Harmful Ideas About Eating 171
In many parts of the world, certain traditions and beliefs
about women and food are more harmful than helpful.
It is not true that girls need less food than boys. Some
people believe that boys need more food. But these people
are wrong! Women work just as hard as men in most
communities, if not harder, and need to be as healthy.
Girls who are healthy and well-fed during childhood grow up
into healthy women, and have fewer problems at school and
It is not true that women should avoid foods during
pregnancy and breastfeeding. In some communities, people
believe that a woman should avoid certain foods—like beans,
eggs, chicken, milk products, meat, fish, fruits, or vegetables—
at different times in her life. These times may include her
monthly bleeding, pregnancy, immediately after childbirth,
while breastfeeding, or during menopause. But a woman
needs all these foods, especially during pregnancy and while
breastfeeding. Avoiding them can cause weakness, illness, and
It is not true that a woman should feed her family first.
A woman is sometimes taught to feed her family before
herself. She eats only what is left and often does not get as
much food as the rest of the family. This is never healthy. And
when a woman is pregnant, or has just had a baby, it can be
If a family does not help a
woman eat well, we encourage
her to do what she must to get
enough food. She may need to
eat while cooking, or hide food
and eat it when her husband is
out of the house.
It is not true that a sick
person needs less food than a
healthy person. Good food not
only prevents disease but also
helps a sick person fight disease
and become well again. As a
general rule, the same foods
that are good for people when
they are healthy are good for
them when they are sick.
Where Women Have No Doctor 2012