July of tha year,the paper had published articles highlighting the dangers of food additives and preservatives especially for children and the risks it exposed them to.
Now in Kenya with food safety not being a major concern for the standards body and with the country lacking a strong consumer awareness movement,we as individuals and parents need to take the health and safety of our children into our hands.
We need to be more keen and informed in the choices we make especially in regards to processed foods.
Some of the ingredients used in processed foods have a wide range of effects especially on children and they may range from hyperactivity,lower IQ to putting children at risk of cancer.
Some countries in Europe are already calling for the banning of some of these food preservatives and ingredients , companies like Nestle are already working on using naturally occurring flavourings and colorings.
In addition Europe’s food safety body EFSA carries out continuous risk assessment and evaluation of risks along the food chain and communicates the same to consumers.
In Kenya that is what we lack,that is why it is very important to arm ourselves with knowledge and information that will enable us make more informed choices .
Some of the ingredients you need to look out for are listed below and are from an article in The Daily Telegraph that equated their effect to that of leaded petrol.
Kenya is seeing an unprecedented rise in the number of lifestyle diseases with everything from the number of cancer cases,diabetes and high blood pressure on the rse.Alot of it has been blamed on the way we have changed our eating habits and now have more processed foods in our diets than ever before.
Unofficial estimates put the number of people being diagnosed with cancer at 82,000.Grim fgures if i may say so myself.
We seem to think that with increased affluence anything out of a can or box is good enough,forgetting that the best food is always the one that is fresh.
I have therefore gone through the list of items in my kitchen pantry and am getting rid of a few things that though they form a staple of Kenyan kitchens aren’t that good for you.
The first item to go was Royco,there are a lot of things that are packed into this green plastic can that is coded as flavorings and that aren’t too good for your body or your children’s.
Instead I have bought a spice rack that includes everything from Oregano ,cummin seeds,fennel,cloves and black pepper and am using more ginger and garlic,my kitchen now wafts with smell that would make any connoisseur of Italian or Indian food proud.
Trust me if you incorporate herbs and spices into the preparation of your meals,your family will never ask to eat out again.The smells wafting from the kitchen will be enough to have everyone at the table before the food is even ready.
Next was the flavored brand of drinking chocolate that was recently introduced into the market.
Soda is no longer welcome in my house anymore,I can make my own juice.
The bottles of ketchup and tomato sauce have to go to,making tomato sauce s easy i am going to be making my own sauce from now own.
The additives and preservatives added to most of these every day items to enhance their flavour or increase their shelf life have been shown to result in long-term effects that may range from mild reactions like rashes and some have even been suspected of causing cancer.
From now on before you eat anything out of a can or bottle,read the label of ingredients,does it contain anything you do not recognize?then put it back on the shelf and get something that later in life your family will thank your for.
Are you getting rid of anything unhealthy from your pantry too?
Have you ever seen this red root vegetable at the grocery section at the supermarket and either ignored,scorned it or wondered what the hell you were going to do with it at home?
You are not alone.
This root vegetable is rich in Vitamin A,C B1and B6 and some essential minerals .
Vitamin A is great for your eyes,immune system for a healthy skin and hair,Vitamin B1 goes towards building a healthy nervous system and Vitamin B6 is needed for cell growth.
Not many people know the wonderful properties of the beetroot or the amazing ways it can be used in food preparation.Here are some ways I use it in my kitchen.
1.Added to salads.
You know the same way we add grated carrots to cole slaw and other salads,add grated beetroot or cube it and add to your favourite salad.It adds color taking your salads to a whole new kaleidoscopic level not to mention the added nutritional value you are pumping into your body.
Yes just like carrots or tomatoes you can eat beetroot raw.
Blend it with your favourite fresh fruit juice whether pineapple,mango or orange juice.
Just remember that if you are going to keep it out for long add something acidic like lime or lemon juice to prevent it from oxidation which changes its color.
Its is also great as a juice on its own
Add it to your favourite fruit smoothie as a color enhancer and as a natural sweetener .
Though i prefer the taste of raw beetroot they can also be cooked and added to soups and stews.
And there you have gre to start adding the beetroot to your “must have” vegetable list.
A lot of people underestimate the power of the beetroot and here are five fun facts about the beetroot that show you shouldnt,courtesy of www.lovebeetroot.co.uk
1.Taken as a juice it’s a natural cure for a hangover.
2.Its nature’s answer to Viagra,see you don’t need those little pills.
3.Eating beetroot nullify’s garlic breath.
4.Boiling beetroot in water and then massaging the water into your scalp is a cure for dandruff
5.Apparently it can be used as a hair dye too!
Have you used beetroot in your kitchen,share some interesting ways you have eaten this beetiful vegetable.
Head over to the fun facts page here to read more.
This is a vegetable that has defied my culinary skills .
Its furry texture and then the gooey substance it secretes once it sliced,then when i tried to cook it….i vowed never to lay my knife on it ever again or subject my saucepans to this insufferable vegetable ever.
If you know of a good Okra recipe or are a whizz at turning this vegetable into a delicacy please help.
If you ever read food labels you may have come across ingredients with interesting names like sucrose,fructose,glucose,lactose,saccharine,maltose,corn syrup,sorbitol,mannitol,barley malt extract,molasses or corn syrup.
All these are different names given to sugar.
But did you know that sugar occurs naturally in some of the foods we take in, that our body after breaking down all the food we have taken in is absorbed in our bodies as a simple form of sugar-glucose?
Sugar found naturally in foods like fruits and vegetables is usually fine,it is the “added sugar” that is found in most commercially produced foods that is usually detrimental to your health .
Foods that have sugar added to them include everything from soda,biscuits,cereal ,candy,cake to tomato sauce,ketchup,salad dressings even peanut butter.
If you are interested in cutting back on your sugars,then you may need to be checking your food labels and start cutting back on foods that contain sugar in high amounts.
Added sugars not only contribute to weight gain as they provide “empty calories” but they have also been seen to put one at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes,dental decay,obesity and put one at increased risk of heart disease.
So next time you are reading your food labels and see sugar in any of its forms listed among the first few ingredients you may want to think twice before putting it in your shopping trolley .
I will never forget the time when i have had to wean my babies,i almost hired a marching band when my kids graduated from breast milk to solid food.
Unfortunately my daughter who mis now five had to take formula at two months when i had to go back to work but my two-year old was very lucky,he breast-fed exclusively for the first 6 months.
Here are some rules which as a mum and as a nutritionist i lived by,hope they can help a new mum who is thinking of weaning.And i must say this has been inspired by one of my blog friends over at Mummytales,she writes the most hilarious posts on her mummy adventures.
1.Breast is best for the first 4-6 months
Exclusive breast-feeding for the first 6 months is a very good idea.I have noticed a difference with my daughter who with 2 months of breast-feeding had more visits to the pediatrician than with her brother who got 6 months of mummy y loving.
And if you have to get back to work before the 6 months are through,get a pump.
For some reason i could never get enough milk to leave for her and yes there are some mothers who for some reason cannot breast feed,make sure you talk to your baby’s pediatrician for advice on what formula to give the little one and for advice.
2.One food at a time
When introducing foods to a baby The American Academy of pediatrics recommends giving one ingredient at a time.
That way it will be easy to pick allergies and preferences you baby may have.
Give your child different flavours,tastes colors to experience.
DOnt stick to one thing,make it your little culinary orchestra.from mashed potatoes to baby squash or butternut,banana rice make weaning fun for both you and baby.
I have provided two links from BBC Health and NHS that provide great advice for mothers thinking of weaning their babies.
4.If baby does not like it,move on to something different
SOmetimes babies have minds of their own and may not take to a particular food as you expected,move on to something else and introduce it at a later date.
5.No fruit juices
Pediatricians advice tha that only fluids babies should take are either milk or water,packaged fruit juices are not healthy nor do they offer nay nutritional value to your child,unless they are fruit puree that you have made yourself.
commercial or packaged fruit juices have been shown to contribute to child obesity,juvenile onset diabetes and dental caries.
You may want to hold off on the salt ans sugar when making food for your baby until they are a little bit older.
Lastly just like an adult make sure your baby get nutrients from all the food groups,fats and carbohydrates,body building foods i.e proteins and essential minerals and vitamins that are provided by fruits and vegetables.
Now after my last post you must be asking yourself what your child is going to eat ,right?
Well here are some healthy and nutritious ideas.
Pick fruits that retain their quality for long even after being out of the refrigerator for a while.
I am thinking of apples,oranges,tangerines,bananas,mangoes,grapes if you can afford them too are great.
Make sandwiches for your child,toast them if you can and you can include tomatoes,cucumber,shredded chicken or beef pieces,some cheese.Very healthy and tasty too
With sandwiches there is no lack of the fillings ,be adventurous.
Kenya exports some of the best cashew nuts in the world,peanuts too are good,give a taste of them to your child if they do not have any known peanut allergies.
Sesame seeds or simsim as we call it in Kenya, is readily available in Kenya and often i have seen sesame seed bars on sale .You can even make the sesame seed bars yourself if you feel adventurous enough.
Yoghurt especiialy the one that comes in little tubs and has some real fruit in it is also great,pack it that for your child together with a spoon and its good to go.
5.Popcorn is also another alternative so long as it is not too heavily salted or oily
And last but not least do not forget your childs water bottle.
What other healthy snacking ideas can you add to this list that your child takes to school?
Packaged fruit juices,biscuits,crisps,popcorn,chocolate who has not put one or two of these items for their kid to carry to school?I know I have but think about it,how healthy is it for your child to be snacking on these items loaded with sugar,empty calories and salt?
If you took a walk to a Kenyan schools from nursery through primary at around 10am in the morning when most are on tea break and took a peek at what we pack for our children to take to school ,we would be surprised to see the amount of sugar we are feeding our children.
Most of the time,its packaged fruit juice,biscuits,chocolate ,crisps and other not so good stuff.
I remember when I went to kindergarten which thankfully was for a year,we would have milk and biscuits and on some days ,which was the high light of our week,we would be given milk and cookies.Yippee!now which five or six-year-old does not love that.
At times I have even found myself packing some of these things i am talking about for my child ..but i digress.
First on the list is fruit juice or drinks.And in Kenya with no regulatory or consumer body that keeps watch,most of them are just made of sugar,flavourings and preservatives.
In some countries before a fruit juice can be cleared for sale in the market,it needs to have a specified amount of real fruit pulp.
And in it they decried the overconsumption of juice among infants and young children as it was seen to contribute to obesity,malnutrition,dental caries and diarrhoea
But why lie packaged fruit juice and fruit drinks does tastes good(because of the sugar added),is attractively packaged and kids love it.
Next on the list of favourite snack time treats is biscuits or cookies and what are most of them loaded with sugar and calories.Same as fruit juice and drinks bad for teeth and no nutritional value if consumed in excess.
Let us not forget the flavoured brand of crisps that have hit our supermarkets from tomato to barbecue to salt and vinegar flavours,they taste so good but how healthy if eaten every day between monday and friday?
How many of us ever make sandwiches from tomatoes ,some chicken ,cucumber,lettuce and pack them for snacking?
Or include nuts and fruits and make some real juice and give them to our children.
A lot of the eating habits we have as adults start from childhood and we need to be careful as mothers to start of our kids early in life on healthy eating.
So next time you are sending your child off to school,put a little more thought into what is going in their snack box.
Despite what most people think,good nutrition is just a scientific term for healthy wholesome eating.Give your body what it need to grow,rejuvenate,function and fight off disease and infection and you can live to be 100 years.
But trust human beings,we hate rules and through out our life span we often break more than a few.
Nutritionist then are just the angels on our right shoulder reminding us that our bodies need more than fried foods,soft drinks and alcohol to get by.
So for those who can’t stand nutrition speak ,here are a few rules you will never forget.
1.Fresh is best.
This is one rule you should never forget,vegetables and fruits in season are always cheap and you get the most nutritional value from them.So always remember that when shopping.
Fresh vegetables always taste best,better than anything from a can or bag for that matter.
2.Read food labels-always
Most of the time when we go shopping for anything from cereals,to tomato sauce to many food that is out of a can or box,we just automatically put it in the shopping cart without reading what ingredients are in it.
Always read your labels and if you recognize none of the ingredients used to make that tub of margarine or can of tomato paste,leave it on the shelf.
If you can’t recognize most of what is listed as ingredients or if it reads like the periodic table in high school chemistry then it is not good for you or your body.Put it back on the shelf
3.Your health is in your hands
“The key to good health is in your hands” may often sound cliché but yes it true.
Only you can determine what end s up on your plate and in your body ,make the right choices.
4.Nature’s best kept secrets
Mother nature has provided herbs and spices that when added to food ,take it to a whole new level.
I am thinking ginger,garlic,rosemary,cinnamon,oregano,mint,basil .Most of them are available in almost all supermarkets either whole or in powdered form
You do not need that bottle of commercial food flavouring!
5.If its being advertised it may not be good for your body
If you look at most food adverts,90% of the time they involve things that aren’t too good for you.
From soft drinks,to alcohol to cigarettes,and everything in between consists of items your doctor has either warned you about or asked you to take moderate amounts of.
Reason being that most of these items that make up an advertising company executive see dollar signs have no nutritional value other than the feel good factor they make you get.
I am yet to see vegetables being advertised.
So there goes,5 simple rules you can live by and if you have to break them remember take everything your doctor says is bad of you in moderation.