WHAT IS IN YOUR CHILD’S SNACK BOX?

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.

In 2001,the American Academy of pediatrics published a paper called The Use and Misuse of Fruit Juice in Pediatrics.

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.

5 NUTRITION COMMANDMENTS TO LIVE BY

Fruit basket from www.xisto.com

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.

GARLIC GOODNESS

Legend has it that garlic bulbs were hand in houses in mediaeval times to chase away evil spirits,but nowadays in Kenyan cuisine it is increasingly gaining prominence as a tasty alternative to commercial food condiments.

But did you know that garlic also has other uses apart from using it to make pilau?

Garlic is an excellent source of manganese and a good source of vitamin B (B1 & B6), vitamin C, protein, phosphorus, selenium, calcium, potassium, iron and copper.(source www.beinghealthy.tv)

1.Garlic Bread

Toast bread,get a clove of garlic and split it lengthwise,rub lightly on  warm bread and you have garlic bread.

Nothing ever tasted so good served with  a mug of ginger tea,there is even no need for margarine or butter.

2.Use in salad dressings

Ok,we all know of the expensive range of dressing available on supermarket shelves,you can make you own vinaigrettes with just some oil,lemon juice and some minced garlic.

Garlic adds a tangy flavour to all salads.

You ration of oil to acid when making vinaigrettes is should be 2:1

3.In soups and stews

Using  garlic in your soups and stews  gives them a bold distinct falvour.Your family will be asking for second servings not to mention the health benefits they will be getting by eating more of this wonder bulb.

Do you use garlic in your kitchen,share some of the ways you use it .

DECONSTRUCTED GITHERI

Bobby Flay's Crunchy Corn and Avocado salad

Ok,you are wondering what I am talking about right…?

Deconstruction is just a fancy chefspeak for taking the individual components that make up a dish and preparing them in such a way that you get the same taste you would get if you had prepared the dish in the traditional manner.

The idea for this recipe was inspired by  an episode of Grill it!with Bobby Flay when he was preparing a corn and avocado salad.

But there is a little story that goes with the recipe too and it involves my days in high school.

Now in most Kenyan schools,githeri(a mix of fried dried maize/corn  and beans with potatoes and maybe greens too) is a staple food.Most students do not like it but they put up with it because hey,your parents did not send you tp a five-star hotel on Kenya’s coast to lounge  all day on a beach towel and sip pina-colada all day right?

Yes,they sent you to school to read.

Now students are always looking for interesting things to add to their school mens to make them more palatable and they include adding margarine,some flavourings like tomatoes sneaked from the school farm and maybe an avocado.

In my school which was an all girls school,we loved avocados and we especially loved adding them to our githeri which tasted for the most part like saw dust.

And I thought why don’t i bring back high school memories by tweaking my usual mix of maize and beans .

So here goes…

1 cup cooked beans

1 cup sweet corn

1/2 cup carrots chopped into cubes

1/2 cup red onions chopped

1/2 avocado,cubed

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 table spoons olive oil

Black pepper and salt to taste

Fresh parsley chopped for garnish

First boil the sweet corn for 3 minutes  to remove starch and then place in an ice  bath to stop the cooking process.

In a salad  bowl mix the corn,beans,onions,carrots in bowl.

Whisk the lemon juice and oil,salt and black pepper together in a  small bowl till throughly mixed pour over the salad and mix.

Add diced avocado pieces to the salad  just before you serve it  and mixing carefully so as not to mash them.

garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

Here is the original recipe from Bobby Flay’s show.

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and diced
  • 2 ripe beefsteak tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup pitted nicoise olives, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup canned chickpeas, drained, rinsed and drained again
  • 2 tablespoons roughly torn flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ounces blue corn tortilla chips

Directions

Gently toss the avocados, tomatoes, olives, chickpeas, parsley, vinegar, olive oil, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Crumble the chips over the top and serve

ALL ABOUT CHOLESTEROL

‘Cholesterol free’ is  a term that most manufacturers of cooking fats and oils use to describe their products.It is a term used to tell you the customer,that their fat or oil is good for your heart and health.

But what really is cholesterol and what does it do?

Cholesterol contrary to popular belief is present in our bodies and our bodies actually need this much villified globule of fat or lipid.We actually have this little globules  floating around in our blood plasma and the consumption of certain types of foods high in   “bad” cholesterol  is what is bad for your health.Consumption of certain foods (e.g peanuts)  that have the “good” kind of cholesterol is beneficial to our bodies.

Cholesterol then is actually a good thing because the body needs it  in the production of certain bodily functions like  bile acids,production of sex hormones and conversion of sunshine to vitamin D.

Low density lipoprotein  LDL is the bad kind while high density lipoprotein or HDL is the good kind.

You maybe wondering why we are referring to lipoproteins when we should be talking about cholesterol…it is because cholesterol is carried in our bodies and into other parts of our bodies by lipo proteins.

Foods rich in fibre will help lower your levels of cholesterol and drinking orange juice(real orange juice not that form a packet)increases the good kind of cholesterol.Garlic also when included in your salad dressing or when cooking food also helps lower your cholesterol levels .

Vitamin A,C and E that are present in foods like papaya,carrots,pumpkin,most citrus fruits and nuts like peanuts ,almonds and sunflower seeds also may help moderate levels of cholesterol in your body.

Foods that contain LDL,the  bad kind of cholesterol and which should be consumed in moderate  amounts include chicken liver,cow liver,meat,eggs and butter

HOW AFFLUENCE AND POVERTY FUEL CANCER RISKS

Back in the days when nutrition was a relatively new area of specialization ,about 10 years ago,everyone thought a nutritionist belonged either in refugee camps,hardship areas or hospitals .

Most of the Kenyan population still thinks so but a growing number of people are now realizing that a nutritionist is key towards achieving overall good health.

A number of them are being sought by all and sundry to advise on how to live healthier lifestyles.

Sadly every Tom,Dick and Harry now claims to be a nutritionist,even a gym instructor.

Affluence and better incomes in Kenya have brought  a lot of things with them,and one of the most significant is dietary changes.

A lot of people when they get more money to spend on food items,the firs thing they think about is diet change.Processed and packaged foods are thought to go well with their elevated socio- economic status.

You will then find a lot of people having lots of processed foods like cereal-out-of-a box,sausages,hot dogs and all manner of packaged foods ,loaded with preservatives just because they can.

At the bottom of the economic pyramid are the very poor who for lack of choices will eat everything and anything of what is available.

Both of these groups have one thing in common,they  suffer malnutrition for different reasons.

While one group suffers because it lacks knowledge and not choice,the other suffers from lack of choice because of limited economic resources.

Both of these groups need nutritionist but for different reasons.

Lets us start with the higher end of the socio-economic bracket,the upper middle class and the über rich .

What do they have for breakfast?lots of processed foods because they have more money to spend they  shun porridge,arrow roots,sweet potatoes and go for high-end cereals,preserved meats just because we can afford it or don’t have time to prepare healthy meals.

Most of the cereals mask hidden sugars in all it forms from sucrose,glucose to fructose.

Kenya is seeing an increase in the number of lifestyle diseases like diabetes which previously were unheard of and the patients are getting younger by the day.

It is all because of the hidden sugars available in some of the foods we are giving our children.

Am sure we never read the labels..right?

Next on that list is preserved meats that are loaded with preservatives to lengthen their shelf lives as well as to appear attractive.

The most common preservatives used is sodium nitrite that  gives  preserved meat its fresh looking color.

Its use has been associated with increased cancer risk and especially that of leukemia and brain tumors in children and young infants.This is according to a study done by the American Association for Cancer Research which also linked  the use of this preservative as a leading cause for the increased risk of pancreatic and colorectal cancers.

But did you know you can make your own sausages from minced/ground beef ?well that is a recipe for another day.

Now on the extreme side of the socio- economic ladder are people who for various reasons and especially economic ones cannot afford to eat well-balanced meals.

So what do they do,they settle for fast foods like fries which have been cooked in oil that has fried tonnes of chips before, the oil has literally decomposed and turned color.

Which is always a bad sign,it should be thrown out.

But how many fast food joints throw out their deep frying oil after  a few uses?

If you walk into most informal settlement in Kenya you will meet enterprising men and women frying up potatoes and  little doughnuts and this are especially attractive to young children.

Most of them use wood to cook but just so that they do not use as much fuel as they should and to save on costs ,they pile plastics to get the right temperatures at which to fry their foods.

The result..obnoxious foul smells from the burning plastics and we all know the toxicity of these substances and how they increase cancer risks.

This group of people is especially liked by the manufacturers of soft drinks and other carbonated drinks that are loaded with sugar,preservatives,artificial color and all manner of chemicals that when conusmed in high amounts are increasing Kenyans risks of cancer development.

Now for both groups of people I would suggest re-education on the basics of what is healthy and what isn’t,both of them have the means and ability to be able to live well on their budgets with the food available without resorting to some lifestyles that are increasingly shortening our lifespans and increasing medical costs.

Let us arm ourselves with the knowledge that is available,seek medical advice from medical practitioners and especially consult a nutritionist if you are in doubt as to whether what is on your plate is good for your body.

Most government hospitals and private ones too now have nutrition departments .We should make use of these men and women who either for free or for a small fee can take us back to the basics of good and healthy meals.

NB:Some nformation on the risks of sodium nitirite has been sourced from www.naturalnews.com

BUTTERNUT:Its great for babies and for adults too!

For most of us ,when we see these cute vegetables that are normally regarded as baby food, we never think that we could get much from it too as adults.Butternut squash is rich in vitamin A,Vitamin C,Iron and Calcium.

It can be added to your mashed potatoes to give it color and spiced up with nutmeg and cinammon to give it more pizazz some butter  and ……mmmmhhh heavenly.

You can also add a cup of mashed squash to your chapatis or mandazi dough,gives it great color, not to mention  about the added nutritional value you are packing these items with.

 You can even roast it in the oven ,rub it with some oil,a pinch of nutmeg and cinammon,salt, a dash of blackpepper,bake at a tepmerature of  230 degrees celsius for 30 minutes or until tender.Serve with some french beans and some fried beef yum yum yum.

Go ahead try it and let me know how it went.

WORRIED ABOUT YOUR BABY’S WEIGHT…?

All my babes have never been chubby and i know one other friend of mine who wa sin the same class with me and one day while we were sharing war stories on mother hood we both lamented the fact that our babes have never been the poster images of bouncing bundles of joy.

Too often mothers have this idea in their heads that babies must be for lack of a better word “fat”.So wes tuff our little angels with food just so that when we go the next visit the scales will do us proud and declare that all the porridge,cereal,milk,fruits we gave them did not go to waste.

A lot of the time we forget that being heavy is not always a sign of good health.

Many factors play a part in determining how much your baby is going  to weigh like genes for example.

My babies never weighed more than 3 kilos at birth and seeing that i gave them all the right foods their growth charts everytime  visited the pediatrician were always on a steady rise,they never showed any drastic changes unless they were sick which was rarely.

At one time  made the mistake of going to a different pediatrician as the regular one who had followed my daughter from birth  was out of the country  and he ordered for all manner of tests on my daughter who was then barely two years.

Reason,he thought she was too lean for her age.

They found nothing wrong with her(thank God) but from then on I made sure  I stuck to one paedetrician who assured me I had nothing to worry about,my daughter was growing at her own pace.

For any mothers reading this who may be worried their babies are not as round or chubby as their neighbours,I would like to tell them to take it easy.So long as your child is taking meals that cover all the important food groups from carbohydrates to proteins and taking their fruits and vegetables to cover their vitamin and essential minerals intake there should be no cause for alarm.

Broccoli Crazy…!

Photo courtesy of www.international. stockfood.com

You might be asking why would anyone name their site Broccoli Crazy?

It is  because i love these bulb of green florets like crazy,broccoli is actually called a super food as it comes packed with everything from Vitamins to minerals that when aritten are as  long as your arm and that are great for your body.

This vegetable is a nutritionists dream!

Some of the goodness it comes packed with includes Vitamins A,C and K,it contains folate,iron,magnesium,calcium,potassium,calcium and fiber.

Of course there are other superfoods but this one to me is too good to be true.

The blog will be a way for me to pass on information i know as a nutritionist who studied at one of this country’s finest institutions Kenyatta University and my experiences as a mum and a wannabe chef in my own kitchen.

Leave any questions or comments on anything and everything,i will do my best to answer them.

Hopefully together we can raise a generation of healthier children and we can see the rising numbers of cancer cases in the next generation dwindle.

The information is not medical advice and all care should be taken to consult a doctor in case of any medical conditions.This is just  a journal of my journey into  the conscious  choices  i have made towards adopting healthier eating habits for my family .

Bon appetit!

NB:All photos are sourced from the internet unless otherwise stated

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