Is healthy food an unaffordable fashion?
“There is a dilemma in our food culture these days. Food products with a ‘healthy’ labelling are often priced higher, yet such products are pre-packaged food. On the other hand, raw and fresh food are in fact healthier and cheaper than those pre-packaged “healthy labelled” food products,” volunteer dietitian Clara observed. “When I make my signature dessert tofu cheesecake, I also choose low-fat cream cheese, but it is more expensive.”
Clara joined us as a volunteer since last summer, supporting the refugee and asylum seeker health program. Having only $1200 per month to spend on food in supermarkets with many restrictions and with little knowledge on local food products, refugees and asylum seekers often find it challenging to acquire a balanced diet in Hong Kong. Recently, Clara also began supporting our working poor family health program, again educating our beneficiaries how to obtain a well-balanced nutrition within a limited budget.
“It is not easy for underprivileged groups to have a healthy diet in Hong Kong. Those living in sub-divided flats lack access to proper cooking facilities and often end up eating instant noodles or canned food. Restaurants that package themselves to serve healthy dishes are often less affordable than cha-chan-taangs. There is a lot we can do to encourage healthy diet.” This is being echoed by Minnie, who is also our volunteer dietitian. Minnie had observed that providing advice for lower social class is difficult as most of the market food that they could afford is far from ‘healthy’ point of view.
Minnie enjoys food, and this is one reason why she takes dietician as her career. She also likes to share this happiness with people around with her ‘healthy and tasty food’. She like Fujian style of food, and Fujian fried rice is her favourite. However, she knows the tricks to prepare a recipe that is Michelin star 5 on taste and is healthy. Will she share the secret?
“Indeed, I am telling my patient or client not just how to eat, but to make a balanced life. Preparation of food is an issue, but the energy balance of an individual is more important. I will tailor-make individual plan for each one taking consideration of their workload, disease pattern, daily living activities and preference of food. Based on this picture, I can add food and sports or activities to make the ‘dish’ they will enjoy and eat.”
“We can encourage collaboration between corporates and social enterprises to offer cooking facilities to those living in sub-divided flats. There should also be more options of cheaper healthy dishes in different restaurants. Educating people how to cook practically in healthier ways is also another strategy,” suggests Clara, who is clearly committed to helping individuals live a healthier life through making informed dietary choices. Minnie would suggest to empower the community through cooking activities when we could instil the wise eating wise living habit.