Saudis going vegan, often to avoid obesity

Photo courtesy: American Dietetic Association
Updated 13 March 2018
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Saudis going vegan, often to avoid obesity

JEDDAH: Saudis are at high risk of obesity, which is one of the leading avoidable causes of death in the Kingdom. Many are opting for healthy options such as vegetarianism and veganism to avoid obesity, while others have converted to them out of a sense of responsibility toward living organisms.
With the spread of health awareness from the Health Ministry, and people wanting to stick to a proper diet and pursue a healthy way of living, many are switching to veganism.
Leena Babsail, founder and CEO of start-up Honest, started the project to alter people’s misconceptions about food manufacturing and to introduce products that are free of artificial and chemical additives.
She said: “I started Honest because as a consumer, I couldn’t find products that weren’t processed but tasted good and didn’t have any artificials and coloring. I wanted to create a brand that people could trust without having to go over the ingredients because they knew it would never offer them bad fats, refined and processed sugar.”
Babsail believes it is inhumane to consume that kind of product, even if some specialists say small amounts of food coloring are harmless, especially when it comes to children.
“There’s this obsession that has overtaken people since the 1980s about calorie intake; I think snacking on something which is a 1,000 calories but fully natural is more important than sticking to a 200-calorie snack that is full of saturated fat.”
She believes people are starting to care about the food they digest because there’s more awareness now but they have false information. “The ‘healthy’ label is now on everything, so people aren’t sure which snacks to go for.”
Dr. Vivian Wehbe, a nutrition and obesity specialist, believes a lot of people are taking a vegan direction because excessive meat consumption could lead to weight gain. “We recommend that those with high cholesterol levels and blood pressure, individuals who struggle with obesity and even cancer patients steer clear of red and white meat and to eat more vegetables.”
She believes it is a healthy lifestyle if vegans know how to pick their food and replace meat with appropriate sustenance. “Fruits and vegetables lack protein and iron, and vegetarian protein can be found in legumes, to avoid anemic reactions due to malnutrition.”
Duaa Badr, a project manager in Jeddah, turned vegan once she realized she was surviving on a diet of junk food and unhealthy choices.
After a 10-day detox program that was plant-based with lots of juices, soup and salads, she noticed immediate results. “By the fifth day, I was feeling much lighter and my energy wasn’t affected at all. Besides, I was enjoying the food I was eating.”
Badr decided to stick to a plant-based diet. “What urged me to switch to veganism was to take care of my health and lose the extra weight,” she said.
“Being vegan in Saudi Arabia isn’t easy. There aren’t many options for vegans if they wish to eat out — and lots of waiters aren’t aware of veganism. The ideal situation is cooking at home, but that isn’t always achievable, as I don’t have enough time for it.
“I am noticing the change and I see more awareness about it now than when I started a year and a half ago, which is always uplifting,” she added.
Ahmad Abdulsalam, from Jeddah, told Arab News: “I became a vegetarian because I couldn’t fathom the thought of chewing a living, breathing creature. The animal rights advocate in me awoke, and I decided I was never going to put any kind of meat inside my body ever again.”
Notably, Prince Khaled, son of Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, promotes healthy lifestyles as a vegan himself. He has announced on his Facebook page that Saudi Arabia will open at least 10 vegan restaurants by 2020.


Not just four-wheelers, Saudi women want to hit the road on two-wheelers

Updated 33 min 56 sec ago
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Not just four-wheelers, Saudi women want to hit the road on two-wheelers

Riyadh: As the clock strikes 12 at midnight, the decades-old ban on women driving will be lifted in the Kingdom. What was unimaginable a few years ago has now become a reality.
Several women with foreign licenses have already obtained Saudi driving licenses and those who do not know driving are making full use of the infrastructure set in place to help them learn.
From Sunday onward, women behind the wheel will be a common sight on the Kingdom’s roads. People should also prepare themselves to see women revving motorbikes as well.
Opting for the two-wheelers gives many women a sense of empowerment. Alia Abu Dhuhair, a Saudi banker from Tabuk, told Arab News that she had been passionate about bikes since her childhood.
“I love motorcycles because it reminds me of the good old days when we used to go to the beach. We used to ride them there.”
“It made me feel happy and free. I wish to ride a motorcycle instead of a car. It is faster, without any parking hassles and one feels free and cool,” she said.
Shahad Al-Harbi, a Saudi marketing student in Chicago, is also a bike lover, who finds biking an adrenaline-pumping activity. She said she had tried riding a bike with one of her friends in Chicago. “It was really an amazing experience.”
Both the Saudi bike lovers agree that Harley-Davidson motorcycles are the best in the world. As a matter of fact, Harley-Davidson is the dream of every person passionate about motorbikes.
“The brand is also very popular here in Saudi Arabia. Harley-Davidson is special because of its unique design, strength and luxury,” said Abu Dhuhair.
Both believe that their parents might not encourage them to ride motorbikes mainly because of safety concerns.
Al-Harbi said: “My parents are very protective and I do not think they will be supportive of the idea. They may feel uneasy because of the stories we hear about accidents involving motorbikes.”
“I believe Saudi women will prove to be good motorcyclists because they drive cautiously and strictly follow traffic rules,” she added.
In Saudi Arabia and many other countries, it is mandatory to obtain a license to ride a bike. Like elsewhere, there are training institutes in the Kingdom.
Wael bin Huraib, director of the Bikers Skill Institute, told Arab News about the institute and what programs it offers to women.
“We train people who are passionate about. All of our instructors are well experienced and certified,” he said.
The Riyadh-based Bikers Skill Institute is considered the first institute to conduct structured motorbike training in Saudi Arabia. Established in 2011, the institute mainly focuses on safety through skills and offers courses, such as the Basic Motorcycle Riding, Smart Riding, Top Gun, Motogymkhana, Off-Road Trainings and Kids Motorcycle Schools. It not only offers training to males but has also designed special courses for women.
Huraib said: “The females’ section is well equipped and has female trainers. The courses comply with international standards and generally consist of two parts — theory and field training.”
Harley-Davidson has been operating in Saudi Arabia since 2004. Initially, it started operations from Riyadh but over time it has expanded to other cities such as Jeddah and Alkhobar.
The CEO of Harley Davidson in Saudi Arabia, Mishal Al-Mutlaq, said: “We care about the safety of our clients so we focus on the safety features of our motorcycles. These days, the number of women visiting our stores has increased. We have brought in feminine colors that will be appreciated more by females. A motorcycle is just like a car. Its features and engine have nothing to do with genders. Women can drive all kinds of Harley-Davidson motorcycles like their male counterparts.”
Harley-Davidson is famous for organizing events like motorbike rallies, especially for its members.
When asked about the possibility of organizing such an event in the Kingdom, he said: “In the near future, we might consider a special event for females and hire females in our stores as trainers and in the sales department. We use to have female employees in the female accessories section. We are planning to focus on that more.”
“Today the store does not only have motorcycles but also accessories, souvenirs and clothes for females so we are used to seeing females in the store buying things from us.”
The Saudi Driving School in Princess Noura University also offers a motorbike driver’s license. As its website says, the requirements for obtaining a motorbike license are simple. “The candidates must be 16 or older, unlike the private driver’s license, where the applicants must be 18 or older. To obtain a motorbike driver’s license, the applicant also needs to bring written permission from a guardian if she is under 18, along with official documents like IDs and photos.