Dubai Struggles with Food Literacy, Hindering Efforts for Healthier Eating

Dubai Struggles with Food Literacy, Hindering Efforts for Healthier Eating

A lack of food literacy among the public in the UAE is impeding efforts to promote healthier eating habits. According to a recent survey conducted by the University of Sharjah, only one-third of the 1,279 adults polled had a clear understanding of the recommended daily energy intake, which is around 2,000 calories for women and 2,500 for men. This lack of knowledge is proving to be a significant barrier in fostering informed decision making when it comes to dietary choices.

While food labeling, particularly the inclusion of calorie information on restaurant menus, has been introduced across the UAE as a voluntary measure, experts argue that there are still widespread knowledge gaps that need to be addressed. Conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension necessitate informed food choices, but many individuals lack the understanding to make such decisions.

Dr. Leila Ismail, an associate professor at the University of Sharjah’s Department of Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics, advocates for making calorie information on menus mandatory in the UAE. She believes that this step could contribute to a reduction in obesity rates. The survey results reveal that nearly half of the participants admitted to not possessing enough knowledge about energy requirements to make lower-calorie food choices. However, most respondents expressed a desire to learn more.

Calorie literacy appears to be particularly low among young people, with 54% of those involved in the study being under the age of 30. Additionally, the majority of participants (76%) stated a preference for calorie information and other nutritional details to be displayed on menus. The UK’s traffic light system, implemented in 2013, effectively educates the public about food content by employing red, yellow, or green stickers to indicate the levels of fat, saturated fat, sugars, salt, and calories in food products.

To combat the issue of poor food literacy, initiatives such as the UAE’s National Nutrition Strategy 2030 have been introduced. These initiatives aim to develop sustainable nutritional systems and create safe and supportive environments for all age groups. However, it is essential to raise awareness among consumers about the importance of food education and labeling. By implementing effective strategies and campaigns, the UAE can empower individuals to make informed choices and lead healthier lives.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Why is food literacy important?

Food literacy is crucial because it empowers individuals to make informed decisions about their diet and nutrition. When people understand the nutritional content of the food they consume, they can make choices that support their overall health and well-being.

What are some knowledge gaps in food literacy?

Common knowledge gaps in food literacy include understanding recommended daily caloric intake, recognizing the nutritional value of different food items, and comprehending the impact of certain substances (like trans fatty acids) on health.

How can food labeling help improve food literacy?

Food labeling provides essential information about the nutritional content of food products. By displaying calorie and other nutritional details on menus and packaging, individuals can make more informed decisions about their dietary choices.

What initiatives are being implemented in the UAE to promote food literacy?

The UAE’s National Nutrition Strategy 2030 aims to develop sustainable nutritional systems and create safe environments for nutrition at all ages. Additionally, voluntary measures such as calorie labeling on menus have been introduced to raise awareness about food content and encourage healthier eating habits.

What can individuals do to improve their own food literacy?

Individuals can take various steps to improve their food literacy, including reading and understanding food labels, seeking out reliable sources of nutrition information, and consulting with healthcare professionals or dietitians. It’s important to stay curious and continue learning about nutrition to make informed choices.

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