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Recommended modification of porridge and mixture to improve nutrient intake in the rural area of Northern Rwanda

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In Rwanda, nutritional problems are increasingly drawing attention, and the National Nutrition Policy focuses on the solutions to reduce the prevalence of malnutrition and to improve household food intake. Since rural Rwandans typically have meals at home and household food intake is known to be affected by their socioeconomic status (SES), care should be taken to ensure that homemade meals are healthy. This study aimed to assess the current nutrient content of porridge and mixture so as to recommend modifications to be made to improve nutrient intake within rural households in Rwanda. A crosssectional study was conducted; anthropometric measurements and one-day weighed food records (WFRs) were collected from 30 participants in four households with different SES in the Musanze district in the Northern Province of Rwanda. The first objective of this study was to compare nutritional status and food intake among households with different SES. The study results indicated that SES did not solely explain the nutritional status of the household members, and co-existence of over-nutrition and undernutrition was observed within the better-off household. Although meal frequency per day and the number of dishes and ingredients were positively related to household SES, rural Rwandans consumed monotonous diets characterized by porridge for breakfast and mixture (a dish boiled some foods together) for lunch and dinner as a whole. These two familiar dishes, porridge and mixture, greatly affected their energy and nutrient intakes. The second objective was to compare energy and nutrient contents in the same dishes with different ingredients and cooking methods. Porridges were made by dissolving mixed flour (maize and sorghum flours) in hot water. The porridge did not contain vitamin A. The energy, protein, and iron contents of the porridge were affected by flour concentration. Thick porridge whose flour concentration is 13% is recommended. Beans and potatoes were popular ingredients of mixture. Beans were major sources of energy, protein, and iron intakes. Contrary to general assumption, roots and tubers were also the major sources of protein and iron intakes among the participants. To cook mixture that is well boiled and contains beans and potatoes is a feasible way to increase energy and nutrient intakes regardless of household SES. In order to provide good vitamin A intake, addition of yellow plantain, palm oil, and/or tomato is recommended. This study presents locally and economically feasible recommendations to make popular dishes more nutritious for rural Rwandans.

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