In the summer of 2007, I spent 10 weeks in Uganda, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, as part of a program called “Mission East-West”. I was there to work with a host family and learn about their culture and what it was like to live in the parts of the world where I had not been born.
It’s been a long time since I last blogged and I am incredibly happy to be doing so. I have some exciting things coming up and many of them involve taking a break from my full-time job as a writer and teacher. I will be taking a much-anticipated holiday in Uganda and am very excited for this.
It’s been a few months since I returned to the U.S., and already I’m on a new diet.
I asked a lady in a hamlet outside of Jinja, Uganda, whether many people died of cancer during our discussion. She came to a halt and glanced at me with a puzzled face.
Cancer was something she’d never heard of before. She stated that AIDS, malaria, TB, and typhoid plagued her friends and family.
With an average life expectancy of 45 years, it’s difficult to say if Ugandan dietary patterns will contribute to optimum health in the future. We do know, however, that Ugandans are free of many of the chronic, lifestyle-related illnesses that plague North Americans. And the majority of them aren’t overweight.
So, when in Uganda, I noticed a few aspects regarding food and lifestyle:
Ugandans like to keep things simple.
Ugandans consume approximately ten different cuisines on a regular basis. They don’t import a wide range of other foods. Furthermore, the majority of purchasing is done at outdoor markets where local farmers sell their wares.
In fact, that’s very much how I eat in the United States. I simply have to overlook the 39,980 other food choices on store shelves, as well as food lobbyists, dishonest nutritionists, and misleading food advertising.
Peas, sweet potato, and greens are a typical Ugandan dish.
Ugandans eat two or three times a day.
This seemed to be pretty typical. They don’t eat little, frequent meals around here. Every day, 2 or 3 squares are consumed.
In between, they work, look after their families, farm, stroll, shop, and prepare the next meal.
Ugandans do not obsessively read nutrition information.
When I was in Uganda, I didn’t notice any strange diet publications or meal plans, and they don’t seem to be swamped by contradictory nutritional recommendations.
Actually, kids get almost all of their nutrition and dietary knowledge from their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.
Ugandans aren’t big on trendy diets.
In Uganda, I don’t believe fad diets exist. Even if they did, obtaining the diet’s associated fad foods would be very difficult. I didn’t notice any diet programs displayed outside the cabins over the charcoal cooking area.
Ugandans eat genuine, delicious meals.
Ugandans become thrilled when it’s time to dine.
They love preparing meals and are hungry when it is time to eat. When another round of rice and beans is given, they don’t scowl or protest. They are just looking forward to eating.
Beans with rice
Ugandans prepare their meals at home.
I’m not sure whether it’s a flavor issue or a hygienic one (or both), but in Uganda, most of the food is prepared. Large salads and raw vegetable platters aren’t popular.
Ugandans place a premium on non-food items.
In Uganda, I didn’t encounter anybody who was concerned about meal time, macronutrient ratios, calorie counts, or body image. They ate when it was mealtime. They were doing something else when it wasn’t.
Ugandans purchase food produced in their own backyards.
They consume fruits and vegetables produced just down the block or around the corner.
There will be no apples from New Zealand.
There will be no berries from California.
Cucumbers from Canada are not available.
jackfruit from the area
Ugandans enjoy their meals with their families and friends.
Ugandans do not drive to work in the morning with one hand on the steering wheel and the other on the Pancake/Sausage Stick. Each meal is a meal in and of itself. It’s eaten with family and friends around a table.
Ugandans do not consume a lot of processed foods.
Chips and crackers are not available in outdoor markets. In Uganda, if you want processed food, you have to make it yourself at home.
Ugandans consume tea and water.
There are no sport waters or venti coffees available. It’ll be well water and maybe a cup of tea. That’s all there is to it in terms of beverage options.
Ugandans are not fast food eaters.
In Uganda, I didn’t see a single fast food establishment. Street sellers were the only kind of “fast food” I saw. There were two choices for street sellers. Corn on the cob cooked over an open fire with a Rolex watch. A rolex is a chapati (flatbread) with eggs, cabbage, and tomatoes stuffed within.
Ugandans are in charge of moving it.
Ugandans take the bus or walk to work.
Ugandans take their children to school on foot.
Ugandans go to the market on foot.
Ugandans cultivate their land.
Ugandans ride bicycles.
Ugandans must walk for water.
Ugandans love to dance.
Ugandans wash their clothing by hand.
Ugandans take a stroll to a friend’s home.
You get my drift.
Dance party in Uganda
Ugandans don’t eat a lot of dairy or meat.
Dairy is a scarce commodity. Meat is as well. They’re referred to as “special occasion meals.” Every week, maybe one ounce or two, but not in the daily meal rotation. Dairy and meat are much less frequent than eggs.
Ugandans have access to social services.
I’m not referring about support groups for those who are trying to lose weight. Ugandans, on the other hand, just consume nutritious, whole meals. It’s what they’re good at. Many nights of the week, Ugandans eat posho and beans for supper.
To give you an idea, eating a fully plant-based diet was quite typical there. I didn’t receive any odd looks or questions about how I survived without burgers or whether I was weak from a lack of protein. Because that’s what other people do, healthy eating has become the standard. Mom, dad, grandmother, and sister taught them how to eat in this manner.
So, consider these suggestions for what they are worth. Although I am not an expert in Ugandan nutrition, observing ethnic eating patterns may offer us with suggestions to aid our own nutrition efforts.
See here for additional information about my journey to Africa:
v http://www.precisionnutrition.com/members/showthread.php?t=23416 v http://www.precisionnutrition.com/members/showthread.php?t=23416 v http://www.pre
When I was in Uganda last summer, I was introduced to several of the most simple, yet effective, Ugandan traditions that I have been looking to incorporate into my daily routine ever since. The first tradition I came across was the idea of playing the Ugandan game of throwing small stones onto a bed of soft soil. The game is very relaxing, but requires one to consciously balance the stones on top of one another, so it’s no surprise that it was passed down from generation to generation.. Read more about cdc uganda and let us know what you think.
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