Nutrition Cluster Advisory #1 in its 6th message enjoins local governments to lead its constituents not just in healthy eating in general but also limiting the intake of sugary, salty and fatty foods.
Eating a well-balanced and nutritious meals and snacks especially during emergencies could indeed be a challenge for most households. This is so because emergencies usually limit food choices of families. Either the food is available in the market but physical access by people is reduced or food supply is itself inadequate, in quantity or quality or both.
For the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there is food in the market but physically inaccessible to most people due to the imposed enhanced community quarantine and most families staying at home. Food rations are resorted to by LGUS to help ensure social distancing in otherwise crowded public markets and groceries. With the Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic, families are also stocking up on non-perishable and ready-to-eat foods, usually processed and packed with sodium-containing preservatives. They also contain high levels of sugar or sometimes fat, all ingredients blamed for the increasing communicable diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and hypertension.
Thus, the National Nutrition Council in partnership with the interagency National Nutrition Cluster reminds local government units to limit giving of foods high in salt, sugar and fat. Should this be not possible, LGUs are advised to enhance the nutrient density of the food packs by adding vegetables and fruits produced by the local farmers. This strategy has actually worked with several LGUs now adding vegetables in their food packs while also trying to help small farmers earn income.
The following food items have been recommended by the Nutrition Cluster to the LGUs to enhance the nutrient variety and quality of food packs and reduce intake of too much sodium, fat and sugar:
- Vegetables such as dark green, dark yellow vegetables like squash, carrots, tomatoes, malunggay, pechay, mustard, kangkong, alugbati are good sources of dietary fiber as well Beta carotene (vitamin A), Vitamin C as well as other micronutrients.
- Nuts and seeds such as peanuts, monggo, kadyos, patani and other dried beans are good sources of protein and healthy fats.
- Cereals and root crops provide good sources of energy. This includes unpolished rice and rootcrops like sweet potato, gabi and cassava.
- Fruits such as banana, papaya, guava, siniguelas, watermelon, mangoes, star apple and guyabano are rich sources of fiber, vitamin A and C and potassium
- Milk and products are rich sources of protein and calcium and a good source of phosphorus B-vitamins and Vitamin A and D, necessary for strong bones and teeth.
- Meat, fish and poultry (fresh or processed) such as tuna and sardines, corned beef are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and minerals to boost the immune system.
- Fortified food products such as iodized salt, and noodles and snacks with Saktong Iodine Sa Asin (SISA) and Sangkap Pinoy
To combat COVID-19, the LGUs indeed play a big role in promoting and protecting proper nutrition especially among families with nutritionally vulnerable members. But just as LGUs are responsible for these support service, so each of the families’ role equally important in practicing healthy lifestyle and stopping transmission of COVID-19 virus.
In this time of emergency, LGUs, and communities should help one another and work as one!
(April Jasmine May C. Ducusin)