Food literacy have been found to increase and improve individuals and groups choices and nutritional behaviors. This has been found to be more prominent in persons with altered nutritional status. Specific areas of improvement include increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, improved home meal planning and preparation skills as well as making better and healthier food choices.
The Bolga East District Health Directorate’s Nutrition Unit as part of its planned activities to promote the consumption of locally available iron-rich foods among pregnant women and children under two years, embarked on a community food demonstration exercise in selected health facilities.
The activity sought to raise awareness on the dietary approach to preventing anaemia in pregnant women and children under five years using the four-star diet approach.
The objectives of this activity were to:
- Provide pregnant, breastfeeding mothers and other caregivers of children under two years with knowledge and information (cognitive) on the four-star diet approach to healthy eating/feeding
- Contribute to influencing attitudes (affective) on the inclusion and consumption of iron-rich foods to aid with the prevention of anaemia among pregnant mothers and children under five years
- Provide manual skills (psychomotor) on healthy meal planning and preparation
These objectives directly informed the overarching aim of the session, which is for participants to recognize the use of local foods as remedy to preventing anaemia, explain the importance of including iron-rich foods in meals and confidently plan and prepare healthy and nutritious meals for their families using locally available food stuff.
The activity adopted a qualitative approach of open group discussions and practical grouping of participants into the four food groups alongside hypothetical meal planning and preparation aim at increasing knowledge and skills on the four-star diet approach to healthy eating.
A total of sixty-nine (69) pregnant and breastfeeding mothers with children below two years of age were reached out to in all the five (5) facilities visited. Each demonstration session lasted averagely 2 to 3 hours. Most sessions started with brief education sessions on anaemia, causes of anaemia, common signs and symptoms and ways to prevent anaemia with emphasis on dietary approach to preventing anaemia.
This was followed with the grouping of participants into the “four-stars” of the food groups with each group task to select food samples that have been displayed on a table that fall under their “star”. Each group subsequently displayed their selected food items for the wider group for confirmation and acceptance in a plenary session. This aspect of the session aimed to ensure that participants understand the food groups and can classify food items into the four-stars. Participants also had the opportunity to plan and prepare a variety of hypothetical dishes using the local food samples that were displayed during the session. This was to ensure that participants get the concept of including every “star” in each meal.
All sessions ended with questions and answers as well as clarifications from participants. Facilitators also re-echoed the need to minimize and if possible, eliminate the intake of alcohol and other caffeinated drinks and beverages. They were encouraged to include more fruits and vegetables in their meals, adequate amounts of iron-rich foods, drink a lot of fluids and keep active.
Some pregnant participants reported being prevented by their elderly mothers in their communities from eating certain foods such as bambara beans and baobab fruits which are good sources of protein and Vitamin C respectively. This, they attributed to cultural beliefs. Breastfeeding mothers also indicated their desire for hands-on cooking demonstration sessions on complementary foods for children at six months and above.
The activity has identified some key areas for future focus with the food demonstration concept. This activity has shown that pregnant women and caregivers of children can meet the macronutrient and micronutrient requirements if they can properly plan and prepare variety of dishes from their locally available foods using the four-star diet approach.
Participants (breastfeeding mothers) also indicated their interest and desire for more culinary skills and recipe ideas for children starting complementary feeding. The Unit would as part of its next steps develop some recipes for complimentary feeding which will be tried out with selected mothers.