Haitian Nutrition Lesson: The Eat Well Plate

As necessary and purposeful as our Medika Mamba product is, once children graduate the program and go back to regular food, nothing replaces fresh garden vegetables, grass fed chicken eggs, home raised goat and cow for meat, and Haitian grown grains of rice. The essentials of a full and naturally fortified diet surround the people of Haiti-but as nutrition nurses, the MFK team knows the challenges of balancing plates with equal parts of the essential food groups.

The eat well plate is a big tapestry showing the three main food groups that we encourage our Haitian moms to focus on here in Haiti.

Group 1 — Yellow

The yellow food group includes all of our carbohydrates. This group is for energy and force! Giving you the proper amount of calories to be able to do all the necessary activities of daily living. We include rice, pasta, cornflakes, bread, and sweet potato. All very popular foods here in Haiti. This group also includes “bonbons” the french word for cookies or biscuits.

Group 2 — Green

Any foods that are the colors of the rainbow are rich with vitamins and minerals and are in the green group. We talk about all the available fruit and vegetables here in Haiti: pineapple, mangoes, avocados, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, eggplant, onions, beets, etc.
These foods present several challenges. They are more costly than a plate of plain white rice. They don’t fill your belly up as quickly. They need to be purchased frequently, as there is often no cold storage to keep them fresh and away from bugs.

Our education for this food group emphasizes how these foods give you protection. “When a sickness tries to enter your body you will have a greater ability to keep the sickness out if you are eating these fruits and vegetables!”

One of our nurse educators, Rose Carline, will lift up a plastic fruit from our box of pretend foods and ask the women where do we put the pineapple? They respond in unison “Vert!” (green). She asks “Pou ki sa?” (why?) and in unison again, “pou pwtoteksyon!” (for protection!

Group 3 — Red

All of our foods that are rich in protein are included in this group. Meats, fish, eggs, and of course you can’t have a plate of rice in Haiti without it mixed with beans. Red beans, white beans, black beans, green beans!

“Esaye manje bagay ki gen pwoteyin de fwa pa jou” (Try and eat things with protein two times each day.

Our focus for the third food group is that you need protein in your daily diet to repair your body if you injure yourself and also to help you build up a healthy body. “Construction and Repair”
We talk about some of the common injuries the little toddlers get. Cuts and scrapes are seen in every part of the world for the “terrible two’s stage”, however the malnourished child takes longer to heal, especially if their access to clean water and bandages is minimal.

In the battle against malnutrition, infection, and injury, MFK’s weapon is a healthy diet!

After we do some teaching with the three food groups, a big round of applause always follows our willing volunteers as they place our pretend foods out of the box and onto the great big eat well plate. The colors of the foods, the tapestry, and the Haitian cloths is always a brilliant display.

Once we feel the group is gaining understanding of these groups we hand out plates and ask the women to pick out the foods they will eat for dinner tonight. This hands-on activity directly translates to understanding the balanced meal that they and their children need to be consuming every day.