By Ahmed Rahma
A leading nutrition expert, Prof. Henrietta Nkechi Ene-Obong of the University of Calabar has demanded the inclusion of Nutrition Education in the academic syllabus at nursery, primary and secondary level.
Speaking at a Protein Challenge Webinar themed Bridging the Knowledge Gap, she informed that by educating students about nutrition in school, they can educate their parents at home, curbing the menace of malnutrition, particularly protein malnutrition in Nigeria.
Mrs Ene-Obong said the message about nutrition must be brought to the level of the people across every stratum of the society and where possible, provided in the local languages to help boost nutrition education.
She added that capacity must be developed to bridge the knowledge gap and put such knowledge into action.
The professor, who called for the establishment of Home Economics and Nutrition Extension agents, noted that the agents would function like agricultural extension officers in the nutrition space.
“Home economics and nutrition extension agents would be in the best position to simplify the nutrition message and bring it to the people to bring about the desired outcome in behaviour from the citizenry,” she said.
Commenting on the importance of protein, she said this class of food is made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of the body tissues; hence they are found throughout the body.
Pregnant and lactating women need extra proteins to help in the development of the foetus and milk production, she noted, adding that healthy adults need to consume an average of 0.8g of protein per kilogram of body weight, for individuals with minimal to intense physical activity.
In family meals, it is important that carbohydrates with proteins are mixed, saying, “For example, rice and beans, yam and eggs. We must ensure that infants and young children consume foods from at least four food groups: grains, roots and tubers; legumes and nuts; dairy products; flesh foods and eggs; vitamin A-rich fruits and vegetables (like carrots and sweet potatoes) and other fruits and vegetables.”
Prof Ene-Obong revealed that of all measures designed to stop all forms of malnutrition, the food-based approach is the most cost-effective.
She stated that with adequate nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life and adequate maternal and adolescent nutrition, the nation stands a better chance of curbing the menace of malnutrition. The home economics and nutrition agents will be at the forefront of pursuing this agenda.
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