Incorporating African Traditional Foods Into Your Diet

Written by Rumbidzai Mukori

How can I plan my meals using traditional dishes, so the whole family eats with me?


Traditional foods are key for our health and are commonly referred to as seasonal foods in the western diets. Seasonal diets have been ranked as one of the best ways to boost immunity, improve health and attain your desired goals. This past month, I had the privilege of sharing with a lady from the older generations, about my love for traditional foods and the importance of meal planning. She was truly inspired to say the least, her whole face lit up as I spoke of how the traditional dishes they grew up eating, was the best delicacy anyone could ever ask for. Also how eating more traditional foods is the healthiest diet you could ever follow and the most affordable if you focus on eating more seasonal foods. She was surprised as she spoke of how in our generation, very few people actually enjoy traditional foods, never mind cooking them regularly, making it a challenge for her, as her daughter would cook meals that are not the ones she enjoyed the most, as she would say the traditional foods do not taste nice.


This is one of the complaints that I have heard before, especially since traditional foods have received a lot of skepticism in the years, with people having different opinions.


Challenges such as:

– Not knowing how to prepare them well.

– Time consuming to cook.

– Children not liking the foods.

– Stigmatization based on certain foods, being associated with poverty and in some cases with extreme wealth.


These are all very insightful observations, as I also used to think this way too. Until I realized how nutrient dense or full of nutrients these foods are. Meaning with a small portion, you can get a whole lot of good nutrients that are key for your health and immunity. For example Millet is high in iron, which is key for metabolism, aids weight loss, blood sugar control and prevention of birth defects for pregnant women to name a few. This type of grain, is also one that can be eaten in larger portions as it has 50% less calories than the normal corn mealie meal. Definitely a plus,for those who want a light meal, but still want to enjoy some Sadza.


Also another very interesting observation I have made, is how it makes you feel happier and more relaxed and is not as heavy on digestion as I wake up feeling more energized after this meal.


Here are some simple ways to simplify eating with traditionalfoods:

  1. Mix the small grains with the corn mealie meal, this helps in transition from the corn to small grains.
  2. Make sure you enroll in a class or ask someone who can cook the dishes to teach you. There is nothing as bad as having poorly a cooked dish.
  3. Cook the proteins in bulk, freeze and finish preparing on the day. Example cows intestines can be boiled and packed into small packets, reheated on the day and sauce is added.
  4. Focus on the health benefits of foods and enjoy mixing them into your favorite dishes. Example: mashed potato with pumpkin leaves and spinach. Is an easy way to make the children eat the traditional foods and seasonal vegetables.


Remember when it comes to children, you have the power to determine their palate for healthy foods. There is a lot of evidence that suggests how, starting before birth and continuing throughout development, there are many ways for children to enjoy healthy-foods flavors. As they are transmitted through the amniotic fluid and breast milk. Hence mothers who consume a variety of healthful foods throughout pregnancy and lactation provide their infants with an opportunity to learn to like these flavors. This makes it easier for transition to healthful foods at weaning.


Written by Rumbidzai Mukori (RN), Cert (Health, holistic coach), traditional food advocate. (263)775923563

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