Mother, Infant and Young Child Nutrition & Malnutrition Mother, Infant and Young Child Nutrition & Malnutrition - Feeding practices including micronutrient deficiencies prevention, control of wasting, stunting and underweight
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Home  »  Healthy Nutrition  »  About Healthy Nutrition  »  Preparing balanced Meals  »  Preparing

About Healthy Nutrition

Preparing Balanced Meals


Hygiene in the kitchen
Keep all food preparation surfaces clean. Use clean dishes and utensils to store, prepare, serve and eat food.

Use a different knife and chopping board for raw meat and fish and another for other foods. Wooden chopping boards are more germ-resistant than plastic ones. Always ensure that chopping boards are washed carefully after each use.

Use safe clean water from protected sources to wash fruit and vegetables. If the water is not from a protected source, it should be boiled for ten minutes or filtered.

Keep rubbish in a covered bin and empty regularly.

Clean the refrigerator regularly with a diluted bleach solution and mop up any spills immediately.

Personal hygiene
Wash your hands, preferably with soap and water before handling the food and cover all wounds to prevent contamination of food during preparation and handling.

Avoid sneezing or coughing on food or scratching your skin when cooking.

Food preparation
The way we cook our food is very important. If we follow simple, careful methods we can get the most from our food, On the other hand, if we overcook our food or blend it or use baking soda we will destroy most of the goodness in the food. Easily available, delicious traditional ingredients can be made simply into tasty healthy food.

When cooking, try to avoid:

  • Undercooking, especially meat, eggs and beans
  • Overcooking, especially vegetables
  • Adding too much salt, sugar or spices
  • Leaving food to get cold before eating it
  • Reheating food that has been cooked before

Remember that vitamins and minerals are damaged when:

  • Left in the sun or heat, air or water
  • Mixed with baking powder
  • Food is cut up into small pieces or blended
  • Food is reheated or left standing after cooking
  • You drink tea / coffee with food as this interferes with iron absorption in the body


Eating raw fruit and vegetables means that you get more vitamins and minerals and you save fuel. Raw vegetables such as carrots, cucumber and tomatoes or raw fruits make excellent snacks between meals. Raw vegetables can be served as salads with meals. Herbs such as parsley, mint, lemon grass, fennel and dill and sliced spices such as ginger and garlic may be added to salads.

Wash salads carefully but never soak vegetables for long periods as you may loose all the water-soluble vitamins such as B and C.

Cooking leafy green vegetables
When cooking leafy vegetables, tear the leaves into pieces rather than cutting them with a knife. This preserves their vitamin C content.

Do not use bicarbonate of soda when cooking green vegetables, as this destroys vitamins.

If you do cook vegetables, use a small amount of water to steam the food rather than boiling it. If you boil the food, add the drained water to stews and sauces.

The healthiest way of cooking spinach is by steaming the leaves on a sieve over rapidly boiling water so that the steam cooks the leaves. Keep stirring the leaves with a wooden spoon so that they all become exposed to the steam. The spinach should be cooked in about five minutes.

Try stir-frying vegetables for a few minutes in a little oil as this helps to absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K.

The less time you cook vegetables, the more nutrients you will preserve.

Note: Cabbage does not contain as many vitamins and minerals as other dark green vegetables. It requires a lot of fertilisers and pesticides to grow and takes up a lot of space in gardens. Cabbage leaves should not be picked until the vegetable is mature, when the whole plant is harvested.

For more info, check: Boiling time for different types of vegetables

Cooking beans
Many different types of beans are grown and eaten including sugar beans, cow peas, pigeon peas, soya beans and dried groundnuts.

Beans can cause gas and bloating. They take a long time to cook and use a lot of fuel to cook.

Best ways of cooking beans include:

  • Soaking beans overnight before cooking to reduce gas and cooking time
  • Skimming off the foam produced by the beans during cooking to prevent gas and bloating This can be done with a spoon
  • Using a pressure cooker or a hot box cooker [ making a hot box cooker ] to save fuel and the time you spend watching the food cook

Cooking meat, poultry and fish
It is advisable to cut off the fat from all types of meat as fat is a notorious store for chemicals and pesticides.

Do not serve anything with raw or lightly cooked eggs to children, elderly and anyone with an impaired immune system because of the risk of salmonella.

Poultry and meat should always be cooked through to avoid risk of food poisoning. Barbecued food can be unhealthy. Food tends to char on the outside and remain undercooked on the inside, which can cause food poisoning.

Stuffing should be cooked outside the poultry because bacteria from the raw meat may survive when it is cooked inside.

Fish is best grilled lightly so that it becomes tender but not raw. Fresh sea-foods should be steamed gently in as little water as possible until they are thoroughly cooked.

14 September, 2019

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