Eateries can play a part in healthy eating: Amy Khor

Eateries can play a part in healthy eating: Amy Khor

SINGAPORE - Singapore's 6,000 food outlets sold $6.2 billion worth of meals in 2010 - or a 12 per cent increase over the previous year.

With three in five people here eating out at least four times a week, one way to get them to eat healthier meals is to convince food outlets to offer healthier choices, said Minister of State for Health Amy Khor yesterday at the opening of World of Healthy Flavours Asia.

She expects the eating-out syndrome to continue as new and vibrant shopping malls open.

"Dining out is a common ritual among Singaporeans. It is a great family bonding time and provides opportunities for socialisation and relaxation," she said.

The conference, an offshoot of a similar one held in the United States annually for the past eight years, focuses on persuading food providers such as restaurants, hospitals, food chains and hawkers to offer healthier meals.

Attendance at the three-day conference at Raffles City Convention Centre is by invitation. About 100 people in the food and health industries were invited.

The conference, which includes speakers from the US, will highlight the latest in nutrition science. This will "help local and regional chefs develop menus that are not only authentic and full of flavour, but healthy as well", said Dr Khor.

It is organised by the Culinary Institute of America, the Harvard School of Public Health, the National University of Singapore's Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, and the Health Promotion Board (HPB).

Saw Swee Hock School head Chia Kee Seng said in his welcome address: "I stand here today as a doctor, making an appeal. We need help from all of you to fight the rising tide of obesity and related diseases like diabetes."

The number of diabetics here is expected to hit 500,000 by 2020. Aside from being the main cause of kidney failure and blindness, diabetes is a major factor in heart attacks and strokes.

Dr Khor said Singapore already has six hawker centres, seven coffee shops and two foodcourts serving healthier food in various places like Yuhua, Geylang Serai, Bukit Batok and Marine Terrace.

Food outlets at the Singapore General Hospital and Khoo Teck Puat Hospital charge less for healthier alternatives, she said. For example, brown rice costs 50 cents less and unsweetened drinks are 30 to 50 cents cheaper.

HPB head Ang Hak Seng announced a new $200,000 grant to help food outlets develop healthier choices. Each successful applicant can get up to $10,000.

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