Nutrition characters to be launched in Dubai hypermarkets – Khaleej Times

To tackle the issue of childhood obesity head on and increase awareness on the importance of nutrition in children, the Dubai Municipality is launching new ‘Nutrition Characters’ across hypermarkets in Dubai.

The fun, colourful characters, representing different food groups, are part of the second phase of the ‘Best Hypermarket Awards’ campaign directed at encouraging children to eat healthy food.

If you drop by a hypermarket in Dubai by end-July, expect to spot cutouts of these six characters: bananas, wheat, yogurt, almond, fish and broccoli. Other playful activities for kids and posters on healthy eating habits will also be on display.

Through the campaign themed ‘Back to School,’ the Food Safety Department will also reward hypermarkets based on the creativity through which they portray these characters. The most effective ones will be judged on the number of children they reach, and best deliver the message of healthy eating to children.

Nancy Bhatia, of the students food and survey office at the municipality’s Food Safety Department, said the characters will represent food groups in a fun way. “For example, the almond will be presented in a small size as to educate children that nuts can go with whatever they eat and are easy to carry for snacks.

“The banana will be placed next to yogurt to tell children that both are a great mix together.”

The decision to address children in hypermarkets comes in line with the new school nutrition guidelines introduced by the municipality, soon to be applicable at all private schools in Dubai from the next academic year, 2017-18.

Bhatia said the key is to increase awareness about healthy food before implementing the new school canteen guidelines, and also promote healthy summer eating when junk food consumption is common among kids.

“Nutrition must start at an early age, so it becomes a lifestyle for children,” said Bhatia. She added the campaign will also indirectly help parents in selecting healthier food options for their children and pack the right lunchboxes they can take to school.

Obesity affects 33 per cent of the UAE’s children, in the age group of 5-17, leading to diabetes which already affects 19 per cent of population. Studies showed that the weight gain is largely attributed to our sedentary lifestyle, easy availability and selection of cheap and high calorie foods, and poor nutrition education.

Obesity can lead to chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases even in young or early adulthood, unless interventions are made during school ages.

A qualified expert team will visit the participating hypermarkets and evaluate them based on the effectiveness of their approaches and consumer engagement. The winners will be announced in November based on their cumulative score in both phases.

What are the new school canteens guidelines?

Starting from the next academic year, Dubai’s private schools will not be allowed to sell junk food in their canteens. Under the new guidelines, junk food or food with high salt, carbonated drinks, chocolates, deep fried food and snacks will not be served to pupils. Schools that do not conform will receive notices and warnings.

The guidelines will address:

* Portion sizes, as some schools serve big food portions that can exceed a child’s needs, leading to obesity

* Increased availability of healthy food options

* Early education stressing on healthy eating habits, lifestyle

* Consumption of unhealthy food that can eventually lead to chronic diseases

Participating Hypermarkets are: Aswaaq, Carrefour, Spinneys, Choithrams, Lulu, Union Co-op

Foods to be restricted in school:

. Carbonated drinks

. Confectionary food: chocolates, biscuits, lollipops

. Hotdogs

. Cakes

. Sugary and energy drinks

. Deep fried food

. Certain types of sauces


A team of six young characters coming from different food groups – grains and cereals, fruits and vegetables, legumes and meat, milk and milk products, nuts and oil seeds and fluids. Each character is designed with a different personality kids can relate to, and has the nutritional power for children’s growing years.

Jamila the Banana: She is bursting with vitamins and minerals such as potassium and Vitamin C. Sweet to taste, this fashionista tells her friends to eat one banana a day to get the fibre and energy to play your favorite sport.

Nasheet the Broccoli: A star student who gives fibre and puts you in a good mood. Fresh and happy, he fights infection and strengthens your bones. He lives with his mother Mrs. Cauliflower and his father Mr. Cabbage

Saleem the Fish: Fresh, fast and swift, Saleem the Fish is full of protein, food fats and Vitamin B. He helps increase memory and powers up the brain.

Ghalia the Sack of wheat: This whole grains family member is energetic and loves math, because her benefits keep adding up. She keeps the stomach full as she’s made of Vitamin B and fibre that provides energy. Brown rice, wheat bread and wheat pasta are Ghalia’s family.

Lateef the Almond: He is a champ and the youngest of all superheroes. He is little fellow full of proteins and helps you learn new things faster. He is tiny enough to fit into your palm and be taken anywhere. He loves to hangout with his friends: walnut, cashew and pistachio.

Mufeed the Yoghurt: Mufeed is a geeky, handsome fella who loves computers. He is packed with proteins and calcium to help you focus on your favourite subject. Mufeed is Jamila’s best friend.


Sherouk Zakaria

“Born and raised in UAE, Sherouk Zakaria is a Senior Correspondent at Khaleej Times. Joined since May 2016, she covers Dubai Municipality, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), special events and humanitarian issues. Her choice of journalism as a career stems from her passion of telling people’s stories and writing to inspire or make a difference. In her free time, she’s an occasional theater and film actress. Sherouk received her BA in Mass Communications from the American University in Sharjah in 2013. Before joining Khaleej Times, she was a senior lifestyle/entertainment editor for a magazine in Dubai.”


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