Dubai woman cooks up a recipe to tackle obesity

From fat to fit: Tackling rising obesity levels, 77 Veggie Boutique, a new Dubai restaurant, gets you to counts the calories

With the growing epidemic of obesity burdening UAE’s population, a Dubai-based entrepreneur and mother has decided to tackle the beast head-on in the only way she believes could effectively work – through a healthier alternative.

Roma Megchiani, who prides herself on her healthy lifestyle, referred to herself as a one-time-frustrated mother of two, diligently fighting the battle that most folks arm themselves for in early parenthood with “the fast food generation of kids growing up at home,” she said.

After futile attempts at introducing healthy eating practices even outside the home, an idea took root to offer “organic, healthy and vegetarian food, which does the calorie counting for you,” she continued.

“This is how 77 Veggie Boutique was born; my way of returning something to the community of Dubai, which has done so much for us,” she told Emirates 24|7.

As the name implies, this boutique-concept restaurant located in Tiffany Tower, Cluster W, Jumeirah Lake Towers, serves organic, vegetarian fares for you on a platter, while crunching up the numbers to ensure your calorie intake for the day is in check.

And in case you are wondering, the ‘77’ refers to the number of vegetables that are utilised to serve up the mouth-watering fare on the menu, which doesn’t skim on the delicious treats that most children would happily order, including pizzas, sandwiches and desserts aplenty.

“We started working on the menu over a year ago, with my children and their friends giving us valuable feedback in sculpting a final selection, considering they are always the fussiest of the lot,” said Megchiani.

The final cut includes dishes such as the ‘Red Rice Noodles with Chilli Sauce’ for 450 calories, or the ‘Balti Low Fat Potatoes with Aubergines’ of 130 calories only.

Megchiani highly recommends her ‘Molly Made Much Bunch’, which is described as delicately sautéed cabbage, carrot balls, designed in Manchurian style, with a touch of spring onions, all baked for 126 calories.

Sourcing 30 local organic farms in the UAE, the 36-year-old tied up with 10 entities to ensure healthy produce would be utilised in the restaurant kitchens, without freezing or using preservatives in any of the meals.

She continued: “Processed food, which not fresh or frozen tends to have a high calories count; and our USP was providing low-fat alternatives, which are neither fried nor coated with butter, for calorie conscious people.”

Megchiani, whose restaurant is only two weeks old, already has plans to take her healthy meals into the cafeterias in UAE schools.

“We are already in talks with institutions on spreading this concept into schools where children spend the majority of their time,” she said. “It’s time we start at the grassroots level and make our kids healthy again.”

According to World Health Organisation figures, 67 per cent of Emirati men and 72 per cent of Emirati women are overweight, of which 39.9 per cent of Emirati women are obese, ranking the seventh highest in the world, while 25.6 per cent of men are obese, ninth highest on the planet.

Childhood obesity numbers are also alarming; with a recent study indicating one in every three children is obese in the UAE.

The study conducted by the UAE University and Zayed Military Hospitals on childhood obesity indicated that from a total of 1,440 students (grade 1-12), the overall prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity was 34 per cent (14.2 per cent overweight and 19.8 per cent obese) among Emirati children and adolescents.

The study also revealed age-related variation in the prevalence of childhood overweight/obesity: 22.8 per cent in the age group 6-10 years, 40.1 per cent in the age groups 11-15 years and 39 per cent in the age group 16-19 years with overweight being more common amongst girls, and obesity being more common amongst boys.

The study recommended that improving consumption of fruits and vegetables, and increasing the level of physical activities, perhaps, through the provision of gender-segregated and temperature-controlled indoor sport facilities in schools may play a positive role in the prevention of childhood obesity.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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