Healthy Families

Food and Love

January 25, 2020

Food is different things to different people but whatever your definition is, we can agree that we love our food.  Some will prefer their food plain simple whereas others enjoy their food with a gourmet feel and taste to it.  It may be the local or intercontinental cuisine but the bottom line is that food is there to be enjoyed in addition to its main purpose of nourishing our bodies.

Locally, food has been a unifying factor regardless of tribe, political affiliation, and economic status.  This is a clear indication of the power that food has.  A good meal shared translates to love, compassion, and food on its own is also a testament to our emotional level at that specific point.  When feeling low some of us overindulge in food regardless of the food being healthy or not.

Eating together has been shown to improve mental wellness creating an environment of transparency created when sharing a meal.  Additionally, the Mediterranean diet advocates for communal eating as it helps develop an environment of accountability where healthy eating is fostered. Further, it fosters an atmosphere of vulnerability.  Sharing a meal together as a family is part of our food culture that we need to still uphold regardless of the modernization.

The sentimental value attached to food stands out.  Locally, several sayings are attached to it.  One African saying loosely translated as ‘a good child is the stomach’ depicts the picture of what value is placed to that child who eats.  With all the power that food has, it can be abused if not well monitored.   It is the abuse and misuse of this power that has resulted in malnutrition more so undernutrition and obesity.  It is however noted that some people are unable to access the right kind of food.  Majority of those that have accessibility to food, fail to maintain the right portions resulting in overweight and obesity and, obesity-related problems like diabetes and hypertension.

Children, however, are the recent victims of this abuse of power.  According to a 2016 World Health Organization report, it was recorded that 41 million children under 5 years were overweight and obese globally.  Narrowing it down to Africa, the number of children under 5 years who were overweight had increased by nearly 50% since 2000.  This issue if not strategically tackled will result in the ballooned population of people with Non-Communicable Diseases.

A major cause of obesity is children is a change in the food culture.  In years past we looked forward to having a taste of our mothers’ cooking.  We rushed home full of joy would looking forward to a home-made meal and quality family time over a home-made meal.  Today, take-outs are considered convenient and made even easier by the several delivery apps that are just a click away.

Furthermore, rewarding our children has moved from healthy snacks to junk food.  The mushrooming of fast food joints at every corner is making things worse.  As the Swahili adage goes ‘mwacha mila ni mtumwa’.  We have foregone our culture and this is evident as we are entrapped in a culture that is detrimental to our health.

We need to get back to our roots where a home-made meal truly signified love and effort.  We also need to reward our kids the right way.  Teaching them about healthy eating and snacking from a family level is vital in ensuring the right upbringing and also to reduce the disease burden associated with an unhealthy lifestyle.

Food for our children does not have to be plain boring for it to be healthy.  It can be healthy and tasty and better yet colorful from all the fruits and vegetables that one can get their hands on.  If we need to save today’s and tomorrow’s leader, it is vital to feed them well.  We need to get it right and this is by ensuring that the food available is not only safe but healthy.

Today we pose a challenge, get one of those healthy recipes you have been putting away and prepare for your loved ones.  It could be ugali with some veggies, mukimo, mixed berry homemade yogurt, or even mango with salt and chili powder. Let us redefine the status of food when it comes to showing love through healthy eating.  Blow away your loved ones with nothing but pure love from a home-made meal.