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A Dot For Diabetics

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Eating out when you suffer from diabetes can be a frustrating experience. Purva Indulkar tells you about Project True Blue, which aims to make picking meals easier for diabetic patients

It’s never easy eating out when you’ve got diabetes — especially when you have to scan every ingredient in order to ensure that the dish you pick fits into your dietary requirements. While it’s common knowledge that those who suffer from diabetes should avoid consuming sugar, there are several other foods that could have adverse effects on their health too. Considering how difficult it is to tailor your meals in a restaurant, we don’t blame you if you prefer staying in rather than trying to find a restaurant you can safely eat out at. However, in a country where 60 million people suffer from diabetes and 80 million show early signs of it, steps must be taken to make their lives more convenient. Dr. Rajiv Kovil, a consultant diabetologist and secretary of the United Diabetes Forum, tells us, “India is the diabetes capital of the world and nutrition is an important way to help manage diabetes. I educate my patients about making the right lifestyle and diet changes in order to help them manage diabetes effectively. However, it is still difficult for them to follow advice properly. Their questions are often the same, ranging from what to eat and what not to eat, to how much to eat and so on. The solution the United Diabetes Forum arrived at is if we can make a simple identification tool that can help people locate diabetes-friendly food, then they can dine out easily.”

What is Project True Blue?
On World Health Day (April 7), the United Diabetes Forum  launched Project True Blue, in association with McCann Health, in an effort to help diabetic people pick healthier food at restaurants. It’s been launched in two of Mumbai’s elite hotels at the moment and functions using a blue dot that will be placed on the menu, alongside dishes that are available at select fine-dining restaurants across the city. Holiday Inn’s head chef, Sudhir Pai tells us, “Blue Dot makes it easy for our customers to select the right food to eat if they have diabetes or are looking for healthier food options.” Dr. Tejas Shah, a consultant diabetologist and treasurer of the United Diabetes Forum adds, “For a start, those with diabetes can find it at Sahara Star and Holiday Inn. We are also in talks with other hotel associations to increase the reach of this initiative.”

What does the Blue Dot mean?
When you go to a restaurant, you will notice items on the menu marked with green or brown/red dots — they signify vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes respectively. The Blue Dot aims to do the same, except it will communicate that a particular dish meets all the parameters set to prepare diabetic-friendly food. Dr. Manoj Chawla, consultant diabetologist and president of the United Diabetes Forum says, “The Blue Dot works like a score. Every meal is rated based on the right proportion of macronutrients, which include the right balance of carbohydrates, fats and protein, the right amount of salt content and the correct cooking method.”

How are these dishes vetted?
This project was launched after a year of scientific debates, research and tireless discussions amongst experts. The dishes that will have the blue dot are validated by leading endrocrinologists, diabetologists, nutritionists, statisticians and psychologists. Dr. Rajiv Kovil, a diabetologist and one of the founding members of the United Diabetes Forum tells us, “We have taken the steps to ensure that the dot is based on rigid scientific facts. Experts have come together to discuss guidelines, understand challenges and arrive at a simple definition of the Blue Dot, with the Indian diet and Indian patients in mind”.

How will it help?
The Blue Dot is practical as well as relevant for chefs as it helps them prepare meals. Chef Salil Fadnis from Sahara Star explains,“This is the first time that I have come across such a concept. With increasing health awareness, more consumers want to consume healthy food.” We’re glad that the initiative has received such a positive response, and hope to find the blue dot on menus as well as on packaged foods in the future.

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