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Recipes for a bright start: Healthy meals for Guatemala's children

Guatemala, May 30, 2014

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  • Photo: Sean Sheridan for Mercy Corps

In Mercy Corps’ PROCOMIDA demonstration kitchen in rural Guatemala, mothers watch attentively as pots and pans sizzle in front of them. They’re learning how to provide their children with the nutrients they need to grow up healthy and strong.

Curious what they’re cooking? Try some of the recipes for yourself.

Guatemala has the fourth highest rate of child malnutrition in the world. Half of its children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition, which can have lifelong consequences on development.

In rural regions, families live in extreme poverty, and recurring natural disasters like earthquakes and drought regularly threaten the crops they depend on for food and income. Under these insecure conditions, finding enough to eat is a daily struggle, and young children are especially at risk of not receiving the nutrition they need to grow.

Our PROCOMIDA program operates in the most at-risk regions in Guatemala, providing mothers with children under the age of two, the most critical stage of development, with food rations like beans, rice, oil and corn-soy flour and educational lessons on nutrition, food handling and household sanitation to help improve their overall health and nutrition.

READ MORE: Fresher food, better nutrition, happier families

Monthly cooking classes teach them how to best use their rations, along with local produce, to prepare balanced meals for their families. Each recipe they learn is tailored to age and specific nutritional needs, ensuring each child gets the nutrients they need to be healthy, happy and ready for a bright future.

Beans, banana and potato puree

(For infants 6 to 8 months old)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon beans, cooked and mashed
  • 1/4 small banana, or 1 tablespoon yellow squash or carrot
  • 1 small potato
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup water

Preparation:

  • Wash the potato and place it in a small pot with 1/2 cup of boiling water. Cook until soft, then peel and mash.
  • Mash on tablespoon of cooked beans together with the banana.
  • On a small plate, combine the mashed potato and bean/banana mixture until puree consistency is reached.
  • Add vegetable oil and mix again.

Each serving of beans, banana and potato puree provides 79 kilocalories; 7.6 grams of fat; 1.3 grams of protein; 7.6 grams of carbohydrates; essential minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, sodium, zinc, phosphorus and potassium; and vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B6.

Potage with herbs, beans and corn-soy flour

(For babies 9 to 11 months old)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon cooked beans
  • Small bundle green herbs
  • 1 tablespoon corn-soy flour (or cornmeal)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • Salt to taste

Preparation:

  • In small pot, dissolve corn-soy flour (or cornmeal) in 1/4 cup water and boil for approximately 3 minutes.
  • Wash herbs, separating leaves from stems. Place herbs in a small pan with 1/2 cup water and simmer for approximately 5 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, mash 1 tablespoon of cooked beans with 1 tablespoon of cooked herbs and 1 tablespoon of cooked corn-soy flour (or cornmeal). Mix well.
  • Add oil and mix again.

Each serving of potage with herbs, beans and corn-soy flour provides 91 kilocalories; 5.5 grams of fat; 2.8 grams of protein; 8.4 grams of carbohydrates; essential minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, iodine, sodium, zinc, phosphorous and potassium; and vitamins A, D, C, E, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12 and folic acid.

Pinto Rice

(For children 12 to 24 months old)

Ingredients:

  • 1 small onion
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1 medium bell pepper
  • 2 sprigs cilantro
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 pound rice
  • 1 cup cooked pinto beans
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
  • Salt to taste

Preparation:

  • Wash and chop onion, tomato, bell pepper and two gloves of garlic.
  • In medium pan, heat oil, add rice, chopped onion, tomato, bell pepper and garlic.
  • Sautee, stirring rice until it turns golden. Add 2 cups of water and simmer for approximately 20 minutes, until rice is soft.
  • Boil 2 eggs in 1 cup water until the eggs are hard. Peel and chop.
  • In a small bowl, combine cooked pinto beans, rice mixture, eggs and chopped cilantro. Mix well.

Each serving of pinto rice provides 339 kilocalories; 8.6 grams of fat; 10.9 grams of protein; 54 grams of carbohydrates; essential minerals calcium, phosphorous, iron, magnesium, sodium, potassium and zinc; and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, C, D and folic acid.

One meal at a time, PROCOMIDA is helping feed the most vulnerable children today — and giving their mothers the knowledge they need to support them for the rest of their lives.