According to UNICEF, the Southern Asia sub-region experiences a malnutrition burden among its under-five population. The prevalence of stunting in under-fives is 32.7%, this is significantly greater than the global average of 21.9%. The Southern Asia subregion’s prevalence of wasting in under-fives of 14.6% is also greater than the global average of 7.3%.(Source: UNICEF global databases Infant and Young Child Feeding)

Nutrition Security among our smallholder farmers in the South Asia region, therefore becomes the need of the hour. In order to create a holistic awareness on nutrition, SAFBIN focuses on providing information through communications strategies like information campaigns, dietary advice through health services, encourage consumers to consume healthy diets and act on the information provided (e.g. growing, cooking), and providing an enabling food environment (e.g. diversification, making different foods available etc.)

With this bacground, SAFBIN in Pakistan organised Nutrition awareness through cooking competitions in six villages of Sargodha and Khushab districts of Pakistan from 26th-27th August 2020. The main objective of these cooking competitions was to create awareness among women on reducing loss of nutrients during cooking. Nutrition Supervisor Dr Ayesha Basit from Sargodha and Miss Mariam from Khushab delivered valuable talk to the women participants on nutritional value of vegetables/food groups and safe cooking practices. Over 180 women from these villages received awareness on best cooking practices.

Nutrient content is often altered during cooking. Cooking food improves digestion and increases the absorption of many nutrients. For example, the protein in cooked eggs is 180% more digestible than that of raw eggs. Vegetables are generally a great source of vitamin C, but a large amount of it is lost when they’re cooked in water. She further elaborated on the following tips to maximize nutrient retention during cooking:-

1. Keep skins on when possible

2. Avoid continuous reheating of food

3. Use a minimal amount of cooking liquid

4. Choose steaming over boiling;

5. Use pressure cooker when possible;

6. Avoid using baking soda to retain color.