You may have noticed the grab-n-go options at Costa Coffee UAE have become a lot healthier. That is due to the launch of the company’s 4u range. Developed by Costa Coffee executive chef Peter Reffell with Dubai-based clinical dietitian Mitun De Sarkar, who has more than a decade of experience in the field, the selection of more than 20 new sandwiches, salads, snacks and smoothies are tapping into the ever-growing demand from customers for healthy, fresh, plant-based and free-from products. There are more than 150 Costa Coffee locations in the UAE, which was the first country the London-based chain expanded to when it opened in Dubai in 1999. De Sarkar spoke to livehealthy.ae about developing the range to meet demand, changing mindsets and how eating better on the run actually makes life a lot less stressful.
What was the driving force behind the 4u line?
There is a huge awareness, growth and need for nutritious healthy food among health conscious people in this region. The driving force was to make healthy eating easier for anyone and everyone, right from if you are at a mall to below your office tower or driving past and want a quick grab-n-go or even when you are traveling and at the airport.
Costa genuinely favored my idea of healthy eating being not just a trend but a necessity now. We are all able to make lifestyle changes only if nutritious, healthy, backed-by-nutrition information is easily available for everyone to make informed choices.
What was the hardest to produce and why?
All my ideas, ingredients, information were carefully combined and as a team with Chef Peter we came up with some really delicious recipes, that were not only healthy, low in calories but in each recipe we incorporated a few superfoods that had tremendous nutritional and healing benefits as well as tasting good.
Why do you think more cafes don’t offer healthier fare?
I think it’s more to do with convention than actual eating patterns. Cafes are usually associated with bakery-based items, which in turn has spawned an entire concept that one can either have a coffee only or coffee and something sweet or bread-based.
What challenges are consumers facing that they might not know about?
People have this mindset that healthy can’t be tasty. Healthy seems like a compromise on the taste buds. Yes, healthier options require critical attention during preparation and usually mass-producing them is not viable for many chains. It depends on the product but if real, fresh ingredients are used, you even get a reduction in the shelf life and that has to be managed.
When it comes to nutrition, what should we be keeping in mind when faced with a grab-n-go?
It takes a few seconds to scan labels of packed foods or search up a rough estimate of the nutritional values of the product. A basic knowledge of how to read labels goes a long way.
What are the biggest mistakes people make when they need to grab a snack?
Our taste buds hold a disproportionate amount of influence over our food choices. The cravings usually pass and in fact a healthier food choice will not only lead to satiation – feeling full and satisfied – and better health, there is no guilt after eating. We already have stressful lives, why add the burden of guilt and poor nutrition to the mix?