Diabetes Association fully endorses call by MoH for fast food chains to offer healthier options

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Diabetes Association fully endorses call by MoH for fast food chains to offer healthier options

The Diabetes Association of T&T (DATT) is in full support of the Ministry of Health’s initiative, which is calling on the fast-food industry to promote healthier food choices.

In a media release, DATT commended Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh for what it called his proactive approach in engaging with the heads of major restaurant and fastfood chains in T&T.

“It is critical to acknowledge that fast food is often high in calories, fats, sugars, and salt,” it said.

DATT said finding a balanced and nutritious meal at a fast-food restaurant was a persistent challenge.

“We understand that individuals often opt for these meals due to factors such as affordability, convenience, and taste. Unfortunately, the excessive caloric content, disproportionate serving sizes, and unbalanced nutritional profiles, which are consistent in most fast-food options, can have a detrimental impact on health when consumed regularly.

“This overconsumption of fast food often leads to obesity, accompanied by high blood sugar, blood pressure, and abnormal blood lipid levels, DATT said.

It added that non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes, are primarily influenced by genetic, physiological, environmental, and behavioural factors, according to the World Health Organization (2020).

It said the modifiable risk factors, with diet being the most significant, play a key role in controlling and preventing the development of NCDs.

“Trinidad and Tobago has been witnessing a rapid increase in the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes, surpassing the rates observed in many other countries. This worrying trend is even affecting children, who are now being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes (previously adult onset) as a direct consequence of early-life weight gain,” it said.

DATT explained that the Global School-Based Student Health Survey (GSBSHS) conducted in 2017 estimated that almost 50 per cent of secondary school children in T&T were either overweight or obese, marking a significant rise from the same survey in 2011, which reported just over one in three children falling into these categories.

“It is concerning to speculate that, in a post-pandemic world in 2023, the incidence of obesity and diabetes among children may exceed these previous estimates.”

DATT said the food you choose to consume has a tremendous impact on your overall health and well-being.

“Early awareness, detection, and lifestyle modifications such as maintaining a balanced diet and engaging in physical activity can positively influence your overall health.”

“We wholeheartedly support the call for fast food chains to offer healthier options that are well-balanced. These options should be low in trans and saturated fats, low in sodium, and display calorie information, enabling consumers to make informed choices,” DATT said.

Additionally, the association has offered its support to the Ministry of Health towards educating the proprietors of smaller restaurants, roadside shops, and school cafeterias about the importance of providing healthier alternatives for our children.

DATT said according to the Cleveland Clinic (2023), there are three main tips to keep in mind when ordering food.

They are to choose lean protein, vegetables, and fibre, avoid supersised or jumbo meals and aim to keep your meal at around 500 calories or less. “Together, let us foster a culture of healthier eating habits, starting with the fast-food industry. Through health education and with the support of fast-food companies, we can encourage responsible food choices to make a lasting impact on the health and well-being of the people of Trinidad and Tobago,” DATT said.

Common fast-foods in T&T with estimated calorie content per serving

Pizza: 488 kcal, 22 g protein, 56 g carbohydrates, 19 g fat.

French Fries: 450 kcal, 63 g carbohydrates, 3 g protein, 22 g fat.

Fried Chicken (thigh with skin, breaded): 364 kcal, 11 g carbohydrates, 18 g protein, 24 g fat.

Doubles: 350 kcal, 54 g carbohydrates, 10 g protein, 14 g fat.

Chicken Roti (Chicken, potato, roti skin): 780 kcal, 96 g carbohydrates, 34 g fat, 26 g protein.

Small Chinese combo (Rice, noodles chicken): 644 kcal, 61 g carbohydrates, 40 g fat, 46 g protein.