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Dining ‘Al desko’

Food & Drink   (12/11/2004) .    Author: The CB Friday - Alex Elgar

The new trend of the 21st century?

A recent study published in a British daily claimed that dining ‘al desko’ was fast becoming the new norm for office workers. Skipping breakfast and snacking throughout the day on chocolate bars, fast food, snacks and other convenience food is no longer seen as out-of-the ordinary, and the  traditional three meals a day seems to have been widely accepted as gone forever.
Increased pressures at work, which demand more of our time in the office and less time at home, have led to these dietary changes. Not only does the change in dietary habits spell danger for health - many snacks and fast foods are laden with high levels of fat, salt and sugar - but also money spent on office snacks in Britain is the highest in Europe. In fact a staggering £6 billion pounds a year in spent on dining ‘al desko’. Yet it appears that the worrying trend is not only a British phenomenon. Fast spreading throughout Europe, the latest country to fall victim to such unhealthy habits is Spain.
Spain, a country that used to pride itself on its healthy home-cooked food eaten during a leisurely lunch hour or evening, is following Britain’s trend of unhealthy eating and lifestyle habits. Not only are more and more Spaniards buying pre-cooked convenience food or are turning to fast-food establishments to satisfy hunger, many do not even have time to leave the office and end up snacking at work. And it’s not only the extra pennies that we end up paying at the supermarket that we should be concerned about. In a recent study published by the Ministry of Health, it was revealed that an alarming 40% of the population in the Valencia Community were overweight, and of those 28% were obese.

The Valencia Community

Small ‘deli’ style food establishments are springing up everywhere in the Valencia Community, offering healthy, convenient, good value food. In Valencia, the locale Yecla 33, a chain of three, was among the first to revolutionise the concept of the take-away food establishment. It’s not your average pizza-cum-burger take-away. All kinds of food from traditional home-cooked food to more sophisticated creations are on offer to facilitate anyone who lacks time at home to cook. The result is phenomenal. Each premises has its own kitchen where food is made from natural ingredients that come every day from Valencia’s central market. The menu is so large and varied that one can normally find up to 50 different specialities including pasta, rice, salads, fish, meat etc. Although all of the dishes of Yecla 33 are made from fresh and healthy ingredients, the establishment also offers meals for those with special dietary needs. There are foods that are low in salt, low in calories and vegetarian dishes such as stuffed aubergine or cream of courgette, leek quiche or pasta with mushrooms.
Yecla 33 can be found in C/ Yecla, 33, Valencia, or C/ Jesús, 30, Valencia and Valle de la Ballestera, 11, Valencia. Tel. 96 362 95 98 - 96 384 29 05.

Child obesity – surely not

It is becoming an increasing problem all over the world: child  obesity is a time bomb that is threatening rich and poor. The World Health Organisation is already talking about ‘globesity’ as cases of obesity have increased dramatically throughout the world, so much so that it is calling it the epidemic of the 21st century. According to the International Obesity Task Forecam, children of under five years of age affected by obesity now number as many as 22 million. Dietary experts are quick to point out that obesity is not only a problem in its own right. It can lead to other illnesses such as hypertension, hyper-cholesterol or diabetes.
How about Spain? You may think that with the healthy Mediterranean diet, there would be few cases of child obesity. Think again. In fact, it affects an alarming 16% of all children. Yet the most worrying statistics are found in adolescents: an incredible one in four adolescents is obese. Spain has become the second country in Europe where there are most obese children. As Doctor Miguel García Fuentes, professor at Cantabria University points out, ‘Years ago, families were not able to fill up fridges full of cola drinks and other unhealthy snacks like they do today. Many children have arteries like those of a 40-year-old smoker and some even die prematurely during their childhood’. The consequences of obesity are not only physical: the child suffers anxiety, depression and low self-esteem, and school studies tend to suffer too. It’s not surprising, therefore, that nutricion experts are fighting for dietary education to be taught in schools to educate youngsters on healthy eating.

Why this trend? That’s before….this is now

Years ago, a glass of milk and a couple of wholemeal biscuits were the norm for elevenses. Now, donuts, bollycaos (sweet bread filled with chocolate) and other industrial food items have become the most popular mid-morning snack. It was also common for parents to cook their children food rich in carbohydrates such as vegetable puré, fresh vegetables, and stews on a daily basis. Now, tinned, frozen and pre-cooked food have taken over as parents have less time to cook and convenience foods have become widely available throughout Spain.
Today in 2004, life is much more sedentary. Children don’t play outside anymore – videogames have taken over as the new form of entertainment. How many hours does your child sit in front of the TV? According to a recent study carried out by the Miguel Hernández University of Alicante, if your child watches TV for more than four hours a day, he is more likely to suffer from obesity. The recommended amount is an hour and a half a day.
According to a study carried out in The Lancet Medical Journal, of the 32,000 children that had been tested, those that had been breast fed as a baby were 30% less likely to become obese. Yet in Spain, a mere 20% of mothers breastfeed. Recent campaigns carried out by the Ministry of Health state the benefits of breastfeeding, such as increasing the baby’s immune system.


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