|It's Time for Change in What Children are Eating at School, says Leading UAE Fitness and Nutrition Expert
Dubai: One of the country’s leading fitness and nutrition experts believes too many children in the country are not taking a healthy packed lunch with them to school.
Omar Al Duri, one of the most respected names in the country’s health and fitness industry, has spoken to hundreds of young boys and girls this year on how to live a healthier lifestyle.
And although he is encouraged about the increase in hours they spend playing sport he says that more awareness on nutrition is needed – especially in terms of what parents are putting in packed lunches.
“Kids in the UAE are on the road to obesity,” says, Al Duri. “I’ve seen what goes into packed lunches and it’s not good. It’s massively frustrating because to provide our children with better meals is so easy.”
He is now giving up his own time to educate and implement change when it comes to what children are eating at school.
With health issues among the country’s youth always on the top of the agenda, Al Duri believes the current system in schools is not working – but is easy to fix.
He said: “Nutrition needs to be highlighted in the educational system and with that we would see an incredible increase in concentration levels, which would then go a long way to seeing better and more efficient results in the UAE.
“The youth in the country are encouraged to go for the easy option.” Al Duri explained. “As we all know, the easy option is food that comprises of salt, sodium, additives and preservatives. I’ve seen what goes into school packed lunches and they are full of the bad stuff.”
There is no doubt the current diet of pizzas, chips, curry and burgers is not the fuel needed for children to be at their best. For the highest level of concentration and a greater focused approach to school life, the right diet has to be consumed.
Al Duri speaks form the heart on the topic, and his theories are backed up by years of experience in the fitness and health industry. Having moved to Dubai from London, where he was a successful fitness instructor and football coach, he has replicated his success in the UAE. Being awarded “Coach of the Year” on more than one occasion, most recently at the UAE FIT Awards, he is a man who understands what it is people need for a healthy lifestyle.
Having set up the P3 gym in Dubai Marina, which concentrates on the three pillars of a healthy lifestyle – personal training, physiotherapy and nutrition – he has since gone on to coach the Ghana under-20 national football team at the U20 World Championships in Africa. Omar Al Duri is a man well qualified to offer his opinion.
Al Duri said: “I want to give my time to help educate. Not just the children, but the teachers and parents. The kids need support and once the problem has been identified, it is easy to fix it. Help and advice with the time invested can help save lives.”
So what does Al Duri feel should be on the menu each day?
“We all know what we should be eating, but it’s about making it interesting. Creating variety. Kids get bored of food very quickly, so by creating a nice varied menu each day, with foods full of colours we can stimulate and appeal to the younger generation.
“It’s about creating a trend for kids. We’re looking for longevity, rather than fad diets that the latest celebrity has endorsed. If we can start in schools, then it educates the importance of healthy living.”
Al Duri, is dedicated to helping create change when it comes to the diets of the UAE’s children, and pledges not to rest until changes have been made.
“Obesity in adults is very hard and expensive to treat.” Al Duri said. “Prevention is the key, and talking to kids, schools and parents is the best way to get that message across. Childhood is a time when people are learning, and in those crucial years, it is vital they learn how to live a happy, healthy life.
“There is no doubt that the country is on the right track, kids are more active, play more sport and are fitter in general but there is still work to do when it comes to nutrition. And that’s where I can help make a difference.”
Al Duri is currently fresh from training the Ghana U20 national football team in Africa and continuing his football coaching in the UAE as well as his fitness work but says that challenge of creating change in children’s diets is at the top of his list.