SOUTH AFRICA: Black Juice, Blonde Bread & Other Phenomena

SOUTH AFRICA: Black Juice, Blonde Bread & Other Phenomena

Hartenbos parkrun! 005 (1)I’ve always enjoyed eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising on a regular basis.  Taking good care of the one and only body I’ve been entrusted with just feels good, and being able to run around and have fun with my family feels even better. During my first pregnancy, many moms warned me that my kids would never eat the healthy food that I keep in my house.  Viennas, biscuits [cookies] and fish fingers would soon become our new household staples. “It’s all they’ll eat,” they said.  I just shrugged, smiled, and refused to budge.  How on earth have we come to believe that nutritious, delicious foods are somehow inferior to, or less tasty than, overly-processed, unhealthy products?

And since when are kids the dictators?


Karien Potgieter

Karien Potgieter is a full-time working mom of two toddlers. She has a master’s degree in ecology and works in the conservation sector in beautiful South Africa. Her other big passion, apart from her family and caring for the environment, is running. To date she’s participated in races on three continents and in six countries and she dreams of travelling to and running in many, many more. You can follow her and her family’s running adventures on her blog, Running the Race (

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookPinterestGoogle Plus

It’s #InternationalDayOfHappiness!

It’s #InternationalDayOfHappiness!

Happy International Day of Happiness!Today is International Day of Happiness!  We at World Moms Blog know the importance of connecting with other people.  In our technology driven societies, it becomes very easy to send a text message, an email, or to click “Like” on someone’s Facebook status…but does that actually make us feel like we made a personal connection with that person? Truly connecting is not as easy!

For International Day of Happiness this year, the theme is focusing on your connections with others.  To help you think about conversation starters, or ways to connect with others on a more personal level, we asked our fabulous contributors this question: “What brings you happiness?”  Read on to see some of their responses.   (more…)

World Moms Blog

World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children. World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.

More Posts

BRAZIL: The Clown, Ice Cream Cakes and Emotional Trauma– Part I

BRAZIL: The Clown, Ice Cream Cakes and Emotional Trauma– Part I

ice cream cakeI have been an emotional eater for over two decades and over the past six years or so – when I became fully aware of the matter – I have approached it from multiple angles and using all sorts of techniques. I have worked on issues related to my father’s death when I was a teenager, my relationship with my mother and childhood issues of all sorts. I have undergone several different types of therapy, from the more traditional ones to art therapy, Gestalt therapy, family constellations and energy psychology. I have used EFT, NLP, reiki, homeopathy, ThetaHealing and many other alternative treatments.

The positive side has been that I have learned a lot throughout this process. Trying to create a healthier relationship with food has undoubtedly been what has most helped me stay on my personal/spiritual growth path over the past few years.

Emotional eating is a complex issue that can have multiple causes. These causes generally carry specific purposes which might still “serve” the emotional eater in certain ways, such as eating for a sense of comfort or protection or even to “numb” oneself of difficult feelings. Thus, they can be complicated to release unless the person becomes aware of the underlying events that gave food such emotional significance and are able to let go of that.

For instance, it might be that, as a child, someone gave the person something sweet every time he/she was upset, so the person developed the habit of eating sweets every time negative emotions come up. Letting go of that habit would then involve things like: becoming aware of the pattern and how it began, finding ways to heal the inner child that is used to being given sweets instead of the true attention or emotional support they need when negative emotions come up, and realizing that there are now adult ways of dealing with negative emotions.

Additionally, I believe we can only stop emotional eating when we truly want to. It is not like one consciously wants to continue having an unhealthy relationship with food (although one could, as surrender can also be a good tool!) but it can take time to become aware, deal with and let go of the multiple unconscious blocks around the pattern.

In my case, for example, I recognize that I have frequently side stepped certain issues and have not gone as deep as I could in certain treatments. On the other side, respecting our pace and giving ourselves the time to deal with the often painful issues – as opposed to judging ourselves and making ourselves wrong for “failed” attempts – is essential.

In my case, after three years of great improvement, my second pregnancy (which ended up in a miscarriage), followed by the pregnancies and births of my two youngest children, brought my emotional eating back to square one.

It was no surprise to me that pregnancy would once again bring up issues that would be difficult for me to deal with, but I expected that things would get better after the babies were born and began to get older. However, even though my youngest is now 16 months old things have worsened terribly and over the past few weeks I have gained more than 5 kg (11 lbs).

I have still not figured out what is triggering this new fallback, yet while using a combination of the techniques I have learned over the years, a story I hadn’t thought of for many years came to mind. I will tell that story in the next part of this post.


And you? Please share your stories about your relationship with food. Do you interfere in your children’s relationship with food? 

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our writer in Brazil, Ecoziva.

The image used in this post holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.

Ecoziva (Brazil)

Eco, from the greek oikos means home; Ziva has many meanings and roots, including Hebrew (brilliance, light), Slovenian (goddess of life) and Sanskrit (blessing). In Brazil, where EcoZiva has lived for most of her life, giving birth is often termed “giving the light”; thus, she thought, a mother is “home to light” during the nine months of pregnancy, and so the penname EcoZiva came to be for World Moms Blog. Born in the USA in a multi-ethnic extended family, EcoZiva is married and the mother of two boys (aged 12 and three) and a five-year-old girl and a three yearboy. She is trained as a biologist and presently an university researcher/professor, but also a volunteer at the local environmental movement.

More Posts

JAPAN:  Chow Time!

JAPAN: Chow Time!



I read on the internet a lot about how America is trying to change their school lunch program and make it healthier. And I read a lot about how some people are not happy about this. They complain that kids won’t eat what they don’t like, food gets wasted, etc.

All of that may be true. But I thought I would share what school lunch is like here in Japan.

Children in elementary schools across the country receive a hot lunch every day. The menu is widely varied, with international kid favorites like spaghetti with tomato sauce, the local preference of curry and rice with salad and yogurt, to more traditional foods like fish with miso sauce, vegetable pickles, and wakame seaweed soup. Most days the meals are heavy on vegetables. They include fruit in season occasionally, and maybe once a month or so there is a light desert like jelly (jell-o) or ice cream. Some days they have rice, other days they have bread, still other they have noodles.

And, with a few exceptions, the kids love it!

Why is that?

Part of the reason may be attitude. When my husband was a kid, they didn’t have the facilities to prepare rice and noodles, so he looks at the monthly menu and says “ii na-,” I wish I could have had that! Let’s go back another generation, to my father-in-law. He had bread and milk only every day (ironically enough, he says it was supplied by the occupying US forces,) and he was grateful for it at a time when there may or may not have been dinner waiting for him at home. But- hamburger steak and pickled cabbage with tomatoes? “Ii na!”

In our city, preschoolers, junior high kids, and high school kids have to take their lunch. A bento lunch can be a wonderful thing, but it isn’t hot and doesn’t come with milk.

But perhaps the most important reason is that the kids themselves are involved in food preparation. Each week, half the class is in charge of serving the other half. They carry the pots and trays and multiple little dishes and utensils up to their classrooms, then ladle and scoop and pass the food to each other. When time is up, they clean it up and go have recess.

So if you don’t eat, or you take too long, you make your friends late for recess. That’s quite a motivator there, isn’t it?

Japanese children, in most cases, don’t have the option of taking their lunch if what’s on the menu that day isn’t to their liking. When my son was in first grade, that really bothered me. There were days when he only ate rice, or only ate bread, and I would have been happy to have been able to pack him a sandwich or a banana or something! But after being faced with foods he wouldn’t normally try, day after day, he’s blossomed into quite the adventurous eater. He eats so many different things now. Dinner time is much less of a battle than it used to be, and I think that’s due to the varied and interesting food he gets at school every day.

Do your children have a hot lunch at school? What’s on the menu for chow time?

This is an original post by World Moms Blog contributor, Melanie Oda in Japan, of Hamakko Mommy.

Photo credit to the author.


Melanie Oda (Japan)

If you ask Melanie Oda where she is from, she will answer "Georgia." (Unless you ask her in Japanese. Then she will say "America.") It sounds nice, and it's a one-word answer, which is what most people expect. The truth is more complex. She moved around several small towns in the south growing up. Such is life when your father is a Southern Baptist preacher of the hellfire and brimstone variety. She came to Japan in 2000 as an assistant language teacher, and has never managed to leave. She currently resides in Yokohama, on the outskirts of Tokyo (but please don't tell anyone she described it that way! Citizens of Yokohama have a lot of pride). No one is more surprised to find her here, married to a Japanese man and with two bilingual children (aged four and seven), than herself. And possibly her mother. You can read more about her misadventures in Asia on her blog, HamakkoMommy.

More Posts



Bah BonI’ve  yet to meet a mom who is not monitoring her kid’s eating habits. Some might even be obsessed over it, others just make sure their kids eat enough or don’t overeat. Food can be filled with cultural, health or moral values and seems an important subject in most families I know.

Every single one of the moms I know, seems to have her personal truth about food, or is at least searching for it. I know quite a few moms who vouch for strict vegetarianism, sugar free, all organic, low-carb, macrobiotic, low-fat or a mix of those. Others cook without lactose, gluten, sugar, eggs, nuts, soy and other allergy or intolerance boosters, by necessity or by conviction. But there’s also quite a number who just like to stick to their grandmothers’ favourite mashed potatoes with pork chops and piccalilli, because that’s what they were raised with.

Myself, I mix quite a bit of the above. My life is all about compromises. As a student, I used to be vegetarian, but now we eat vegetarian for only about 3 days a week. I also restrict the amount of lactose, because of my daughter’s (mild) intolerance. I make sure they eat at least one piece of fruit per day, but most days it’s two or three. And because we are Belgian, we have our two-weekly take out of ‘French’ fries, which originally came from Belgium. Or maybe even from Flanders.

I would not call myself obsessed, but I do keep a detailed mental track of what my kids eat in a day, and try to compensate by the 80/20 rule I adopted from a fellow World Mom: if they eat healthy for 80% of the time, that will make up for the 20% they eat junk.

When a mom has found her personal truth about food, obviously she wishes for her kids to eat by it; which they aren’t likely to do without a struggle. Not after they’ve tasted the Belgian fries, they won’t.

When my oldest was younger, I used to think I had it all together though. He ate whatever vegetable I gave him and his favourite dish was Brussels’ sprouts. I even recall quite some occasions on which I, the former vegetarian, bribed him into eating his meat by promising him an extra stem of broccoli. After a while, even the meat didn’t pose a problem anymore. He would eat whatever I served him.

Those good old days are over now.

It all started when our daughter arrived, age 2.5. She came from Ethiopia and was not used to our diet, not mentally, but also not physically. The first time I served her something green, she just threw it on the floor. Not out of a whim, but because she was clearly convinced it was not edible. She even tried to take it out of my mouth. Having been fed mashed dishes all her life, she was also not used to chewing. She did like bread and she did her best chewing it, but we had to take her to a physiotherapist to sooth her jaw pains. So we customized our cooking to her and introduced new stuff every once in a while. The one dish that never posed a problem was, indeed, our Belgian fries.

Meanwhile, our son, then 5, seemed to finally grasp that there was such a thing as rejecting food. I don’t know whether it was his sister’s example, the TV shows he started watching, his classmates or just normal evolution, but he started getting more selective each month. He also ate with his hands more often, just like his sister was used to. I went from having one kid with excellent eating habits to two picky, messy eaters.

After two years of convincing myself it was just a phase, this year I started implementing some strategies to get them to eat more balanced. Ultimately, what they were eating wasn’t all that bad but I was getting tired of the drama and the struggle to get them to eat what I believed was good for them. And most of all, I wanted them to develop the discipline to choose healthy by themselves, and not just because I ordered or rewarded them.

First, I tried the Yucky List. A colleague of mine had it at home, and it worked perfectly for her family. The idea is that it is only natural to have different tastes and that you don’t need to like everything. The concept is that each family member can have three dishes they really don’t like, on that list. When it is served, they are allowed to refuse it and have bread instead. Or hope for a mom who cooks two different dishes in advance. Of course over time, you can change your preferences but when a fourth dish you don’t like is served to you, you have to eat it, before you can put it on the list (replacing another).

It seemed promising but after a few weeks, the kids started to change their list about every other day. Way too many family dinners were filled with  ‘I will put this on my yucky list for sure!’ and a lot of moaning and struggling, which didn’t really lighten the mood as I had hoped it would. We might pick it up again when they are older but for now, it doesn’t work for us.

After that, I changed my strategy to handing out a Yucky Coupon, Bah Bon in Dutch. I borrowed the idea from a friend who used to do cooking for youth camps. At these camps, each of the kids was given one Bah Bon for the duration of the camp.  They could hand it in if they didn’t want to eat one of the meals that was cooked for them. Of course, they only could do that once. And the ones who still had the Bah Bon at the last day of camp, could hand it in, in exchange for ice cream.

So that’s how we do it now and it works like a charm! The kids both have their weekly Bah Bon, which is very conveniently posted on the magnetic wall next to the dinner table. Whenever they complain about dinner (or lunch or breakfast), we just point to their Bah Bon and remind them they can hand it in if they wish. No strict words, just giving them a choice and a visual reminder. Our son hasn’t missed his Sunday ice cream once. Our daughter has, once, and she’s not likely to miss another.

Of course, this will only work if ice cream is really a treat for your kids. Mine don’t really get candy or other sweets that often, so for them this works perfectly.

And of course, it’s still kind of a bribe. But I like it much more than the daily ‘If you don’t eat it, you can’t have desert’ bribe. For one, because we don’t have desert every day. Second, because they have to manage the discipline to work all week for their ice cream, rather than getting an instant reward. Third, because I don’t exactly sell the ice cream as a bribe or reward but rather as an interpretation of the 80/20 rule: if they eat healthy and balanced all week, it is all right to have something unhealthy every once in a while.

Most importantly, I like this system because the kids themselves really like this system. They like being in control of what they (don’t) eat without any pressure from us, and most of all they absolutely love our weekly ceremony when they officially hand in the Bah Bon they saved in exchange for their well deserved treat.

Do you have a personal or cultural take on the food you serve your kids? And do you need similar strategies to convince them about it?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by K10K from The Penguin and The Panther.

The picture in this post is credited to the author.


If you ask her about her daytime job, Katinka will tell you all about the challenge of studying the fate of radioactive substances in the deep subsurface. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising four kids together with five other parents, each with their own quirks, wishes and (dis)abilities. As parenting and especially co-parenting involves a lot of letting go, she finds herself singing the theme song to Frozen over and over again, even when the kids are not even there...

More Posts

LAOS:  The Staggering Stunting of Children Under Five

LAOS: The Staggering Stunting of Children Under Five

laos kidsWhile I still have the opportunity to write another post for the WMB community before leaving Laos later this year, I feel compelled to tell you about child nutrition and the problem of stunting in Laos because stunting is a seemingly invisible problem that can go unnoticed unless special attention is drawn to highlight the issue.
Ethnically, most Southeast Asian people are shorter and have a smaller frames than most other races throughout the world. This fact makes it easy to say that Lao babies and children tend to be small or smaller because of their race.

Yet at first glance Lao children appear to be healthy (and super cute), a closer look and personal interaction will almost always reveal that the children are a few years older than what you had first assumed. I recently met an adorable girl in a northern village at a school where I delivered books by boat since there is no road access to her village. Upon speaking with her (in Lao) I was impressed by how well behaved, articulate and “mature” she was for what I assumed to be a 6-year old. (I have two 4-year old twins so I was instantly optimistic about their potential in just two short years to be as well behaved as this girl.) She turned out to be 10-years old. This has happened time and time again to me, to my colleagues, and to many newcomers to Laos.

Lao children are among the most undernourished in Southeast Asia with 44% stunting of children under 5-years old. It is the single largest contributor to infant and child mortality in the country with 59% of all child deaths related to nutritional deficiencies. Chronic malnutrition predisposes children to higher morbidity and mortality, lower educational attainment, and reduced workforce productivity.

For a country experiencing rapid economic growth and increasing income disparities, fierce external human resource competition puts the country at risk of leaving a majority of the Lao population behind others who will be more able to keep apace. Stunting is a problem that needs be addressed for the immediate wellbeing of Lao children and to be resolved for the future potential of the Lao people.

The Lao government is working closely with experts and development partners on how to tackle this important issue. It is not easy. Poor breast-feeding and weaning practices are widespread. Almost all mothers give food supplements (such as chewed glutinous rice), and pure water, to infants within a few weeks of birth. Harmful practices (such as discarding colostrum) and other food taboos for pregnant women reduce disease resistance for newborns and increase fetal undernutrition. Micronutrient deficiencies, inadequate intake of vitamin A, anemia and iodine deficiency, all further hinder child development.

The current health system is not only faced with challenges of delivering micronutrients, immunizations and necessary vitamins to the most vulnerable population, but they are additionally burdened by the daunting task of changing people’s behaviors to improve dietary habits, increase nutritional intake, and overcoming cultural belief and religious belief obstacles to improved nutrition status among rural and multi-ethnic communities. The task is daunting.

What is being done and what needs to be done?

There are some great organization here making slow but successful strides on a small-scale basis. UNICEF, WFP, IFAD, Save the Children, the Scale Up Nutrition initiative and others who are collaborating closely with government health officials, but resources are scarce, especially in an often overlooked country like Laos.

  1. We can channel financial support to these organizations for their work on nutrition in Laos.
  2. We can lobby our governments to increase foreign assistance resources to address the poor state of healthcare in Laos (e.g., Laos is not one of the United States’ ‘priority countries’ receiving Global Health Initiative (GHI) funding. Ask U.S. representatives, Why not?)
  3. We can voice our concern to private and public interests who are taking advantage of opportunities in Laos to improve their social welfare practices by investing in better healthcare in communities where they pursue their business interests.
  4. We can ask the question to anyone willing to listen about who should be accountable to improving the welfare of children beginning their lives under such great odds in Laos.

Hopefully someday, someone will listen and take action.

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by our mother of twins writer, Dee Harlow in Vientiane, Laos. You can always find her writing on her blog, Wanderlustress.

Photo credit attributed to the author.

Dee Harlow (Laos)

One of Dee’s earliest memories was flying on a trans-Pacific flight from her birthplace in Bangkok, Thailand, to the United States when she was six years old. Ever since then, it has always felt natural for her to criss-cross the globe. So after growing up in the northeast of the US, her life, her work and her curiosity have taken her to over 32 countries. And it was in the 30th country while serving in the Peace Corps in Uzbekistan that she met her husband. Together they embarked on a career in international humanitarian aid working in refugee camps in Darfur, Sudan, and the tsunami torn coast of Aceh, Indonesia. Dee is now a full-time mother of three-year old twins and continues to criss-cross the globe every two years with her husband who is in the US Foreign Service. They currently live in Vientiane, Laos, and are loving it! You can read about their adventures at Wanderlustress.

More Posts