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How our diets have changed after the recent health scares



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It’s the era of fad diets, self-proclaimed social media diet experts, media scares and contradictory medical advice.

These messages have bred suspicion, obsession, and paranoia — not to mention guilt. Four women share their tales of surviving in these food-maze times.

The past few weeks have been alarming yet enlightening.

It started with the meat exposé on NTV, then came cancer scares, and boom! Everywhere we turned we were bombarded with information on what we are doing wrong and enough remedies to send us to hell and back.

‘What is in your plate? How healthy and balanced is it? Could we be slowly poisoning ourselves to death with what we consume and where we shop?’ the news and social media flogged the story.

It left us scared and overwhelmed. Understandably so. As women, we are the ones who make the food choices in our houses; we carefully craft those food timetables and ensure our shelves are stocked with supplies.

We also carry life and nurse it for the future. We want to be alive to see our great-grandchildren and ensure the survival of the species.

So, it’s no wonder we tend to watch our diets and are keen on what is in our plates.

Now more than ever, we feel the urgent need to watch what we eat. “This is a cue to go back to the drawing board and make some adjustments,” a local nutritionist recently said on air.

So, how has the recent food scares changed the narrative for us women? We spoke to four women to tell us how they are adjusting to the many messages.

Felicity Kawira, 30s, mother of three, businesswoman

“As the red meat alert story unravelled, I watched with utter disgust and fear. I was afraid that I had been feeding my husband and three children with poison.

‘But mum, you do not buy your meat from the supermarket, right?’ One of my children tried to cheer me up.

As a family, we loved red meat. I used to buy at least three kilograms of meat every week. That revelation changed our perspective on red meat.

healthy living

Felicity Kawira. She only buys vegetables on market days when there are different sellers to choose from. PHOTO | COURTESY

Now, we only eat pork once a week. I only use one supplier who brings meat from the village. If he does not deliver, we wait for the following week.

Before I made the decision, I explained to my children about the dangers of eating such meat.

Only then did they understand why meat was missing on their plates. I recently went for grocery shopping with one of my friends and she wondered why I was fussy on the choice of vegetables.

I am cautious about everything. If the spinach is too appealing or large-leafed, that is a red flag.

Moreover, I only buy vegetables on market days when there are different sellers to choose from.

When I cut on the red meat, I thought of white meat as an alternative. That changed too. I ordered some fish and ugali in a restaurant in town and it turned out to be tasteless and tough.

‘Could this be dangerous as well?’ I wondered. ‘Am I being paranoid?’ I quizzed myself. I did not go beyond a few bites.

The recent happenings have enabled me to reconnect with my profession. I am a non-practicing trained nurse and I can relate some conditions with our food choices.

I now substitute animal protein with cereals and legumes. ‘Why did I opt for meat in the first place?’ you may ask.

Meat is easily available, cooks fast and tastier. Sometimes, you get home so tired that you don’t have the energy and zeal to boil things. Unfortunately, there are few trustworthy vendors.”

Lechy Nyambura, 30, single mother of one, insurance sales executive

“When I became a mother, I told myself, ‘You need to start eating a balanced diet.’ Before the baby, I mostly survived on fast foods because they are easily available and affordable.

But it’s only after the health scares that I took my diet seriously. You see after work, I would pass by a fast food restaurant, order for chicken, salad and prepare some rice and fruits pudding at home. That is a balanced diet, right?


Lechy Nyambura. She cut down on hot tea after chancing upon an article saying that it may raise oesophageal cancer risk. PHOTO | COURTESY

I have now started asking a lot of questions about what I eat. ‘Is this oil OK to cook with? ‘ ‘Should I eat white or brown bread? ‘

I have also been researching a lot. Recently, I cut down on hot tea after I chanced upon an article saying that it may raise oesophageal cancer risk.

‘You are becoming too paranoid,’ some of my friends say. ‘I am just being careful. ‘

For breakfast, I now eat organically-grown foods such as sweet potatoes and arrowroots.”

Mika Alahya, 30s, fashion stylist and model, mother of two

“For a long time, I have been trying to talk to my parents about healthy eating. I live at home. I get vegetables straight from the garden and make smoothies.

‘You are only conscious of your food choices because you work out. ‘ That’s what they used to say.

When the story about red meat broke, I was like, ‘See, this is what I have been talking about all along. This!”

Now, we are taking better care of our kitchen garden. We have planted sukuma wiki, tomatoes, spinach, and onions.

Should we need to eat meat, we buy chicken from our neighbours and we recently started rearing some.

Having been brought up in the city, I used to wonder why some of my university classmates were so particular about their food choices.

I think associating with them enabled me to understand the various benefits of eating healthy meals. ‘I leased a small garden where I have planted vegetables.’

Another wake-up call for me was when I watched TV anchor Janet Ikua talk about how she was managing cancer through diet.

‘You eat healthy food then someone sells you toxic fruits. What’s the point then?’ some people ask.

I believe in taking the necessary measures and avoiding what I can especially with my two children.

Maybe, if we all started small kitchen gardens, large-scale farmers will stop using the chemicals. It is a battle that we all have to participate in.”

Brenda Wamoto, 27, single, student

“Three days ago, I got home hungry and decided to get a cupcake before making lunch. I am now nursing a running stomach.

I love junk food – pizza, fries and fried chicken. I have always known that too much junk food is dangerous, but I did not have the will to stop.

‘Whoa! This is serious. I got to do something.’

This was after listening to yet another nutritionist talk about healthy eating. The deaths of the three prominent leaders were such a scare. And the different theories on food choices made it worse.

My red meat intake was the first to reduce. I could walk into a butchery with the intent of buying meat and just go back home.

‘That meat is too appealing.’ ‘How come there are no flies even?’

So, I’m now big on white meat and I prefer buying a chicken that is slaughtered in my presence. I prefer Kienyeji chicken.

When it comes to fruits, I had figured it out. I have one supplier that I buy from – melons and pineapples.

Yesterday, I read about the “Toxic River” story, but I think I’m safe because I drink only boiled water.

But, there is a lot of misguiding information out here. I can research on Google and other search engines but what about those who don’t have access to the internet? A big gap to healthy eating exists.

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