With the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) announcement of over 90 per cent of the Nigerian population being malnourished as they do not have access to a healthy diet, a clinical nutritionist has revealed low-cost healthy alternatives Nigerians can afford for a healthy diet.
A healthy diet is a meal that provides the body with essential nutrition: fluid, macronutrients such as protein, micronutrients such as vitamins, and adequate fibre and food energy.
In this interview with THE WHISTLER, Funmilola Ijewola, a clinical nutritionist with the Lagos State Hospital said although it is difficult to afford a healthy diet with the current economic woes in the country, one can still afford a nutritious food.
“Affording a healthy diet is possible, although it might not be so easy again, compared to previous years when it was way easy, where we have people with higher purchasing power or because they are financially free. With the increment of petrol affecting transportation, rise in inflation reflecting the prices of goods, so many food items have been affected. This means affordability of people’s choice of food has been affected because of cost” Ijewola said.
In the last ten months ending October 2023, the country’s inflation has been on a consecutive surge with the latest report by the National Bureau of Statistics indicating that the country’s inflation stood at over 27.33 per cent the highest since the inception of democracy.
The NBS attributed the surge to the removal of the petrol subsidy and the depreciation of the official exchange rate on consumer prices.
However, Ijewole said, a person can still afford a healthy diet.
She said, “The idea is to look for other food groups that will compensate for what you can’t afford. If you know the nutrient composition of a particular food, then no food is not optionable, but we are trying to consider the cost. So, at this point, knowledge and food diversification is important now”.
Explaining further Ijewola said, “If you cannot afford frozen fish, chicken or meat (beef), because it’s very expensive, I can still encourage you to go for the less affordable nutrients options like Kpanla fish, shawa fish, crayfish, eggs which can still provide you with the needed amount of protein.
“Also, soybeans can be converted into soya milk and Tofu. Tofu which is popularly known as awara can be used as meat a source of protein for some people. Now with this idea, a person could be able to meet not maximum, not optimum but at least minimum dietary, which is the better alternative that can provide the required nutrients.
“Now the root and tubers we have yam although expensive can be substituted for, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, cocoyam, and the cereals we have rice, sorghum, and maize, for the legumes we have soybeans, beans, and green peas.
“Where tomatoes and pepper are expensive you can make garden egg sauce (garden eggs with pepper, crayfish and onions will get me a good sauce compared to frying six eggs for sauce, with the current price of tomatoes)”.
Explaining how food can be substituted and given the required nutrients, Ijewola said, “A healthy diet is not about eating expensive. The diet is about eating the right quantity and the right quality of food. If I’m eating rice with chicken and salad and you decide to eat yours with tofu and cucumber, you are eating healthy just because it is less expensive compared to chicken and salad.
“Subsequently, for fruits and vegetables, I can get a sliced watermelon, sweet melon, orange, pawpaw. Now even if a child gets one orange, the aim is to introduce vitamin C to the body, even if it is little.
“So, at times like this, we encourage home gardening. Although it is not an immediate solution, it might be something that will help in the future. So, tomato, pepper, or your vegetable. But to be truthful, it is not easy to afford a healthy diet but it can be achieved. You just have to look for the other food groups that are lower in price for you to substitute for.”
She added. “A person can earn well and not have a healthy diet and vice versa, You might be eating expensive but consuming the wrong type of food, and that will not make you healthy, this is not to say that having a low source of income does not affect a healthy diet, but it does not stop a person from eating healthy if they know the right food to eat.”
High Food Prices: Expert Recommends Low-Cost Alternative For A Healthy Diet is first published on The Whistler Newspaper