Markets are a great place for healthy bargains in the Middle East

Keeping your kids healthy nowadays can be a challenge. But what about expats raising a family in the Middle East? Depending on where you live, it can be even harder to eat well.

Diets in the Middle East, especially on the Arab peninsula where desert conditions largely preclude the growing of fresh vegetables, have historically been reliant on rice, bread, meat and fish. You might imagine that today, with the huge wealth and culture of importing goods that prevails – especially in the UAE and Qatar – that fresh fruit and vegetables are would be cheap and plentiful. After all, in Europe it’s possible to get bananas, kiwi fruit and strawberries all year round – and they’re not expensive.

In many gulf states however, fresh fruit and veg, like most imported food, can be very dear. Add to that the value and convenience of eating out, and the temptation to leave healthy food behind can be overwhelming. The fact is, kids need fresh food in their diet, and with an obesity problem spiraling out of control in many parts of the Middle East (among locals and expats), you’ll have to go that extra mile to get your children what they need.

One solution is to visit local markets and souks where, though not necessarily cheap for fruit and vegetables, a little hard bargaining can save you a substantial amount of money.

It’s also important to remember that not all Middle Eastern food is unhealthy. The ubiquitous hummus for example is packed with protein, and baba ganoush, made from fresh smoked aubergine, is full of vitamins. Dates – one thing you won’t have trouble getting hold of in Arabia – have a practically endless list of health benefits and offer kids with a sweet tooth a healthier alternative to junk food.

Keeping you and your family healthy as an expat in parts of the Middle East can be a real challenge. The trick is to try and get on board with food at the more nutritious end of the Arabian culinary spectrum, as well as getting away from western-style supermarkets where prices will naturally be vastly inflated, and into local markets where you can haggle for your goods.

You may have to go that extra mile to keep your family healthy while living in the Middle East, but it’s surely worthwhile.

Do you live in the Middle East? What do you and your family do to stay healthy? Let us know in the comments section below!