Abu Dhabi, UAE: The top three government hospitals in Abu Dhabi are serving junk food laden with fat, sugar and calories linked to obesity and diabetes.
Menus at the cafeterias at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, Mafraq Hospital and Corniche Hospital offer chicken wings, chips, pizza and cream cakes, with few or no healthy options.
Nutrition, diet and obesity experts were appalled by the food on offer. “Junk food is one of the major causes of obesity,” said Dr Mohammed Idrees, medical director and family physician at Al Tadawi Medical Centre, Dubai.
“All these foods are junk food. Junk food should definitely be banned from hospitals. In my opinion, hospitals should lead by example. That is very important.
“If cafes and canteens in hospitals are selling junk food and unhealthy diets, what we can we say to other businesses?”
Kiram Tbayli, a clinical dietitian, said: “This is really shocking for me to hear. Definitely this is setting a very bad example.”
“You are increasing the risk of all different types of diseases,” said Ms Tbayli, who works at the at weight-loss company VLCC.
Food such as pizza and pasta could be offered, provided it was prepared in a healthy way and in small portions, she said.
“If it is a homemade pizza with low fat cheese, maybe. Pasta is fine provided it is a small portion, boiled in water and not cooked in butter.”
However, fried food such as chicken wings and chips had no place in a healthcare environment, she said. “If it is fried food definitely it is a ‘no, no’ in a hospital because it is high in saturated fat.”
Rashi Chowdhary, a nutrition expert from Dubai, looked at photos of the food on offer at the three hospitals and said it all appeared unhealthy.
“It seems like there is way too much sodium and way too much trans fat and I’m pretty sure the oil used is cheap vegetable oil which makes the whole situation even worse,” she said.
“Hospitals should be all about clean eating, about food in its most natural form. This is far away from that.”
Bara’a Osama Al Ries, a clinical dietitian at Burjeel Hospital in Abu Dhabi, also criticised the unhealthy food found in hospitals, and said healthcare providers should set an educational example to staff and visitors.
“The hospitals should be an example for the whole society,” she said. “The food should be prepared and served in a healthy way.”
Portion control and the way food was prepared was also paramount, she said. “We should serve salad, fruit salad, fruit slices or some sort of healthy cake that is prepared with oats.
“Also we can served grilled instead of fried and we should serve it in a controlled portion. This is the most important thing, controlling the amount and the calories.”
Dr Muraleedharan Manghat, a specialist endocrinologist in diabetes and metabolic diseases at LLH Hospital Abu Dhabi, said hospitals should be offering a variety of healthy food.
“There are a number of diseases related to the type of food people eat,” he said. “For example, blood pressure, this is very closely linked to the consumption of salt and the content of salt in food.”
Unhealthy food can lead to the onset of diseases such as type 2 diabetes and can have worrying health complications for older people and those with underlying health conditions, he said.
“Such food high in salt and high in fat should be preferably avoided. Food should be simple and as close to the nature as possible, for example leafy vegetables, with the minimum amount of additives in the form of dressings or seasoning.
“The doctors should be involved in deciding what kind of food is served that is balanced, in terms of the number of calories, minerals, carbohydrates and the amount of fat.”
© The NationalDec 2014