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Chefs: Behind healthy food choices, promoting healthy children

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“In lack or in excess, problems of nutrition always encompass inappropriate choices and practices and nutrition education is an important step in empowering the consumer to make healthy food choices,” says the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

A core of those who help in making the healthy food choices are the chefs; trained professional cooks and tradesmen who are proficient in all aspects of food preparation.

Since 2004, chefs have been celebrated annually on Oct. 20, as International Chefs Day.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the day was created by the late Dr Billy Gallagher, a renowned chef and businessman, who was the president of the South African Chefs Association for 21 years.

Gallagher also became the president of the World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS) in 1996.

Over the years, the World Chefs have partnered with platforms like Nestlé Professional – the company’s business that supplies the food and beverage out-of-home industry – to teach young children the importance of healthy eating through workshops across the globe.

L to R: Chef Nick Maaji, Vice President South West, Association of Professional Chefs Nigeria; Moronke Azeez, Executive Secretary, Lagos State Technical and Vocational Education Board (LASTVEB); Funmi Osineye, Business Manager, Nestlé Professional, Nestlé Nigeria PLC and Chef Eric Mekwuye, Director of Training and Corporate Matters, Association of Professional Chefs Nigeria, at an International Chefs Day event organised by Nestlé Professional, Nestlé Nigeria PLC, on Oct. 20, 2022 in Lagos

Nestlé Professional in Nigeria marked the International Chefs Day 2022 at the new Lagos State Culinary Academy, Ikeja, with students from public and private secondary schools across Lagos.

The event featured training on the importance of healthy eating and lifestyles in line with this year’s International Chef’s Day theme: “Growing a Health Future.”

It was celebrated via a fun-filled educative workshop and practical sessions coordinated by chefs with a hands-on approach for the children.

They created recipes out of fresh food items including vegetables, fruits and preparing healthy dishes during the cooking sessions.

Funmi Osineye, Business Manager, Nestlé Professional, said: “The wellbeing of their children is the fundamental goal for parents and caregivers. It is also an indicator of societal development.

“We are, therefore, committed to working with stakeholders to enhance the wellbeing of generations to come through nutrition education as well as continuous provision of high-quality nutritious food and beverages.

“Today’s event is a platform for continuous engagement to encourage children to be creative with food.”

Osineye acknowledged the Association of Professional Chefs Nigeria (APCN) for consistently partnering Nestlé to achieve the company’s global objective of helping 50 million children live healthier lives by 2030.

“We want to thank the Association of Professional Chefs Nigeria for partnering with us through the years.

“We are also grateful to the administrators of the Lagos State Technical and Vocational Education Board for their collaboration to celebrate Chef’s Day 2022.

“We are delighted to witness the sincere interest in skilling up young people in Lagos State for gainful employment in the hospitality sector,” she added.

Speaking, Paul Okon, National President, Association of Professional Chefs Nigeria (APCN), said: “It has been a great pleasure engaging, educating and enlightening children on healthy eating as we believe this is the foundation for a healthy future.

“We sincerely appreciate the role Nestlé Professional has played over the years, promoting Nigeria’s Food Tourism, supporting capacity development of Chefs and empowering the next generation of Chefs.”

In her comments, Moronke Azeez, Executive Secretary, Lagos State Technical and Vocational Education Board (LASTVEB) said, “We are delighted to be working with Nestlé on this laudable initiative which has been very impactful and a great learning exercise for the children.

“The event is fully aligned with the objective for the recent establishment of the Lagos Culinary Academy aimed at producing professionals for the hospitality and food service industry while equipping students for entrepreneurship and self-employment.”

Speaking on her experience, Chineze, an SS2 student of Ilupeju Senior Secondary School, said she enjoyed the event and learnt some practical meal recipes that she would cook at home.

On the importance of good nutrition, Dr Mekwuye Eric, Director of Training and Corporate Matter, APCN, explained: “It is our first defence against disease and our source of energy to live and be energetic.

“Nutritional challenges caused by an inadequate diet can be diverse, and when they affect a generation of young people, they can reduce their well-being and learning capacities.

“These can compromise their future.”

He said in some instances, they could lead to an inter-generational cycle of malnutrition, which would ultimately have severe consequences on both individuals and nations.

“Good nutrition means your body gets all the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals it needs to work its best.

“Good nutrition helps increase your energy level, improves ability to fight off illness, recover from illnesses and injuries; improves mental, cognitive and physical well-being

“It also reduces the risk of some diseases including heart disease, diabetes, stroke, some cancers, and osteoporosis, high blood pressure as well as helps to lower high cholesterol among others.”

Chef Nick Maaji, Vice President, South West, APCN, giving tips on eating healthy, said: “We know how all over the world we are talking of climate change, flood, drought, environmental pollution.

“So many things affecting our environment and one of the biggest challenges in our environment is food.

“The way it is cultivated, harvested, preserved, distributed, prepared, eaten, all can affect our environment

“So, I encourage us all to eat plenty of fruits. Eat fruits whole rather than as juices; eat a lot of whole grains, take low fat or fat free milk.

“Also take lean meats and poultry as they have less fat and fewer calories. In addition, try other vegetable sources of protein and drink lots of water.”

Concluding, Maaji said with a good chef, there would be healthy persons, families and nation.

“Without good food, you can’t have a healthy future.

“Research shows that if we want to grow a healthy future, we have to eat more of vegetables, fruits, nuts and cut down on our red meat and sugar to about 50 per cent.”

He advised chefs to pass on to the younger generation the need for healthy meal for the future to be healthy for humanity. 

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