….food that are tantalizingly packaged could kill you
By Sonam Deki
Sonam Tobgay, the Dietitian of Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral hospital said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food by Hippocrates. This idea that food should be our medicine is not a new one. In fact, it is the cornerstone of a modern day nutritionist’s work. The role of a nutritionist is to help prevent disease and promote good health by encouraging an active lifestyle combined with healthy eating habits.”
The shops in the urban area are displayed on the shelves with assortments of convenient packaged foods and people dwelling find it easy pick for quick or no preparation required. These packaged food find way to most of the Bhutanese kitchens. This trend which seems to be popularizing in the urban settings could irreversible effect on the health.
Packaged food includes processed products such as meat and vegetables in preserved, canned, frozen and other forms, as well as snacks and pre-packaged food items.
Prepackaged meal purchases are motivated by cost, family food preferences, a lack of other options, and the ease with which a child could prepare them were associated with less healthy home food environments.
Sangay Pem who regularly buys packaged food said “Prepackaged, processed meals, such as boxed entrees and frozen dinners, require less energy, time, and cooking skills to prepare. These foods are widely available, reasonably .priced, and make meal preparation easier”.
Since we are of large family, they have their own preference and it takes long time to cook each favorite, Kinley said. “Therefore, it’s more convenient to buy packed food as per their preferences”.
“Not all processed foods are unhealthy but some processed foods may contain high levels of salt, sugar and fat. Some foods need processing to make them safe, such as milk, which needs to be pasteurized to remove harmful bacteria.
Other foods need processing to make them suitable for use, such as pressing seeds to make oil. Ingredients such as salt, sugar and fat are sometimes added to processed foods to make their flavor more appealing and to extend their shelf life, or in some cases to contribute to the food’s structure, such as salt in bread or sugar in cakes,” said Sonam Tobgay, Dietitian. “Buying processed foods can lead to people eating more than the recommended amounts of sugar, salt and fat as they may not be aware of how much has been added to the food they are buying and eating. These foods can also be higher in calories due to the high amounts of added sugar or fat in it. You have no control over the amount of salt, sugar and fat in processed food but you do have control over what you to choose to buy,” he added.
Rinzin Lham “I rarely get time to cook for my children and they don’t know how to cook so I make sure to buy packaged food so that they can have whenever they are hungry”.
Anonymous stated, “I had to stay away from my family ever since I started my career. I usually buy one box of instant noodles because I’m the only one eating them, and I use it for all three meals. I recently became aware of my declining health and immediately, I started eating organic food”.
As per the report of Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA), Food Act of Bhutan 2005 provides protection to human health through trade of food in the Kingdom of Bhutan. All food imported into Bhutan are being certified by the recognized authority in the exporting country and imports are only allowed through officially designated border points. The Act subjects all food businesses in Bhutan to standards for health and safety.
Bhutan Food and Drug Authority (BFDA) is also carry out inspection and testing of food categories based on the global and national food safety issues and then takes risk based regulatory measures.
Sonam Tobgay also said, “Reading nutrition labels can help you choose between processed products and keep a check on fat, salt and sugar content. Most pre-packed foods have the nutrition information on the front, back or side of the packaging. If the processed food you want to buy has a nutrition label that uses colour-coding, you will often find a mixture of red, amber and green. When you’re choosing between similar products, try to go for more greens and ambers, and fewer reds, if you want to make a healthier choice. There are guidelines to tell you if a food is high or low in fat, saturated fat, salt or sugar”.
He further added “Nutritionists also teach classes on wellness and holistic nutrition to help clients improve their lifestyles and manage daily stress. Currently here in hospital, outside foods are allowed given those foods that go in are healthy and nothing hazardous. Strict monitoring and inspection is done by the guards at the door”.