Meal times can be an experience that family members will always look forward to. As a mother or caregiver you can create delicious meals for the enjoyment of your family at all times. It is painstaking though, but the experience is very rewarding. Thanks to the creator for the vast resources available in nature for the nourishment of human bodies
Family meals should meet both physiological (nutritional) and emotional (affective) needs of each and every member of the family. While nutritional adequacy is emphasized, it is necessary to give attention to both nutritional and affective aspects of the meal. These aspects greatly contribute to satisfaction and a sense of fulfillment at family meal times. Ensuring healthy eating in your home does not only help to provide nutritional adequacy for your family in the now but as well make your family members learn and adopt a healthy eating lifestyle independently.
Your children/young ones in your care will have the opportunity to continue to enjoy healthy eating into adulthood and take responsibility for their nutritional well-being. Therefore, investing your time, energy and money into your family eating is a worthy venture which will yield invaluable returns now and in the future. I will briefly discuss some healthy super foods which can be of immense benefits to your family.
Beans – nature’s pearls
Interestingly beans exist in so many varieties making it possible to meet the different needs of the different human races. In Africa region alone, wide varieties of beans exist some of which are the brown beans, white beans, black-eyed beans, soybeans, broad beans etc. Also in the family of beans are peas, lentils, kidney beans, fava beans and lima beans.
Beans are loaded with nutrients which our bodies need and these include:
- Protein for growth, maintenance and replacement of worn tissue
- Vitamin B group which are necessary for healthy brain and nerve cells, for normal functioning of the skin, nerves and digestive system
- Calcium necessary for strong bones and teeth
- Potassium which helps to reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke
Beans have the additional nutritional advantage of:
- high fiber content which aids the movement of bulk through the colon
- low in fat
Beans can be prepared into a variety of dishes or incorporated into dishes in many ways. Fortunately, some complaints people often give for not eating beans can be addressed by various methods of preparing beans dishes such as soaking.
Act smart, take advantage of the various methods to provide delicious beans meals for the enjoyment of your family. Take pain to specially prepare them, adding the necessary ingredients. In Nigeria for example, beans can be prepared into beans porridge, beans paste, beans soup, fried beans balls, boiled rice and beans, and many more. In South Africa, beans are enjoyed in a meal of maize and beans mixture known as “samp”. In Kenya, beans are boiled with dry maize and enjoyed as a snack.
Green vegetables – life’s support
The green vegetables are good for the body but unfortunately, despite the huge nutritional benefits, they are one of the most under-consumed foods in an average person’s diet. There exists a wide variety of green vegetables with different textures and tastes that can easily be incorporated in dishes such as soups, stews, casseroles, sandwiches and more. It is advisable to heat process green vegetable minimally in order to take full benefits of the nutrients. They are not expensive and can easily be supplied through home gardens. Examples are the many varieties of green leafy vegetables, broccoli, chard, okra, egg-plants, green bell pepper, cucumber, lettuce, cabbage etc.
Nutritional advantages: Green vegetables contain vitamins A, C, E, and K. They also contain an abundance of phytonutrients such as zeaxanthin, lutein and beta-carotene; which protect the body cells from damage. Green leafy vegetables contain high levels of dietary fiber, magnesium, potassium, folic acid, calcium and even Omega-3 fatty acids which serve to maintain eye health, aid in digestive regulation, increase bone strength and boost the immune system. Weight loss, cancer prevention, anti-aging qualities and even bone strength are some health benefits of leafy green vegetables. Due to their low fat and water-soluble antioxidant content, green leafy vegetables are one of the best cancer-preventing foods.
Colored vegetables and fruits – nature’s delight
Colored vegetables and fruits are naturally attractive, full of aromas which make them readily acceptable for consumption fresh from the farm. Some colored vegetable may need to be heat processed before consumption. Those cooking methods that optimize health benefits such as steaming and baking are suggested. Most red, yellow, or orange vegetables and fruits contain carotenoids. These are fat-soluble compounds that are associated with a reduction of a wide range of cancers, as well as reduced risk and severity of inflammatory conditions such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Examples of colored vegetables include carrots, red or yellow bell peppers, tomatoes, butternut, beetroot, etc. A wide range of fruits such as oranges, mangoes, plums, avocados, pineapples, paw-paw, water-melon, grapes, kiwi, loquat, pear etc. are available to choose from.
Nutrition experts recommend daily servings of not less than five vegetables and fruit per day. This recommendation is quite broad. For the purpose of clarity, I will use the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation to provide guidance on this. The WHO recommends the intake of at least 400g of vegetables and fruit daily. The question then is what proportion should go for vegetables and what proportion should go for fruit. Typically, it is easier to give a higher proportion for fruits because fruits generally taste sweeter, due to the high sugar content. Some people will even make the five portions entirely fruits. These positions are wrong. Different countries have guides to what is considered serving size for different foods.
Based on the recommendation of five servings a day, I will counsel that you choose 2 servings of fruits and 3 servings of vegetables.
In South Africa as an example, the WHO recommendation of 400gm provides the basis. The weight of the edible portion of an average fruit is 150gm. Therefore, you need 1 fruit (typically 150gm) and 3 servings of vegetables (typically 75gm/serving) in order to meet the WHO recommendation of not less than 400gm of vegetables and fruit per day. This recommendation is applicable to regions where the WHO recommendation for vegetables and fruit is the basis.
Vegetables and fruits are low in calories, rich in vitamins (such as A and C) and minerals (potassium), high in fiber and rich in antioxidants. These contribute to lowering the risk for heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancers.
Nuts – heart’s friend
Nuts are nutrient dense food rich in oils and proteins. They are part of a heart-healthy diet because they contain Omega-3 fatty acids which help to lower the bad cholesterol known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Examples of nuts include walnuts, ground-nuts, cashew-nut almonds, pistachios, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts etc.
Nuts though have a lot of nutritional benefits, they are high in calories, and should be eaten in moderation. About a hand-full for a serving is suggested. They can be eaten roasted or boiled as snacks, in dishes, soups and as bread-spreads (e.g. peanut butter). Nuts are also rich sources of protein, fiber, minerals especially magnesium and zinc and vitamins especially vitamins E and K.
Yogurt – intestine’s emollient
Yogurt is a fermented milk product that contains live bacteria used in its production. Yogurt provides probiotic benefits. To derive the probiotic benefit of yogurt, it must contain live and active bacteria. Probiotic refers to living organisms which can result in health benefits by adjusting the micro-flora in the human intestines. It acts on body functions such as digestion and immune function.
The live microorganisms in yogurt help the body to produce vitamins, such as B complex vitamins and vitamin K. The lactic acid in yogurt conditions the intestine to absorb calcium and other nutrients the body needs. The live bacteria in yogurt also help prevent the growth of cancerous tumors by inhibiting the formation of harmful bacteria.
Aside this yogurt is rich in protein, calcium, vitamins B2 and B6. Calcium is important for the formation and maintenance of strong bones and teeth through all ages. Many types of yogurt are available from the stores to choose from and include plain or sweetened yogurt, fat-free or full-fat yogurt. Yogurt can be taken as snacks in-between meals, an appetizer before meals or as a dessert after meals. Soy yogurt and Kefir can be used as good substitutes for yogurt.
Eating right is one of the important elements for healthy living and can help to reduce the risk of many chronic diseases such as heart diseases, diabetes, some cancers, osteoporosis, and obesity. The earlier healthy eating is imbibed the better for you, your family and your future. Regular inclusion of these healthy super foods in your family meals can bring about tremendous nutritional and health benefits to you and your loved ones.
Please note that general nutritional recommendations may not be applicable to all. In the case of a disease condition, it is advisable to consult a dietitian.