Food: Learn to eat the Ugandan way
Encourage school cooks to prepare health lunch within the school bugjet
The school cooks are key for a healthy lunch served from Monday to Friday.
School of Hygiene nutritionists are urging a return to a more traditional and much healthier Uganda diet of brown rice, legumes, whole grain barley or millet, fruits, fresh greens like mustard greens, sweet potato leaves and butternut leaves.
For thousands of years here, nomadic tribes in the dry lowlands raised cattle, goats or sheep, which served as part of the tribes’ food source. Highland crops that were less affected by extreme weather (wheat, barley, millet, sorghum and tubers like yams) slowly became important staples of the Ugandan diet.
The main meal of the day was lunch, traditionally a mixture of vegetables, fruits, legumes, and sometimes meat, which was and remains very expensive. This mixture, called stew, soup or sauce depending on the region, was served over a porridge or mash made from a root vegetable like cassava or a grain such as rice, corn, millet, or teff. In some regions, groundnut paste (peanut butter) was the main ingredient for a high-protein stew.
In Uganda’s growing cities as in many big cities throughout Africa, however, the typical modern diet is now increasingly dependent on meat, as well as on empty calories from pre-packaged or processed foods similar to those found in our own cities.
Dr. Sam Wamimbi, a nutritionist at Bududa Hospital in Mbale, advises that good habits and choices like physical exercise, proper nutrition programmes in schools combined with “good human relationship skills and regular medical check-ups will help Ugandans rediscover good standards of health.”
The new dietary guidelines proposed sound remarkably similar to what we all know is heart-healthy advice for all of us as well:
Main dishes are usually centered on a sauce or stew of groundnuts, beans or meat.
The starch traditionally comes from ugali (maize meal) or matoke (boiled and mashed green banana), in the South, or an ugali made from millet in the North.
Cassava, yam and African sweet potato are also eaten; the more affluent include white (often called “Irish”) potato and rice in their diets.
Soybean was promoted as a healthy food staple in the 1970s and this is also used, especially for breakfast. Chapati, an Asian flatbread, is also part of Ugandan cuisine.
Chicken, fish (usually fresh, but there is also a dried variety, reconstituted for stewing), beef, goat and mutton are all commonly eaten, although among the rural poor there would have to be a good reason for slaughtering a large animal such as a goat or a cow and nyama, (Swahili word for “meat”) would not be eaten every day.
Various leafy greens are grown in Uganda. These may be boiled in the stews, or served as side dishes in fancier homes. Amaranth (dodo), nakati, and borr are examples of regional greens.
Ugali is cooked up into a thick porridge for breakfast. For main meals, white flour is added to the saucepan and stirred into the ugali until the consistency is firm. It is then turned out onto a serving plate and cut into individual slices (or served onto individual plates in the kitchen).
Fruits are plentiful and regularly eaten, as in the Western World, as snacks or dessert. Europeans introduced cake and this is also popular.
Some traditional Uganda food names
Ugali – usually from maize but also other starches, regional names include posho and kwon. Ugandan expatriates make ugali from cornmeal, masa harina or grits
•Groundnut – peanuts are a vital staple and groundnut sauce is probably the most commonly eaten one.
• Sim-sim – sesame – used particularly in the north, roasted sesame paste is mixed into a stew of beans or greens and served as a side dish, sesame paste may be served as a condiment; a candy is made from roasted sesame seeds with sugar or honey.
•Matoke – Mashed plantain that used as opposed to mashed potato. Usually used in a main course.
•roasted groundnuts served in a spill of paper
•samusa (samousa, samosa) — Indian samosas have been completely assimilated into the local cuisine, as have chapati and curry
•mkate na mayai (bread and eggs). Originally an Arab dish, it’s wheat dough spread into a thin pancake, filled with minced meat and raw egg, and then folded into a neat parcel and fried on a hotplate.
•nsenene is an unusual food item: a seasonal delicacy of a type of grasshopper
•nswaa served similarly to nsenene but made of white antUgandan Beverages
Pombe is the generic word for locally made fermented beer, usually from banana or millet. Tonto is a traditional fermented drink made from bananas.
Waragi is the generic term for distilled spirits and these also vary, see for example Uganda Waragi a brand name for clear or yellow gin.
Tea (chai) and coffee (kawa) are popular beverages and important cash crops. These can be served English-style or spiced (chai masala).
Clean Water from the tap but filtered is the way forward.