Making healthy food choices effortless for consumers in the GCC

Making healthy food choices effortless for consumers in the GCC

food rules

Mira El Ghaziri, MD of HealthyPath, believes that nutrition education and access to healthier food choices is a priority, especially in the GCC.

This transformative journey includes diverse efforts, from raising nutrition awareness to shaping a supportive food environment through policy and industry initiatives.

Raising awareness

Awareness serves as the foundation for empowering consumers to make informed decisions about consumption. Furthermore, the government in the GCC has prioritized population health improvement. It has launched several initiatives to increase awareness about nutrition. For instance, recent nutrition-focused campaigns in the UAE, led by the Ministry of Health and Prevention, promote increased fruit and vegetable consumption.

Government leadership 

While nutrition education and individual empowerment are paramount, broader health promotion efforts at all levels are essential. Moreover, governmental policies and regulatory frameworks play a pivotal role in nudging consumers toward better choices, helping shape a food environment conducive to better health. Several measures have been set in place. For example, transparent labeling as well as reformulation programs to improve the nutritional profile of food products. Also, restrictions have been set in place to curb the marketing of unhealthy products to children.

In Saudi Arabia, collaborations between the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA), food manufacturers and the hospitality sector are illustrative of best practices. These include implementing voluntary measures, promoting transparent labeling and introducing reformulation roadmaps. However, key gaps exist in enhancing the knowledge and behavior of the population and equipping food establishments with nutrition skills. Since implementing mandatory calorie labeling in restaurants, 51 percent of consumers were less likely to eat at establishments displaying energy content.

Industry initiatives  

The food industry and hospitality sector are powerful actors in reshaping the food system. Some have taken proactive measures to enhance the nutritional profile of food products and promote healthier alternatives. Furthermore, companies have introduced smaller portion sizes, reduced sugar, and salt content. Moreover, others embraced cleaner ingredient lists to meet consumer demand for healthier alternatives. The food industry and hospitality sector drive innovation in promoting healthier food choices and transforming menus to prioritize health while ensuring affordability.

However, the impact of synergized collaboration between the private and public sector is evident, as seen with the Saudi Healthy Food initiative. This serves as a call to action, urging stakeholders across the GCC region to replicate and expand upon such initiatives. This consequently ensures sustained momentum towards healthier food choices and creates a food environment prioritizing health for all. It is equally important to harmonize the regulations and nutrition education messaging across the GCC region.

In conclusion, the pursuit of nutrition education, access to healthier choices, and informed consumer decisions is not merely a mission; it’s a collective commitment to shaping a better tomorrow.

Mira El Ghaziri,
MD of HealthyPath

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