Food for thought on healthy diet

 KUALA LUMPUR - Greasy chicken wings and kuih laden with loads of coconut milk are regular fare at tea breaks and meetings in government offices.

This, however, may be a thing of the past with the Government's proactive step to advise the 1.4 million civil servants to watch what they eat.

The Public Service Department has issued a circular to public sector workers on guidelines on healthy eating.

The circular, issued in February, covers two aspects healthy menu during meetings and healthy food from vending machines.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the ministry initiated the guidelines with the support of the Chief Secretary to the Government, the PSD director-general and the secretaries-general of all the ministries.

"We hope this circular will set a precedent for other health-related guidelines in the public sector," he said when opening the World Health Organisation regional meeting on national multi-sectoral plans for non-communicable diseases prevention and control here yesterday.

Liow told reporters later that the guidelines were not meant to completely cut out delicacies from government functions, but to serve as a reminder of how food should be prepared.

"The guidelines tell you that you should have less sugar, salt and trans fat when you prepare meals.

"We are trying to get the civil servants to eat food which is as healthy as possible," he said.

Health deputy director-general Datuk Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman said the guidelines did not specify what should be served.

"But we are trying to make sure all departments label their food showing the amount of calories it contains.

"You have to know what you are eating," he said.

The recommended daily intake for a sedentary person is between 2,000 and 2,500 calories.

Liow said the guidelines were also to curb the increasing number of non-communicable diseases which claim 35 million lives a year globally.

In Malaysia, one in five adults has diabetes with 2.6 million cases last year.

Meanwhile, WHO Western Pacific regional director Dr Shin Young-soo praised the Malaysian Government for having multi-sectoral policies for disease prevention and healthcare.