This summer, I was fortunate to spend a month in Ghana with this awesome group of high school students, chaperones, and host siblings as part of the American Youth Leadership Program:
The goal of our trip was a cultural exchange and leadership development. We also had a theme of nutrition and food security, which we explored through visiting schools and 4-H gardens and participating in a food security symposium.
But I think I learned the most about nutrition through the real “work” that we did in Ghana – living with our host families and experiencing Ghanaian culture. After being home for a few weeks and reflecting on my experience, I wanted to share a few nutrition tips that I picked up in Ghana.
- I don’t really need dessert…. I’ll admit it, I have a sweet tooth! At home, I’m used to eating chocolate or some other sweet most days – usually for dessert. In Ghana, we didn’t normally eat anything after dinner. If we did have dessert, it was (delicious!) fresh mangoes or pineapple. And while I still love chocolate, I feel like living in Ghana got me out of the habit of needing to eat something sweet every day. I’m hoping I can stick with this change and reach for fruit when I want something sweet.
- Eat at home. We rarely went out to eat in Ghana. My host sister is an amazing cook and whipped up fast, delicious meals every day. We ate lots of chicken, fish, rice, banku, fufu, kenke, peppers, plantains, and yams. She also prepares food sooo much faster than I do, so I’ve been inspired to work on my cooking skills and see if I can get faster! And in case you were wondering, no, there are no McDonald’s in Ghana. I only saw one fast food restaurant – a KFC in Accra.
- Eat less processed food. We talk about this quite a bit in our Real Food classes, but I was able to fully experience it in Ghana. Ghanaians eat much healthier than we do with very little processed food. The only processed foods I ate were biscuits (cookies, but not overly sweet) and FanMilk (frozen yogurt) for an occasional treat.
- Don’t waste food. I was impressed that there was no food wasted in Ghana. One example was fish. As someone who doesn’t eat a lot of seafood, I was a little intimidated the first time I was served a whole fish:
But once I figured out how to dig in, I really enjoyed eating more seafood. And why not eat the whole fish? I’ll be making an effort to be less picky – and to eat more fish!
- Eat local and in season. The difference in taste was really obvious with the fruit I ate in Ghana. The mangoes (did I mention how much I loved the mangoes yet?), pineapple, and bananas were so much better than what we eat here. I don’t know if I can ever eat an imported mango from the grocery store again!
Some more delicious Ghanaian food: