Eating healthy and maintaining a balanced lifestyle is a challenge here in the Middle East. If you're unsure of where to start, or what to eliminate from your current diet, Jeffrey Zorn, who founded Nourishing Dubai, has compiled his top pieces of advice to get you on the right track in no time at all.
There are, he believes, five things wrong with the UAE diet which are the reliance on fast food, the sheer expense involved in buying high-quality produce, the popularity of ‘low-fat' (aka more processed) foods, the polarity in opinions regarding intake of carbohydrates, as well as the excessive sugar intake and over-reliance on fruit. "Nourishing Dubai has fed people from over 70 different nationalities, and so many of these cultures are dessert-heavy or believe in fruit snacks three times a day – all adding to that sugar addiction – so we have our work cut out for us to help heal these diets," Jeff tells Bazaar.
He recommends avoiding soft drinks and fruit juices and anything labelled as 'low-fat'. "Low fat is synonymous with processed food, and similarly, anything labelled 'breakfast food' is almost always guaranteed to be loaded with carbohydrates and sugar." He also suggests staying away from corn and vegetable oils (due to their proven link to health issues associated with the brain and hormone imbalance) and also limiting your intake of things like Panadol "which can cause gastric issues."
In addition to eliminating certain things from your diet, Jeff believes it's also about changing your mindset towards food and eating in general. For example, breakfast is not bad. "It's important to understand that this meal sets up your hormonal profile for the rest of the day. You need to consider breakfast as fuel-up time," Jeff explains. "Do you want to stay full throughout the day and not face an afternoon slump or sugar craving? Protein will kerb that. A mix of (good) fats and protein are the best combatant to sugar, so get out of the mindset that you can only have cereal or yoghurt for breakfast." He also believes 'fat' is misunderstood. "Don’t assume fat is bad. There’s a push right now to rename fats to lipids because of the negative connotation associated with fat in diets. Do not think that eating fats make you fat."
Finally, it turns out that the age-old adage that mother knows best is still true to this day. "Your mother was right - you need to eat your vegetables," Jeff says matter-of-factly. "As a guideline, try to eat two cups of vegetables with each meal, and at least two cups of greens a day." He adds, "Don’t worry about the pesticides/farming/organic nature of your vegetables – prioritise eating them first, and where they are coming from second. Just eat them." You heard the man!