Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Making a good meal out of noodles

Many kids in Nigeria love noodles. Even if as a parent you do not prepare it in your house, the numerous adverts on TV, radio and billboards will pique your child's interest. When adverts in the media fail to do so, friends and classmates who bring it to school will make a child who is never offered noodles feel left-out. The stringy, melt-in-the-mouth nature of noodles makes it very fascinating to even picky eaters. The ease and convenience of cooking noodles as compared to other Nigerian foods make many parents keep packs of noodles handy. Despite what nutritionists may haveto say about it, noodles seem to have come to stay in the Nigerian market. 

Noodles are convenience foods. They, like all highly processed foods have little nutritional values, and should be eaten in moderation. 

Always ensure you make a good meal out of noodles before offering it to your child. Ensure you add fruits or vegetables to your noodles and a protein source. Your protein source could be fish, meat or egg. 

This is a pictorial suggestion how you can make good food out of noodles for your child
Plate of cooked noodles containing vegetables and egg. 
Noodles before cooking

Vegetables to be added to the noodles

Seasonings and oil that came pre-packed with noodles

Noodles cooked and ready to be eaten by a toddler
Garlic-buttered shrimps added to noodles

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Home-made baby foods vs commercially processed ones

Once a baby gets to the age when other foods besides breastmilk and/or formula no more supply all the needed food nutrients,  introducing complementary feeding is encouraged. This is usually when the baby is around 4 to 6 months of age. Pediatricians and pediatric research recommend that complementary feeding should not be introduced before a baby gets to 4 months, and should be introduced not later than 6 months. By then, babies have needs beyond breastmilk and their digestive systems are deemed mature enough to handle baby foods. 

Once a baby starts eating complementary foods, many mothers in Nigeria often wonder what other options they have besides pap/akamu/ogi and processed and commercially processed and packaged baby foods one can get in the shops. While offering a baby processed foods may not be a bad option, feeding babies on wholesome, home-made foods is always a better option with enormous benefits which include;

  1. You know exactly what you are feeding your baby. If you want to prepare potato puree for your baby, you have the opportunity of selecting the best of potatoes you can lay your hands on. Also, you know you are getting 100% puree, no additives, no preservatives as found in commercially processed and pre-packaged baby food. 
  2. It is usually cheaper. 
  3. You can twist the food to suit your baby's preference. You may notice that your baby likes a particular food or fruit more than others, you could then decide to add a little of the preferred food item to less preferred ones to help the baby eat more varieties of foods. Like adding a mixture of vegetables to make a puree like this
  4. Sometimes, especially for older babies of 10 months of age and above, 'home-made' baby food could be as simple as a pureed or mashed version of what the rest of the family is having. 

Preparing home-made baby foods may not be as convenient as preparing the commercially packaged ones, but the certainly are healthier and safer if handled well. 

Is your baby a picky eater? You could read this article on our suggestions on how to handle picky eaters. 

Friday, 16 February 2018

Apple and Strawberry puree

Ever heard the saying "an apple a day keeps the doctor away "? Babies also need to keep the doctor at away, or don't you think so?
Apples and Strawberries are not completely exotic to Nigeria, they are often found in Jos, Plateau state. It is not always advisable to buy those ones that have almost gone around the world before arriving in Nigeria. There is that suspicion that they may have been treated with chemicals for preservation. When it comes to food, one should be careful what one consumes, especially when it has to do with babies' foods. So for the parents in Nigeria, when one comes across such fruits and is sure they are organic and home-grown, one can give this Apple/Strawberry puree a try.  

Strawberries are rich in antioxidants and are good for babies in moderation. 

Choose and wash blemish-free strawberries and apple. The number of each type of fruit you choose should depend on the quantity of puree you want to make and which fruit you want to predominate in the puree. In the one we made, one red apple and four strawberries were used. 

Peel the apple and slice into small bits. Cut or slice the strawberries into smaller bits as well. This is to make it easier for the blender or food processor to puree.


The visually appealing puree is ready. Can be offered to babies who have started complementary feeding. That is babies from 6 months and above. 

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Vegetable puree (pear, broccoli and carrot)

Once a baby has started eating solids, there is the need for the baby to get an adequate supply of all the nutrient types. The most common baby foods in Nigeria are cereal-based like pap/akamu/ogi and the processed ones like Cerelac, Nutrend etc. Babies also need nutrients found abundantly in fruits and vegetables so it is necessary that fruits and vegetables be incorporated into their diets. 
This vegetable puree not only has the advantage of having various nutrients due to the combination of broccoli, carrot and pear; it is easy to prepare and quite tasty. Most babies love purees containing any of the constituents of this particular puree. Carrots are rich in Vitamin A, B6, B12, Vitamin C, and several other nutrients needed for a baby's growth and development. Broccoli is rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Iron, Calcium and Magnesium. Pear has significant Vitamin C and dietary fibre content. Basically, this puree is healthy and nutrient-packed for babies who have started eating solids.  


Select and wash fresh, ripe and blemish free pear, carrot and broccoli. Peel the skin off the pear. There may be the need to scrape off the back of the carrot to remove dirt and debris. Choose relatively few broccoli florets (2 or 3 depending on the size of the puree you are making)

Cut the vegetables into small bits to enable them to cook fast and blend/mash easily.

Put the broccoli and carrot in a pot of boiling water and allow to simmer for about 4 minutes. Do not cook the pear. 
Put the cooked vegetables and the uncooked pear in a blender and blend with little water, or mash with whatever food-mashing tool you have. The water helps the blade of your blender move and also lightens the resulting puree. The older the baby, the less quantity of water should be used because older babies can handle thick purees. The water used in cooking the vegetables can be used in blending as it helps the vegetables stay warm.

Your baby's vegetable puree is ready. You can serve with breastmilk, formula or just as it is. It is a nutritious and healthy meal for babies. Leftovers can be refrigerated or frozen for later use.
Broccoli, pear and carrot puree

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Banana puree

Banana puree
Banana is among the fruits found all year round in the Nigerian market. When ripe, bananas are sweet, soft and squishy such that they could be easily mashed and fed to babies who have started eating solids. Bananas are said to be very good soiurces of dietary fiber, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, manganese, potassium and several other nutrients. Banana puree can be served plain, mixed with cereals or with formula. They are said to be ideal first fruits for babies. 

Ensure you select ripe and blemish-free bananas for your baby's puree. Banana retailers in Nigerian markets are usually said to use some sort of chemical to slow down the ripening of the banana they are selling. As much as possible, always choose banana that has not been tampered with in anyway.

Peel the banana and then blend or mash in a mortar or with whatever mashing equipment you can use. The younger the baby, the more the need for the puree to be smooth. Older babies can handle small lumps in their puree. 

It is advisable you prepare a single serving size of banana puree each time you need it. Bananas when mashed or blended turn brown in minutes whether refrigerated or not, in a process called oxidization. You definitely will not like the colour of oxidized banana so its better you prepare just what the baby will eat a single time. 

Sweet potato puree as food for babies

Once the decision to introduce solid foods to a baby is made, knowing what is safe, healthy and nutritious for the baby can be quite challenging. The challenge is further increased if the baby's mother is among those that prefer natural, home-made baby foods to processed and packaged ones. 

In Nigeria, the most common and readily available baby food is pap. There are several alternatives to pap among which is Sweet Potato Puree.  

Sweet potatoes, according to research are excellent sources of health-promoting phytochemicals such as β‐carotene and anthocyanins. The most common types of sweet potatoes found in Nigeria are the orange-fleshed sweet potatoes and the white-fleshed ones
Image result for orange fleshed sweet potato in Nigeria
Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. Source:http://thenationonlineng.net
Image result for white fleshed potatoes nigeria
White-fleshed sweet potatoes. Source: http://2.bp.blogspot.com
A research done by Shubhendu et al and published in Food Chemistry 173 (2015) 957–965 that compared the white-fleshed and orange-fleshed sweet potato varieties, reported that the white-fleshed variety had a higher percentage of carbohydrate, reducing sugars and phenolics than found in the orange-fleshed one,  whereas the orange-fleshed ones had relatively higher levels of total protein, flavonoids, anthocyanins, and carotenoids 

Another research done by Sunan W et al and published in  Food Research International 89 (2016) 90-116 suggests that sweet potatoes have anti-carcinogenic and cardiovascular disease-preventing.  properties. 

BOTTOM LINE : Sweet potatoes are healthy foods and could serve as good sources of nutrients that your baby need. 


Orange-fleshed sweet potato

You will need a small tuber of sweet potato, and a blender or, mortar and pestle (for periods when there is no electricity supply). Wash and peel the quantity of potato you believe your baby can finish in a single feeding session. Then cut the potatoe into bits to enable it to cook fast and also make pureeing it easier. 

Small bits of washed  and peeled sweet potato

Then put the potato into a clean pot and put just enough water to cover the potato. Boil till tender-looking.

Blend or mash the tender potatoes using a blender or a mortar and pestle. You will need to add a little water to move the blades of the blender. You could add same water used in boiling or use an entirely fresh one. It is better the water is hot so that the resulting puree will be warm enough for the baby to eat. Using cold water could make the puree cold. You do not want to offer your baby a cold food.

Aim for a consistency suitable for your baby's age. The older the baby is, the thicker the puree should be. You could use water to lighten the consistency. You can choose to add formula or breast milk to the puree. You can also serve just as it is. Most babies love potato puree because of it's sweet and buttery taste. 
Pureed sweet potato 

Refrigerate or freeze leftovers in small, single-serving containers. Offering your baby freshly made puree is best but not always realistic. So you could prepare several batches at a time and preserve in your refigerator or freezer. 
Small containers containing single-servings of potato puree

Ready for refrigeration

Monday, 8 January 2018

Maintaining a healthy body weight in Nigeria

Obesity and overweight are increasingly causing global health concerns as a result of the myriad of health problems associated with them. For persons resident in Nigeria, it seems almost impossible to keep tabs on weight gain without frequent visits to gyms or buying and consuming certain exotic food products; which are known to be quite pricey in Nigeria. The Nigerian diet as it is today, coupled with increasingly sedentary lifestyles are responsible for the reported large population of overweight Nigerians. Maintaining a healthy body weight or shedding excess body weight need not be expensive or impossible, all one needs to do is put a conscious and consistent effort into maintaining a healthy lifestyle that involves dietary modifications and moderate physical activity. Rapid weight loss programs and weight loss supplements are usually not recommended by dieticians and nutritionists.

The Nigerian cuisine is based largely on carbohydrate-rich foods like yams, cassava, rice, beans and grains such as millet and sorghum. The Nigerian forebears who cultivated and ate a lot of those foods were involved in a lot of physical activities that helped them burn the carbs from their diets. They were mainly involved in farming; the most common modes of transportation then were the use of bicycles or feet (trekking) so somehow the intensity of their physical activities ensured they were within a healthy weight range.

Increasing westernization in Nigeria like in other developing countries meant a shift towards more sedentary lifestyles; fewer people did physically exacting jobs. But westernization has not changed so much of the Nigerian cuisine. As a result, most Nigerians of today eat the same foods at almost the same rations their forebears who did more physically exacting jobs ate, causing a sharp increase in the number of overweight Nigerians as reported by several researchers. An increase in overweight or obesity cases meant an increase in related diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes and several cardiovascular diseases.

It is, therefore, necessary that Nigerians who intend maintaining healthy body weights make lifestyle adjustments that should include dietary modifications and increased physical activity. To achieve a healthy body weight we recommend you do the following.

  1. Decide to maintain a healthy weight. Making certain decisions often translates into conscious decisions to achieve one's objectives. This also applies to maintaining a healthy body weight. There are no wrong reasons for wanting to shed excess body weight, but health-related reasons trump fashion and confidence. So no matter your reason, deciding to maintain a healthy body weight is a beautiful decision.
  2. Invest in a body weight/bathroom scale. You need to know your present body weight to determine if it is within the healthy range or not. This will help you know how much body weight you should work towards shedding or adding as the case may be. Also, you will need to monitor how effective the modifications you adopt are. Owning a body scale  helps everyone in the home keep tabs on their weight gain. Luckily, bathroom scales are not usually expensive. A bathroom scale will also help make it easy for you to periodically calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI) using the formula in the image below.
Image result for BMI calculator kg
Image result for BMI calculator kg cm chart
After calculating your BMI, check the range to which the figure falls in to determine if your weight is within the healthy range or not. 

Since adults do not usually record changes in height as they do in weight, all one may need to do is check his/her height at a health or fitness center and use the figure obtained in calculating one's BMI periodically.

 3.Get involved in a targeted body weight-control program. All weight control programs are not the same. Weight-control programs are often designed for certain people in mind. There are several apps downloadable on most phones and computers designed for body weight control. They usually include diet  as well as body workout  suggestions. Some include animations to put you through the processes. The beauty is that most of these apps are free and workout sessions are adapted to suit both beginners and persons already experienced in workouts. Workout sessions usually last for 5 to 10 minutes and can be done in the comfort of one's home making them especially suitable when the hustles and bustles of life in Nigeria is put into perspective.  Like our Facebook page and send us a message for recommended apps that may be suitable for you.

4. Dietary modifications!Dietary modifications!!Dietary modifications!!!. Effective weight control programs involve both dietary modifications and physical activity. There should be a suitable balance between your calorie intake and expenditure. You may need to reduce your starchy foods portion, increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, cut down on processed foods and increase water intake. The particular regimen you follow depends on your present health and fitness status. Weight loss programs are not necessarily expensive and do not always demand special foods not obtainable in the Nigerian market. Most times portion control can do the job. Weight-control programs are easier in more developed countries where foods carry nutritional information. Nutritional information when found on made-in-Nigeria products are not always reliable. 

If you would like to know more about targeted weight-control programs and suitable apps, you could chat us up on our Facebook page  or send us an email on the address displayed on the blog.

Author: Atukpawu Onyinyechi; A volunteer nutritionist at The Informed Mum.