Watch what you eat at restos

National 4 minutes, 24 seconds


MORE diners are now watching what they eat, but there still exists customers who request for no vegetables in their meals, said participating eateries of the Ministry of Health’s healthy restaurants pilot programme.

Juanna Dato Paduka Hj Jemat, owner of Nur Wanita Restaurant and Catering, said customers now choose to make the dish healthier, but voiced her disappointment at diners whose requests may cause more harm than good.

“Another thing I noticed when I hear orders in the kitchen is the popular “no veggie” request, it’s disappointing to hear there are still quite a number of people who don’t eat veggies as they’re important in healthy eating.”

The restaurant was one of the six restaurants subjected to the ministry‘s ‘Healthier Choice’ review as part of the healthy restaurants programme that was launched in February this year.

The programme aimed to reduce non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart diseases, which are largely caused by poor diet and unhealthy lifestyles.

She lauded the ministry in introducing the programme, adding that it would enable the ministry to recommend healthy restaurants and meals to their patients, thereby benefitting the public, ministry and the restaurants.

The Ministry of Health had said cancer, heart diseases and diabetes were the leading causes of deaths in Brunei.

It was estimated that over 50 per cent of males and females died prematurely due to non-communicable diseases in 2012, statistics from the ministry showed.

To date, six restaurants have been listed in the programme, including Saffron’s Restaurant Catering, Dynasty Restaurant, Chill-V Kopitiam and Aneka Rasa Restaurant and Catering.

The participating restaurants are adorned with posters and labels in their menu to remind diners to request for more vegetables and less sugar, salt and oil.

Dishes that were deemed healthy by the ministry would be labelled with a ‘Healthier Choice’ sign to raise diners’ awareness and encourage them to eat healthy.

Juanna said the approved dishes at her restaurant were fewer than she had expected. The Yum Woosen, a vermicelli noodle salad with minced chicken and prawns, and the Yum Ta Lay, a spicy seafood salad, made the cut.

“Although we thought quite a number of dishes were healthy, they only came back with a short list of healthy dishes approved by them. This was mostly because of the amount of fish sauce used in the dishes,” ,” she said in an interview recently.

Juanna added that a disadvantage of providing alternative or modified dishes would lead to the food tasting different, which might take regular visitors by surprise.

Another participating restaurant is Mr Baker’s Cafeteria, which specialises in healthy bread and customised sandwiches.

Eric Pui Jeng Soon, owner of the cafeteria, said the programme offers the credibility for him to convince customers that the cafe’s food is healthy.

Since its participation in the programme, more new faces have stopped by at the cafe, he said.

He added that the Health Promotion Centre would review the cafe’s future products, and it is working closely with the centre’s dieticians to ensure the dishes are healthy.

Pui said his customers ranged from youth to the elderly, noting that those above 30 were the majority. “For youngsters, I would see it as trend but those above 30 are more health conscious.”

“Those between 20 and 30 mostly just came back from overseas so my feeling is that they are just craving it,” he added.

The founder of Mr Baker’s Cafeteria suggested the healthy restaurants programme be continued, and urged more restaurants to join the healthy eating movement.

He further said healthy eating should start at home and be embodied as a culture. “It’s a culture, once you build a culture, everything will come naturally.”

The supervisor of Aneka Rasa Restaurant and Catering, Fadillah Hj Tuah, explained that the ministry reviews the menu of each participating restaurant and monitors the amount of ingredients used before approving the dish as healthy.

In three months, officers from the ministry would rate the food and customer response at the restaurant to gauge the effectiveness of the programme.

Fadillah said customers, especially those who are older, have been making health conscious requests even before the programme was launched.

A patron at Aneka Rasa, Mohd Harun Hj Abu Bakar, said his understanding of healthy food is associated with less calories and contained minimal salt, sugar and oil.

Even when ordering juices, the 26-year-old would always request for no added sugar.

He attributed unhealthy eating to the culture where dishes would typically be oily and used an excessive amount of ingredients that may lead to obesity.

“We must change our way of life by eating more boiled or steamed food for example, but since these unhealthy habits are passed down from one generation to another, we should start advising our children at a young age.”

Hjh Suraya Abdullah, another customer at Aneka Rasa, said those who are elderly or have existing health conditions should opt for healthier choices when eating out.

The 53-year-old said indulging in one’s favourite food is still viable if done in moderation.

Some restaurants fail to provide healthy choices such as fruits, but it is the customers responsibility to care for their health and choose dishes and options that are beneficial for them, she added.

The Brunei Times