Menu planning can be a daunting task, even for parents who enjoy cooking and have the time, when the kids are in one of those phases where they will only eat one thing—which is often unhealthy.
A nongovernment organization officer, whose group caters to children suffering from malnutrition, knows this problem too well.
“Majority of the families that we work with scavenge to make a living. One of the things that we work on with parents and guardians is convincing them to move away from junk food and street food. It can be difficult because these types of food are more affordable, compared to meat, fruits, and vegetables,” shared Eva Blomqvist, chief operating officer of Children’s Mission Philippines.
She currently oversees the group’s Community Nutrition Program in Rizal.
To help parents with their children’s eating habits, Blomqvist shares tried and tested tips on encouraging school-aged kids to choose healthier food, as well as be more mindful about the role of good nutrition and proper hygiene.
CMP uses materials from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, and tells stories to kids aged four to six years old to illustrate the effects of malnutrition, such as feeling sluggish and sickly. The group also conducts individual and group nutrition education sessions with children and their parents or guardians.
Through storytelling, CMP helps make researchers and medical professionals’ advice more accessible to both kids and parents.
Blomqvist said that they encourage parents and children to make meal preparation a shared activity. CMP does market-to-table immersions with kids and parents, shopping with them, advising them on how to make healthy and budget-friendly selections, and teaching them how to cook nutritious meals.
“For us, meal preparation is an opportunity to introduce lifelong habits, teach kids how to be more independent, and help them appreciate what a balanced meal entails,” she said.
Blomqvist added, “It’s also about helping them unlearn certain habits or beliefs. When we talked to parents, they told us about how they are considered poor when they buy fruits and vegetables. Through our nutrition education sessions, we help them turn fruits, vegetables, and meat into fun meals and special treats, so we can help them move away from that mindset.”
When it comes to making daily meals more interesting, variety in terms of shapes and colors can make it easier for parents to introduce new food items to their kids, said Blomqvist. They also teach parents and kids recipes that make fruits and vegetables more fun to consume, such as making ice cream out of mangoes, turning kamote tops into juice, and incorporating monggo beans into burger patties.
Take note of proper hygiene and gut nutrition
The NGO officer shared the group gives the kids in the Community Nutrition Program probiotics to help improve their digestive system. They also teach the parents how to boil water and how to use water cleaning tablets.
They also teach the kids about proper hygiene, encouraging them to bathe and wash their hands before they prepare food and before they eat. They help kids maintain oral health by giving out hygiene kits and fluoride, in addition to encouraging them to visit the organization’s resident dentist once a month.
Create a healthy home
Beyond preparing fun, healthy meals, CMP aims to promote a more holistic view of health and wellness. They educate the parents on family planning, how to keep their surroundings clean and orderly, and how to grow and maintain a backyard or indoor garden. They also educate the families on women’s and children’s rights. Lastly, they help parents achieve economic stability through skills training programs, which they conduct in partnership with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
To drive greater support for CMP’s Community Nutrition Program, the group has linked up with United for Healthier Kids, an advocacy program led by Nestlé Philippines, to help schoolchildren combat malnutrition.
Interested parties can donate on www.cmp.ph/donate. Those who would like to volunteer may contact Eva Blomqvist at [email protected] or at 0917-8156896.
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