By Angela Casco
The first 1,000 days of a baby’s life is the most crucial period of growth and development. It is often called the “golden window of opportunity” or the perfect time to prevent stunting due to undernutrition.
It’s a fight that Corner Tree Cafe owner Chiqui Mabanta identifies with, as she is caring for an infant herself. Moms and Babies met her at the launch of the Restaurants Against Hunger campaign, a fundraising initiative that involves restaurateurs. Her vegetarian/vegan cafe is joining the campaign’s run this year. The event marks her third straight year as a participating restaurant.
Tips for parents
While Mabanta never gave birth to kids herself, she is currently fostering an 18-month-old baby named Ghera. She says her mindset taking on this duty is to “do things the right way.” By that, she means going—as she likes to put it—as “hippie” as possible.
“I suggest delaying gadget use as much as possible. Just zero phone or television so that they stay curious about the world,” she says. Letting kids listen to music is just as important as delaying toxic, processed food.
If you think your kids are smart when they start reading or writing at an early age, Mabanta begs to differ. “Crowding your kids with too much information stunts their creativity,” she explains. “Save it for later. They’ll know all of it anyway.”
Why go “hippie”
Mabanta shares that every time she brings Ghera to the hospital for regular check-ups, the doctor compliments her clear eyes and skin. “That’s because she’s vegetarian and she eats a lot of fruits. No toxins whatsoever from processed food,” she says.
Contrary to other kids who love eating overly sweet treats and fried food, Mabanta shares that the reason why Ghera loves fruit and vegetables is because she was trained to eat it. She says parents shouldn’t be forcing healthy food to kids, because a healthy diet should be the norm for them to begin with.
For breakfast, Ghera typically eats either fruit or oatmeal. Her snacks would be fruit again or organic, ready-to-eat munchers from the grocery. Lunch would be all about vegetables, cooked in different ways like a soup or pasta. For dinner, she would have a bottle of milk or water.
“If vegetables are presented in good way, you’ll know that it’s super good. That’s also why I own a vegetarian cafe. I want to show Filipinos that it’s not just stir-fried vegetables or chop suey,” she explains. “There are so many ways to go about it. Just look up recipes on the Internet and you’ll find a million.” The foster parent also attests to the benefits of feeding babies with breastmilk. “She’s never constipated unlike kids who drink milk formula,” she shares.
There are a million ways to raise a child but for Mabanta, the bottomline in nutrition is “loading them up with as much good stuff as possible” while they’re still young.
“They’re only gonna be babies for a short while,” she says. “At least give them a good start so that their systems can handle health threats for the rest of their life.”