Unhealthy habits set to slim down?

Chefs assess the region's changing dietary patterns

Renaissance's Andreas Kurfurst.
Renaissance's Andreas Kurfurst.

The region’s chefs have emphasised the need for healthier consumer eating habits in the Middle East.

Commenting on the UAE’s status as the country with the third highest diabetes rate in the world, Renaissance Dubai Hotel director of F&B Andreas Kurfürst explained: “The prevalence here is still on sugary or heavy foods, laden with butter or ghee. Obesity is also a problem.

“I think because the Middle Eastern countries are still young in comparison with western cultures (which they are copying in many ways), the eating culture is still lagging behind western knowledge and eating habits,” he asserted.

“Fortunately, this is slowly changing; with more awareness and education, it will turn around, but this will take time.”

Fouad Melhem, general manager of Al Diar Siji Hotel and Siji Hotel Apartments, Fujairah, pointed out that although traditional Middle East diets had been very healthy, featuring a lot of grains, grilled fish and vegetables, the speedy globalisation of certain areas had a significant impact.

“If we talk about the Gulf, there is a large number of expatriates here who have brought different eating habits with them,” he noted.

“This, plus the fast-paced modernisation of this part of the region, have created significant changes in food consumption trends.

“Plus the availability of ‘junk food’ has seen a large percentage of the population consuming processed foods.

“However there is a new trend coming through,” Melhem continued. “Due to increasing awareness about health and well-being, people are becoming interested in quality produce and improving eating habits.

“The question now is, which group is bigger and which is growing faster.”

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