November 29, 2022

Due to its adverse impacts on health and environment, dieticians are advising the public against takeout meals, which have become essential during the pandemic when people were required to stay at home.

Benguet State University Instructor Sharon Tangoyab, a registered dietician-nutritionist, said takeout food – a meal cooked and bought at a shop or restaurant but taken somewhere else, often at home or at the shop itself – has three components that are bad for the health, especially fast food.

These are maaalat (sodium), matatamis (sugars), and matataba (saturated or trans fat) or 3M, which may lead to lifestyle diseases, obesity, and cardiovascular diseases if consumed excessively and on regular basis.

In a recent discussion hosted by the National Nutrition-Cordillera and CAR-Media Educators on Nutrition, Tangoyab said takeout foods are generally rich with these 3Ms to enhance taste and as preservatives.

She said based on a survey conducted by Stastista Research Department in Oct. 19, 2021, 87 percent of the respondents ordered food from fast-food chains and food delivery apps as of June 2020, followed by snacks, bubble tea and other tea-based drinks, cakes and pastries, local cuisine, coffee and other coffee-based drinks, Asian cuisine, Western cuisine (excluding fast-food), alcoholic beverages, and others.  

While it has been more convenient takeout food among busy people and more essential now due to the availability of food delivery apps, Tangoyab advises people to avoid it and instead cook homemade food and avoid the three unhealthy components.

If it cannot be avoided, she said to do it in moderation, practice variety and balance in food choices, and follow the Pinggang Pinoy.

The Pinggang Pinoy designed by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute in collaboration with the World Health Organization, Department of Health, and NNC is a visual tool to guide Filipinos in consuming the right amount of food in every meal. It says the plate must consist of three major food groups – go (energy-giving), grow (body-building), and glow (body regulating).

Aside from health impacts, Tangoyab said the dieticians’ society as well advises against takeout due to the impacts of the materials used in the preparation and packaging of takeout foods on the environment.

She explained the packaging or containers of takeouts makes use of materials like silicon, aluminum, polypropylene plastic, Styrofoam, paper and paper board, and single-use plastics that create lasting impacts on the environment from its production to end-life.

Results of a 2018 study on the environmental impacts of takeaway food containers suggest the use of aluminum containers leads to the highest depletion of elements and ozone layer as well as human, marine, and terrestrial toxicities.

Tangoyab said food packs takes two to three weeks to biodegrade, six months for paper boards, 50 years for single-use plastics, 80 to 100 years for aluminum, and 450 years for bottles.

It is recommended to eliminate food packaging by bringing ecobags when shopping or canisters take outs and buying fewer packaged foods.

There is also a need for stricter regulation on plastics use and proper disposal and segregation, as well as the need to advocate sustainable packaging.

“Most importantly, pass it on. Practice it at home and teach the youth to minimize use of harmful food packaging so it can be replicated. Order just the right amount of food, choose where to go to get food, lutong-bahay would be better, and bring containers to avoid disposable packages and utensils,” Tangoyab said.

Velanie Dao-ines of the NNC-Cordillera added the DOH issued Circular 0486, which mandates the phased implementation of the prohibition on the unnecessary use of single-use plastics in hospitals, other health facilities, and DOH offices.

The circular mandates the phased setup as it takes into consideration the current situation brought about by the pandemic, where the public resorted to single-use materials as means for infection prevention and control.

Planned until 2023, the issuance provides the mitigation of unnecessary use of single-use of plastics saves the cost of services and promotes sustainable waste management in health facilities. – Hanna C. Lacsamana