Healthier options needed

With heart disease and obesity reaching near epidemic levels in the region, hotels and restaurants are under increasing pressure to provide healthy options for diners.

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By  Laura Barnes Published  July 1, 2006

With heart disease and obesity reaching near epidemic levels in the region, hotels and restaurants are under increasing pressure to provide healthy options for diners. A recent report predicted that obesity and sedentary lifestyles could bring a two-fold growth in cases of diabetes in the Middle East by 2025. Diners are becoming more aware of this, however, and are gradually changing their eating habits. “Expats have become more health-conscious, with restaurants and hotels responding to that demand. As such we launched new products such as Flora — a substitute for butter and margarine — which contains plant sterol that helps reduce the absorption of cholesterol from the gut,” said Mohamed Salawy, marketing manager, Unilever Foodsolutions. “Products such as Hellmann’s light mayonnaise, Bertolli olive oil and Becel have proved popular of late, as they are good for the heart and also provide the essential nutrients,” he added. Salawy also believes there is an urgent need for an established agency dedicated to the food service industry in the region, which can perform dedicated market research and help the industry as a whole. The company is also reviewing the nutritional composition of its food portfolio for levels of trans fats, after concerns surrounding trans fats made the headlines in the US. The fast food chain, KFC, is currently being taken to court by a consumer group in the US, in a bid to prevent it cooking fried chicken in partially hydrogenated oil containing trans fatty acids. Hotels in the Middle East are also using healthier alternatives. “Because people are becoming more health conscious we are using low fat ingredients like light mayonnaise and cold pressed olive oils in our preparation. Moreover, we also have a low calorie menu in addition to ‘Body for Life’ specials,” commented Imtiaz Khan, executive sous chef, Mövenpick Hotel Bur Dubai. The necessity for fruit and vegetables as part of a daily diet was highlighted last month when research by the Journal of Nutrition revealed green and yellow vegetables may reduce the risk of heart disease.

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