Eating for two: helping pregnant and nursing mothers in Vietnam plan nutritious meals
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The challenge of maternal and child nutrition
Parents know all too well the stresses of pregnancy and childrearing. Added economic pressures and less time for sleeping and eating exact a mental and physical toll, and women at this life stage have special dietary requirements. What’s more, taste preferences can change during pregnancy, making it that much harder to plan nutritionally balanced menus.
The stakes are high—too little or even too much nutrition can have long-term effects on maternal health, fetal development, and the growth of newborns. Women in developing countries often lack the resources and many of them lack the knowledge to ensure they and their babies are properly nourished. This has long been an issue in Vietnam, a country with one of the largest rural populations in the world: just over 60 million people, or about 62% of the total population, as of 2021.
Ajinomoto Vietnam launches digital nutrition platform
In recent years the Vietnamese government has made it a top priority to improve mother-child nutrition in both rural and urban areas. In 2020, Ajinomoto Vietnam Co., Ltd. (AVN) cooperated with Vietnam’s Ministry of Health to provide pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and caregivers of children under five, as well as health and nutrition experts and local officials, with the skills, knowledge, and resources to create menus that meet government nutrition standards and to monitor their family’s health and nutrition.
With its booming industrial and tourism sectors, Vietnam has a lot going for it, including high internet penetration and digital literacy. As of 2022, nearly three-quarters of adults had smartphones and used social media, putting the country on a par with China and ahead of wealthier countries like Japan. AVN decided to leverage the power of digital technology to improve nutrition. It developed a mobile-friendly website called the Mother and Children Project that features a nutritionally-balanced menu bank of over 1,300 dishes for mothers and 700 dishes for children.
Website users can select pre-designed menus tailored to their personal dietary requirements or build their own nutritionally balanced menus by flexibly changing ingredients and dishes to fit their budget and taste preference. It also offers users dietary information and advice, smart tools to monitor their health status and child’s growth, plus articles and videos on culinary culture, nutrition and health care, and food science. They can even register for online or in-person cooking classes.
The website builds on AVN’s School Meals Project, launched in 2012, which has given the company valuable experience in developing delicious and nutritious menus for schoolchildren across Vietnam’s three main regions—north, central, and south—each with its distinct food culture. For this newest project, AVN conducted extensive research, stakeholder surveys, and cooking and tasting trials.
In addition to being easy for users to access and share with others from anywhere, the main advantage of the digital platform over conventional public health information campaigns is the ability for developers to continuously add new features and update content in response to feedback, ensuring the best user experience.
Expanding the reach of the Mother and Children Project nationwide
Ajinomoto Vietnam is continuing to collaborate with Vietnam’s Ministry of Health and local authorities and institutions to expand the Mother and Children Project nationwide. The company regularly organizes conferences to deploy the project to local health organizations and health experts and officials, who later can guide mothers in their communities on how to use the project’s digital menu bank and other tools.
These conferences also provide an opportunity to communicate via video about delicious salt reduction using umami. Through these and other activities, AVN aims to contribute to the development of the country and its future generations with nutritionally balanced meals.