Wednesday 28 March 2018

Fruit of the week: Avocado


Avocado can be found year-round in Nigeria but at certain seasons of the year, like now, the green-shaped, fleshy body fruit that could be described as ' pear-shaped' or 'egg-shaped'  is aplenty in the Nigerian market and thus relatively cheap. Unlike other fruits that consist primarily of carbs, avocados are high in healthy monounsaturated fats and other nutrients, making avocados beneficial for the heart. When compared to similar fatty foods like butter, avocado contains low levels of cholesterol, is a low-calorie food, and does not lead to increased weight gain. 

Below are some of the things we found out about avocado that we wish to share with Nigerian mothers. 
  1. Avocado is a great source of minerals and vitamins. It also contains phytochemicals that help in protecting the eyes as they are said to reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration. 
  2. Avocados are weight-loss friendly as they are good sources of fiber: Fiber is an indigestible plant matter that helps increase the satiety value of food which eventually reduces one's desire to eat more thereby contributing to weight loss. They also help prevent constipation, maintain a healthy digestive tract and lower the risk of colon cancer. 
  3. Avocados are said to be rich in folate as 100g of the fleshy fruit contains about  20% of the RDA of Folate making it beneficial for pregnant women. Folate reduces the risk of miscarriage and neural tube defects in unborn babies. 
  4. Avocado has been described by nutritionists as "a great first food for babies". Avocado is a great nutrient-dense food full of healthy monounsaturated fats and nearly 20 minerals and vitamins. Its texture and creaminess make it acceptable to many babies. Avocado can be mashed/pureed with different fruits to make wonderful baby foods.

Mashed/pureed avocado; a great first food for babies
See Avocado and egg puree and other baby meal ideas for suggestions on healthy and nutritious foods you can offer your baby

Saturday 24 March 2018

Sweet Potato and Spinach puree

Spinach in its pureed forms may not be the among the visually appealing foods, but they certainly make the foods nutritionally richer.  Spinach is a wonderful vegetable that serves as a great source of Calcium, Iron, Vitamin A, Folate and several other micro-nutrients. In its pureed form, Spinach imparts an intense green colour to any food it is mixed with hence the colour of the potato puree presented in this article. 
Ordinarilly, sweet potato puree could have any colour ranging from white, yellow to orange but never green. Green-coloured potato purees got their colours from other contents of the puree apart from potatoes. 

Iron, Calcium, Folate and Vitamin A are among the food nutrients babies need sufficient supplies of and considering the fact that Spinach has sufficient quantities of these nutrients, then potato and spinach puree is a great food for babies who have started eating solids. 

Method of Preparation
Preparing sweet potato and spinach puree involves the same method employed when preparing sweet potato purees except for the addition of spinach leaves.
  1. Peel the skin off the sweet potato and chop into small bits which makes the potato cook fast as well as makes the potato easier to mash or blend
  2. Boil potato until soft
  3. Mash or blend the cooked potatoes alongside the washed spinach leaves. Add water to achieve a consistency suitable for your baby's age and palate. You could use the water used in boiling the potatoes or entirely new water. 
  4. Your Sweet potatoes and Spinach puree is ready. 

Unpeeled sweet potato
Bits of sweet potato with spinach leaves
Cooked potatoes ready for blending

Potato + Spinach puree ready

Click Baby meal ideas for more suggestions of healthy and nutritious homemade meals you can offer your baby

Thursday 22 March 2018

Baby-friendly pasta

Feeding your baby healthy homemade meals does not have to be difficult. Sometimes you just offer the baby a mashed version of what others in the family are eating. Just that when preparing the food you have to put the baby's palate into consideration and use as little seasoning as possible. 

The food presented in this article is spaghetti with vegetables, mackerel, and egg. The baby's version contains spaghetti, vegetables, mackerel and egg yolk all mashed to a consistency befitting an 8 months old baby. 
You can make yours' with any pasta of your choice as well as any healthy vegetable you can lay your hands on.

Adult version of the food
Adult vs baby version of the same food

Tuesday 13 March 2018

Pureed meat for babies

The decision to give increased attention to infant nutrition this month is not only because of how important nutrition is in the first one thousand days of a person's life is, it is also because we understand the challenges parents often face in knowing which healthy and appropriate foods to offer their babies. Under the guidance of a Nutritionist plus evidence-based research, The Informed Mum offers suggestions on healthy, nutritious, and homemade alternatives to store-bought baby foods. Clicking on the label "Baby Meals Ideas" on the blog shows different suggestions on baby meals one can easily whip up for one's baby. 

Meat is rich in dietary iron. The more finely grounded meat is, the easier the body finds it to absorb the iron. Given that dietary iron is one of the nutrients a baby who has started eating solids needs, then offering meat-based foods to such a baby is a good idea. Nutritionists recommend that meat be pureed with other foods such as vegetables to reduce the possibility of getting a 'stringy' end-product.  

Method of Preparation.

  • Wash and cut your preferred type of meat into small bits. It could be beef, chicken or any other fresh meat available. Chicken was used in the one presented here. 
  • Put meat bits into a pot and add enough water to cover the meat
  • Cook on low heat until meat is tender and soft.
  • Wash and if necessary chop the vegetable you have and add to the already cooked meat. The type of vegetable determines how long it should stay in the hot meat stock. Some vegetables cook faster than others. You could also choose to steam your vegetable in a different pot. Carrot was the vegetable used in the one presented here
  • Allow meat to cool a bit then transfer meat, stock and vegetable into a blender or food processor and blend. Blenders or food processors are usually better choices here as they tend to completely mash the meat to reduce the risk of bits of meat choking the baby. 
  • Your meat puree is ready to be served.
Pictorial description presented below
Bits cut from chicken thigh

Meat cooked on low heat till tender
Sliced carrots added to the already tender meat
Tenderized meat, carrot and meat stock ready to be blended
End product. 

Meats by nature are tasty. Adding a slightly sweet vegetable like carrot further enhances the taste of pureed/mashed meat. 

N.B: Neither salt, pepper or nor sort of seasoning was added. Nutritionists recommend that baby foods be as free from seasonings and spices as possible. 

Sunday 11 March 2018

Mashed/pureed rice and vegetables

Parents of babies who have started eating solids are often at cross-roads of what food options to offer their babies, the challenges are more for nutrition-conscious parents who want to offer the best they can afford to their babies, as well as for parents of picky eaters who need to keep trying new meals to see that which their baby would love. 

Home made baby foods are usually better than store-bought ones for several reasons among which are discussed here. 

Babies do not have to be limited to eating pap alone, babies like all humans love variety.  Sometimes offering a baby a baby-friendly version of what the grown-ups are eating is good. It saves one the stress of preparing an entirely different food for the baby and also introduces the baby's palate to staple foods in the family. 

Rice is a staple food in Nigeria. Most homes eat a rice-based meal at least once a week. Some store-bought baby cereals are also rice-based. Rice is actually not a great food for babies because of it's low content of nutrients needed by babies. Like all such foods, rice can be supplemented with other foods to create a nutrient balance of sorts. The rice described in this article is supplemented with nutrient-dense vegetables. 

To prepare this one needs rice and any variety of vegetables one can get. The more varied the vegetables, the better

Method of Preparation
  • Boil the white rice just the way you do for the entire family but do not add salt. Pediatricians discourage the addition of salt to foods meant for babies below a year old.
  • Thoroughly wash and steam the  vegetables (either using a steamer or spreading over your hot, cooked rice for about 2-5 minutes depending on the type of vegetable). Some vegetables take slightly longer to soften, example carrots and broccoli. 
  • Scoop the softened vegetables and a little rice into your blender or food processor and mash. Or use whatever method of mashing baby food you use. The aim is to achieve a consistency suitable for your baby's age and preference. Older babies can handle not-so smooth consistencies. 
Your baby food is ready. The major difference between this food and a regular vegetable puree is the inclusion of rice. 
N.B: Stew was not added to the baby's version as the stew contained salt and some seasonings believed not to be very suitable for babies. Feel free to add a little stew to yours if your baby is at least 10 months old and/or your stew contains nothing you think the baby cannot handle. 

Vegetables added to the rice meant for the family

The rice and vegetable ready to be mashed
Mashed rice and veggies. Notice the not-so smooth consistency?

Adult version of the rice meal

Click here for more baby meal ideas

Friday 9 March 2018

Weight management; what you may need to know

About 35 percent of Nigerians are said to be overweight. Being overweight or obese is linked to increased mortality and morbidity rates as a result of the diseases linked to obesity.
Our westernized diets and lifestyles, as well as our sedentary jobs, contribute to our weight gain.

 The more money a Nigerian has, the more likely he/she is to be overweight due to several factors.
  1.  He now does less physical activity. He can not only buy a car and trek less, he can pay others to do jobs he hitherto did for himself. The wealthier a Nigerian is, the more likely he is to have maids catering to all his needs and wants. These reduce the level of the person's physical activity. Reduced physical activity means fewer calories will get burnt. 
  2.  The wealthier a Nigerian is, the more unhealthy his diet tends to get. He tends to eat a lot more meat, drink a lot more soft drinks and eat a lot more fast and processed foods.

When these two factors come into play, then chances are very high the individual will be overweight/obese.

Shedding weight is something many people desire but few get to achieve. Some never get to start the process, some start and lose the motivation along the line. Others think shedding weight is like rocket science.
You need to take note of the following if you intend shedding your excess weight.

  1.  Know how much weight you need to shed. You need to define how much of your weight is excess. Calculating your Body Mass Index (BMI) would help you determine how much weight you need to shed.You may need to read this article containing details of how to calculate BMI. 
  2. Decide to shed the excess weight. Shedding weight is a decision, and like most decisions, you need to make up your mind, choose a suitable weight loss plan and choose to stick to your plan.
  3.  Shedding weight does not necessarily need a fancy diet plan with a fancy name. Some diet plans are not sustainable in the long run. While some like the ketogenic diet need good money to be able to stick to as you may need to buy some products not readily available in your area.  Shedding weight could work by just reducing your food portions and increasing your level of physical activity. The aim is to create a deficit in calories so that your body gets to burn the stored fat. Research shows reduced calorie intake alongside increased physical activity can lead to significant weight loss over time.
  4.  Avoid quick fixes. All those "burn 5kg in a month" bla bla bla can help you shed weight fast, but may not be sustainable in the long run. You may work your body so hard that you may end up with cravings that plunge you back to where you started from. Slow and steady is better. If you get a diet/exercise plan that helps you shed 2kg monthly, that could be more sustainable and your body will easily adjust to the new routine.
  5. When you settle for a particular diet plan, you need to be dedicated.  You should be able to devote about 30 minutes each day for about 5 days a week. It needs not be torturous.  You need not register at some fancy gym if you cannot afford it. Some workout apps can serve as a guide. Some tools like a skipping/jump rope can sometimes be of help.
  6. Start physical exercise small and gradually build up the intensity. This ensures you do not overwork your body. Do that which your body can handle. Workouts need not be torturous. Any day your body doesn't feel up to it, chill and make up the next possible time.
  7. You do not need to stick to boring and bland-tasting foods. Eat more fruits and vegetables, less fried and processed foods, cut down on carbohydrate and fats-rich foods. This does not mean you shouldn't eat your jollof rice once in a while, or enjoy your eba and soup. Simply control the portions of carbohydrates-rich foods like rice, garri, and yam. Our soups are usually rich and healthy, take  more soup and less swallow.

You may want to read this article on Shedding excess pregnancy weight

Wednesday 7 March 2018

Homemade Baby Foods; What you need to know

Most pediatricians recommend waiting until a baby is 6 months old to start solid foods, but some say it is possible to start as early as 4 months as long as certain developmental stages have been reached. Basically, complementary feeding should not be introduced before a baby gets to 4 months, and should not be later than 6 months. By 6 months, a baby needs nutrients beyond what breast milk and formula can provide.

Homemade baby foods are usually more healthy and nutritious than store-bought ones. They are a great way to add more nutrients to your baby's diet. Store-bought baby foods tend to lose vitamins and nutrients during processing and a lot of the “yumminess” that can make your baby excited to try new foods and combinations. When you reside in a country where you are not very sure of the quality of food products imported into or produced in the country then you need to be more concerned about offering your baby commercially prepared foods. The Nigerian market is bedeviled with a lot of fake and substandard products that one cannot always be sure if what is being purchased is an original. So the best way to handle the situation especially for babies is to go the homemade way. We have shared some homemade baby food ideas  These homemade recipes are more nutritious than foods that have been sitting on a store shelf. But before you select what to offer your baby, take the following precautions

  1. For fruits used in making purees; buy only fresh, blemish-free fruits. Also, buy those you can be certain have not been preserved with chemicals. We hear stories of using chemicals to preserve fruits like Banana and Pawpaw in Nigeria. As much as possible avoid chemically preserved ones.
  2. For grains like millet, maize, sorghum etc commonly used in preparing pap, or any other cereals or grains;  buy those without weevil and without chemical preservatives.  Chemicals are usually used to preserve these grains. Buying such grains when they are fully in season reduces the chances that they would have been preserved.  When you buy them when they are not in season, chances are high they have been preserved with chemicals.
  3.  Fruits in season should always be preferred. .Most fruits in Nigeria are seasonal.  Not only will you be taking advantage of the season when you prioritize fruits in season, you will be reducing wastage in the economy as well as reducing the chances of offering chemically preserved foods to your baby.
  4. Avoid exotic fruits. The apples, grapes, and strawberries you see on most supermarket shelves are usually imported and most times preserved chemically to survive the distance and climatic conditions in Nigeria. They also lose some nutrients in the process.  We have different fruits in every season so it is best we stick to our local fruit.
  5. Before preparing baby foods, thoroughly wash your hands and also wash the fruit or vegetable you would be using. It is adviced you use salt in washing the fruit and rinse afterwards. 
  6. Do not introduce two different foods for the first time to your baby. Nutritionists and Dieticians recommend you wait at least 2 days after introduction of a new food before trying another one. This is to monitor your baby's reaction to the food.
  7.  Do not add sweeteners like sugar to your baby's food. Bland or sour -tasting foods like pap can be sweetend with sweet fruits if you so desire. Do not also add salt to baby food. Babies' kidneys are believed to be too fragile to handle salt. Babies below one year should not be offered salt in their foods.
  8. Use boiled and cooled water to prepare your baby's foods. Most reliable bottled water brands in Nigeria have fakes in the market so the only water you can be sure of is the one whose source you know and have taken an extra measure to boil and cool.

See Baby meal ideas for homemade baby food suggestion. 

Monday 5 March 2018

Break the Silence: Respectful Maternity Care

Every woman is entitled to respectable maternity care (RMC). It is your right to be treated right. Watch this video and see what RMC entails