Healthy takeaway scheme launched in Suffolk - but how healthy can a takeaway be?
A new award scheme has been launched to promote healthier eating at takeaway restaurants in Suffolk - but can a takeaway ever really be healthy?
The Suffolk County Council led project, Take Out Eat Well, seeks to encourage businesses in offering more nutritious options to their customers as well as looking at how they prepare food.
The introduction of fat-free foods, healthier oil choices, less salt and reduced sugar drinks are among changes they are being urged to adopt.
Five Suffolk restaurants - Bounty Fisheries in Felixstowe, Pizza Rosso in Elmswell, Chinese Chequers in Stowmarket, Star Express in Haverhill and Elmswell Fish and Chips - have been handed a Take Out Eat Well award to launch the scheme.
However, the initiative has sparked discussion on whether a takeaway can ever be heathy and whether it should only be viewed as an occasional treat.
Steve Phatura, owner of Bounty Fisheries in Felixstowe, said he had been looking to ways of making a healthier version of one of the nation’s favourite dishes.
“First, we use rape seed oil to fry our fish, which is healthier than most oils,” he said.
“It is rich in Omega 3 and other health benefits compared to other oils. It is also not as saturated in fat. Then we offer healthier alternatives, like jacket potatoes and poached fish, for people to try.
“We have also been using a salt shaker with five holes in the top rather than 12 meaning you get less salt on your chips for every shake.
“This has reduced the amount of salt used by 30% compared to what we normally use. We get our regular customers who come in weekly for their fish and chips, and some that come into or three times a week, but it is generally supposed to be a treat.”
Councillor James Reeder, cabinet member for health, said: “Sometimes it can be really difficult to know whether or not the food you’re eating, or giving to your children, is healthy. But we know that takeaways aren’t usually a healthy option.
“That’s why we’ve developed the Take Out Eat Well award scheme which celebrates and highlights takeaways that do their bit to serve healthier options and give people more choice and control over what they eat and drink.
“It’s great that a number of businesses have worked with us to develop the scheme, offering more healthy choices for Suffolk residents.”
What do nutrition experts think? Can a takeaway be healthy?
Nutritionist Jo Feakes, who practices Suffolk and Essex, said having a healthy diet is all about balance.
She said: “I don’t think you can expect takeaways to totally change the concept of what they are offering.
“A takeaway every now and then is ok but it is about creating a balance.
“I often work with the 80/20 model - if you are eating healthy 80% of the time we can have your treats.
“I think more could be done to educate people about how to have that balance, so they can have that takeaway and have a good diet generally.”
Ayela Spiro, nutrition manager at the British Nutrition Foundation said it is important that healthier takeaway options are on offer.
She said: “How effective these initiatives are in terms of helping to reduce obesity are as yet unclear. No single solution creates sufficient impact to reverse obesity, only a comprehensive, systematic program of multiple interventions is likely to be effective.”
Tracy Parker, senior dietician at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Over the past decade, statistics show an increase in the number of people who are choosing not to cook at home and a significant rise in the number of takeaway outlets in our local towns and cities.
“As a rule, home cooked meals tend to be healthier than eating out because there’s less hidden ingredients such as extra salt, sugar and fat.
“Takeaway and restaurant foods are typically higher in calories and usually come in larger portion sizes – a recipe for trouble as we battle high levels of obesity in both adults and children.
“This scheme is a step in the right direction as it encourages the public to eat less junk food that is high in salt, sugar, saturated fat and calories; which can lead not only to obesity, but other health issues such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes - all known risk factors for developing heart and circulatory diseases in later life.
“Cooking at home every night may not be possible for everyone, as we understand people lead busy lives but encouraging food businesses to offer healthier, less expensive meals will help make it easier for people to make more informed food choices when they fancy a takeaway.
“You can also find a range of quick and healthy recipes to try cooking at home on the British Heart Foundation website at bhf.org.uk.”