Dr Christina Pollard, Curtin Adjunct Senior Research Fellow, Centre of Behavioural Research in Cancer Control, said increasing vegetable consumption is a key public health nutrition priority and although Asian menu items are often considered a healthy option, there is little information available about their relative healthfulness.
“The demand for convenient eating options has led to an increase in foods eaten away from home and consumers are looking for healthy options when they eat out,” Dr Pollard said.
“This study aimed to pilot a simple method for measuring the vegetable content of popular Asian dishes for use in nutrition education.
“Thirty vegetable containing take-out dishes from three Asian restaurants (Chinese, Thai and Singaporean) in Perth were photographed and weighted with, and without the vegetables.
“We found that, contrary to popular belief, the Asian cuisines sampled were not a good source of vegetables. There were no significant differences between Chinese, Thai and Singaporean cuisines, in the average total vegetable content of dishes; however, there was a wide and consistent variation in the vegetable content within each cuisine.”
Dietary guidelines recommend increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables to protect against chronic disease, such as diabetes and cancer, and maintenance of a healthy weight. Currently, most adults consume well below the recommended five 75 gram standard servings per day.
“The trends for increasing consumption of take-away foods, particularly Asian take-away, point to an urgent need to advise consumers to select the vegetable dense dishes and to encourage the food service industry to increase the vegetable content of Asian meals,” Dr Pollard said.
“Nutrition educators should encourage Asian food businesses to increase the vegetable content of their menus and advise customers to choose at least one vegetarian dish to encourage healthy lifestyles.”
The research, titled A Simple Approach Assessing the Vegetable Content of Asian Takeout Meals with Nutrition Education Potential, has been published in the Food and Nutrition Science Journal and is available from www.scirp.org/journal/fns/. The research was funded by Healthway.
Dr Pollard’s work aims to improve our ability to translate importance public health food and nutrition research into policy and practice.