For father-of-three Ayoub Makdissi, the importance of healthy eating is a lesson he wants to instill in his young children at an early age.
'Spend money on good wellbeing now rather than at hospital later'
For father-of-three Ayoub Makdissi, the importance of healthy eating is a lesson he wants to instil in his young children at an early age.
"They are building their bodies now," he said. "If they start wrong then their future will be wrong."
The 38-year-old chef often dreams up ways to make healthy eating fun for his children Jad, 10, Rosemary, 7, and 10-month-old Tony. "We do not let them eat junk food," he said. "Once a month we let them have pizza or a burger," he said. "But we cook them in the house. We do everything homemade." Milk and water were their drinks of choice rather than sugary fruit juices or fizzy drinks.
Instilling good habits now will enable them to make informed choices when they are older. "We speak to them why they should eat this and not that."
Mr Makdissi was not surprised that a survey, compiled for Al Aan TV's Nabd Al Arab (Arabs' Pulse) programme and The National by YouGov, found that nearly half the population regularly feed their children junk food.
"Everybody is busy; most of these families are working," he said. "They want something easy and fast for their children."
He admitted cooking a healthy meal was not easy. Not only do parents need to know what to do, they need the right ingredients – which can be more expensive – and the time to prepare them.
However, he saw this as an investment in his children's future – and a way to avoid more expenses down the line.
"It can be expensive," he said. "But if you don't spend money on healthy food and buy junk food instead, then you will go to the hospital later and spend the money there. So it is the same."
Dana Shadid, a project manager at Al Aan TV, agreed that parents needed to focus on teaching healthy eating at an early age.
"Letting your children eat whatever they want to avoid their constant nagging will result in a bigger problem at a later stage when they become overweight and unhappy with their body image," she said.
"Parents can get involved in the daily exercise needed for their children and make it more fun. In the process, they end up benefiting from the work out and spending quality time together.
"The same goes for food intake, any type of food can get boring after some time, so making it more appealing by being creative will make a big difference."
* For more information about this survey, watch Al Aan TV's Nabd Al Arab (Arabs' Pulse) programme at 8pm on April 6.