Ghida Sarieddine, director of special projects, Royal Catering explains how the WEQAYA nutritional programme helps consumers make healthy choices.
With one of the world’s highest prevalence of diabetes, UAE health authorities recognised several years ago that something had to be done to combat the region’s greatest health challenge. It was then that the Health Authority of Abu Dhabi (HAAD) developed a nutrition campaign specifically designed to reduce the occurrence of chronic diseases within the UAE’s population.
Known as WEQAYA, this nutrition programme aims to increase public awareness of the connection between health and food. HAAD encourages food producers to prepare and sell nutritious meals, and to use the WEQAYA logo on their products as an indicator of healthy food items.
In order for a food item to be WEQAYA-compliant, it must adhere to strict nutritional value contents, including amounts of fats, sugars and salt in each meal. Chefs and qualified nutritionists work together with HAAD to create food items that are WEQAYA-compliant, with choices that are both filling and flavourful – offering customers a combination of delicious and healthy food.
For private enterprises, this initiative offers an opportunity to partner with the government to pave the way for improved health and wellness. In fact, Royal Catering’s 82L8 brand was among the first food retailers in the UAE to implement the WEQAYA programme, with Pamela Gereige, Royal Catering’s dietician and hygeine quality assistant manager, initiating the programme with HAAD in mid-2015.
And HAAD continues to encourage and support companies such as hotels, restaurants, food manufacturers, producers, supermarkets and food outlets to prepare and sell nutritious meals.
Due to the collaborative efforts of authorities and the business sector, including doctors, nutritionists, dieticians and chefs, now, more than ever, people are aware of the concept of healthy eating, and are more educated about making good choices when it comes to food.
People have increasingly busy lifestyles, so being able to get healthy, nutritious meals on the go has been a welcome addition to the UAE’s food scene. WEQAYA takes this one step further and itemises nutritional values so that every food choice is an informed one.
About the author: Ghida Sarieddine is director of special projects for Abu Dhabi-based homegrown company, Royal Catering, which is currently introducing its new 82L8 grab-and-go food and beverage concept, offering healthy options for busy lifestyles.