By Akeem Busari
The final sessions in the series of online lectures organized by Ekiti State Football Association aimed at improving the knowledge of coaches, players and stakeholders on the needs for proper health and nutrition, was concluded Sunday evening.
The lectures themed: ‘Nutrition for Optimal Physical and Mental Development in Children: A case for Improved Performances in sports.’
The featured lecturers included Prof.Olatunde Oyelami, a Professor of Paediatrics and Child Health at Obafemi Awolowo, Ile- Ife; Dr. Olatunde Ogundare, Paediatrician at Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital.
Others are Dr. O.S Olatunya, HOD, Department of Paediatrics, EKSUTH, and Dr (Mrs) Adefunke Babatola, Paediatrician ( Gastroenterologist and Infectious Disease), EKSUTH.
The glitzed-edged and educative sessions moderated by erudite Sports and Public Health Physician who is also a member of NFF Sports Medical Committee, Dr. Babatunde Akinbinu, had two sessions on Saturday and Sunday to complete the was a 10- day affair that dwelled extensively on several aspects of health and nutrition for growing children and the impact on performances in sports.
The concluding session kicked off with the CEO of Mees Palace Academy, a partner of EKSFA, Emmanuel Adukwu doing a brief recap of the previous lectures and how much it has informed and inspired him towards a better nutritional plan for kids in his academy.
Prof. Oyelami hinged his lecture on the needs to have adequate feeding with proper nutrients for the growing children. Adding that some foods that are popular with the average Nigerian family, are actually not helping the growth of children because they lack the needed nutrients.
He advised parents to ensure that beans should form the basis of the feedings because of its richness in carbohydrate and protein. He proposed that fish could replace red meat in home diets with vegetables and fruits, as available all year round, completing the meal. He further advised against primarily feeding growing children with Garri or similar starch-dense carbohydrates, confectioneries like puff-puff, sugars and soft drinks.
According to him, the stunted growth or smallish stature of some children is directly attributable to the types of foods, apparent lack of adequate nutrition and inadequate calorie intake consumed by children from infancy. This he stated has significantly impacted on the growth and size of the average Nigerian child and their performances in sports.
Speaking further, he lamented that malnutrition is another cause for inadequate growth. Which he described as bad nutrition. Malnutrition occurs when the normal requirements for nutrients is not achieved. And what the body needs according to the age and developmental stage of the individual is not achieved.
Dr. Adefunke Babatola on her part, further stated other indirect causes of Undernutrition to include low socio- economic status, lack of female education and harmful cultural practices. She advocated that female children should be educated and empowered to be able to support their families adequately.
The Paediatrician further admonished traditional leaders, community leaders and government to ensure that the harmful cultural practices that have become inimical to the growth and well being of children is eschewed.
Babatola noted that some parents have continued to erroneously describe small statures or stunted growth as generic. Adding that with proper education for the female child, as well as health centres, there would be a positive generational change in that regard.
All the specialists mentioned the two important growth spurts in children, being the first 1000 days of life, from conception in the womb till about two and half years, and between ages 7 – 14 as being very important for optimal feeding in children. A Triple Mix diet of two “measures” of maize or millet, one of soya beans and half of dry groundnut, (the groundnut is to enhance the taste of the mixture).
Mix the three and grind them to a fine powder, then store in a dry container.
Add water to small quantity of the powder, stir while it is on fire for about 10 – 15 minutes to produce a small gruel. This meal would offer a healthy nutrient rich food source for children whose parents may not be of the higher social class. He referenced that while milk, eggs and meat were important sources of protein, there were also cheap sources of healthy, adequate and balanced diet like the Triple Mix, Rice and Beans, Maize& groundnuts etc for families who cannot afford higher-end foods.
Emmanuel Adukwu regretted that smallness in statures of the average Nigerian child has continued to affect their performances. Thus, encouraging coaches, players and officials to lie and cheat on their true ages at local and international competitions.
” We are truly bothered about this cankerworm. And at Mees Palace Football Academy, we plan to have a world class nutrition centre which would cater for all classes and grades of athletes up to their old age,” Adukwu explained.
The facilitator of the lectures and Chairman of Ekiti FA, Bayo Olanlege, summed up the lecture series as thoroughly educative and poignant. According to him, the topical issues are in exhaustive, as the FA would continue to work assidiously and collaboratively with other partners and agents of change.
” The fights against age cheating is wholesome and together with our partners like Mees Palace Football Academy, Imperial Sports Limited and other agents of positive change, we shall give it our best shots for the benefits of Nigerian football,” Olanlege remarked gleefully.