With schools across the country all set to reopen after the summer break next week, parents are being educated about packing a healthy lunch box for their kids. As part of its new 'healthy school bag' programme, the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) is holding a series of workshops across the country to show parents their "common mistakes" while packing their child's lunch, and ways to do it better.
One of the UAE's national agendas is to eliminate childhood obesity. To achieve it, the authorities have launched a range of programmes, including the recent move to ban school canteens from selling unhealthy food items.
For this latest initiative, health officials and chefs from the MoHAP's health education and promotion department have partnered with Majid Al Futtaim-run Carrefour, where they'll be showing parents how to do "healthy shopping", will do live cooking sessions and give other tips.
"Many parents have difficulty preparing the lunch box - they don't know what and how much to include and what are the important ingredients for the kids. We wanted to make sure that we provide the families with that knowledge," Nouf Khamis Al Ali, deputy director of the department, told Khaleej Times. "I think one of the common mistakes is that parents are choosing the wrong ingredient. Sometimes they put in chocolates and biscuits high in sugar, so we've provided alternative for those meals - for example egg wraps and hummus dip."
The first workshop was held at Carrefour in Mirdif City Centre on Saturday. Similar programmes will be held in Sharjah, Ajman and Ras Al Khaimah till September 14. A recipe book of healthy meals will also be distributed to parents who were unable to attend these events.
"We are also going to have live healthy cooking sessions, where we are going to pick a number of recipes and cook in front of them with a chef," Al Ali said. "We've tested these recipes with the parents and kids, so they like the taste. Last year, we had workshops where we invited parents to cook those recipes and their kids tried it. We've made certain changes to make it according to their needs."
Khaleej Times reported in April that obesity rates among Dubai pupils had declined by 1.2 per cent over the past three years. In the 2016-17 academic year, 8.9 per cent of school students were obese.
"One of the things we need to take into consideration is the agenda of combating childhood obesity. The healthy canteen initiative, this new healthy school bag programme and many other initiatives will help contribute towards improving the nutrition of children in the UAE. Unhealthy eating is a major factor of obesity and we are one of the countries that has a growing obesity in the trends and hopefully this one will be one of those initiatives that helps in combating that," Al Ali added.
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