By Mai Akkad
Sometimes fast food just doesn’t cut it. As more Qatar residents take a crack at healthy living, expressing cravings for more nutritious meals, businesses here are starting to take notice.
It arguably began with a proliferation of frozen yogurt chains and rising demand for sugar-free and zero-fat groceries. Now, Qatar has its own bona fide farmer’s market, and there also appears to be a growing movement for raw food.
Over the past year, Nicole Van Hattem has been teaching Qatar residents how to work with raw food, including techniques such as sprouting, fermenting and dehydrating, as well as preparing desserts and quick meals.
The benefits of eating raw, experts say, it that such food is richer in vitamins, minerals and enzymes, which helps in boosting overall health.
Enrollment for Van Hattem’s classes have tripled in the last six months and a waitlist has been started, the Australian expat and founder of Art of Abundant Living told Doha News.
Her view is that Qatar, a country in which 70 percent of the population is overweight, appears to be on the cusp of a health revolution.
“There are lots of opportunities here and there seems to be… little competition. No one is getting this information out, so I felt it is my responsibility to make a change here,” said the certified health coach.
Expats comprise the majority of her classes, but Van Hattem said that one out of every six participants is a Qatari.
“There are a lot more locals looking for healthy-alternatives for ill-health, weight-loss, energy and for fertility even,” the 43-year old said.
Meanwhile, aware of Qatar’s growing appetite for healthy food, Qatari-American entrepreneur Layla Al-Dorani has recently founded Raw ME, which aims to be a locally-based 100 percent raw and vegan fast food chain.
Last month marked the official launch of the business, during which Al-Dorani sold cold-pressed juices at the Run the World Festival 2012 at Katara.
She also sells them through a home-delivery service, but is now in the process of setting up shops in Qatar Foundation, West Bay and the Pearl-Qatar that offer fresh juices, salads, healthy snacks and desserts.
“Most of our meals are overcooked, over processed, over everything,” Al-Dorani told Doha News. “It is a fact that once you take raw vegetables and cook it you are depleting its natural value. Cooked food looses 50 percent protein, 70-80 percent of the vitamins/minerals and 100 percent of the phytonutrients.”