x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 13 December 2017

Dubai fights childhood obesity crisis with healthier school menus

Unhealthy food is off the menu in Dubai schools as part of the latest campaign to tackle the nation’s childhood obesity crisis.

DUBAI // Unhealthy food is off the menu in Dubai schools as part of the latest campaign to tackle the nation’s childhood obesity crisis.

Updated nutritional guidelines for menus laid out by the Food Safety Department at Dubai Municipality will be applied to school canteens to encourage young people to make healthier meal choices.

It follows a similar food-labelling rule for restaurants to reveal the true calorie content of meals, announced by the municipality and Dubai Health Authority in January.

Recent studies suggest that about 34 per cent of children in the UAE are classified as being either obese or overweight.

“Applying the new nutrition guidelines is part of our contribution to the implementation of the national agenda, which has put clear goals for dealing with child nutrition,” said Noura Abdulla Al Shamsi, head of permits and the applied nutrition section of Dubai Municipality.

“The studies anticipate that schoolchildren suffering from obesity will continue with that through their adulthood.

“Obesity is attributed largely to the lifestyle in the country and choosing of foods high in calories and low nutritional value with easy access to them and poor nutritional culture.”

In Abu Dhabi, a task force of 12 government agencies is planning a full-on attack on the problem, after World Health Organisation figures showed 15.1 per cent of pupils in the emirate to be obese, while 16.7 per cent were overweight.

The plan to help reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity, which can be a precursor to diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other chronic health conditions in later life, includes guidance and support for early childhood diet and exercise.

It also features programmes to promote healthy nutrition and exercise for school-age children.

nwebster@thenational.ae