Food without bordersFood without borders

Iranians said keen on Israel’s obesity-busting plate

Israeli firm ‘Plate my Meal’ has created plates to guide parents on what to serve in fight against obesity; Tehran is interested too

Shoshanna Solomon was The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

The Persian version of 'Plate my Meal' plates (Courtesy)
The Persian version of 'Plate my Meal' plates (Courtesy)

Dror Tamir, the Israeli who is raising grasshoppers to provide humans with a healthier and more cost-effective source of protein, is at it again.

This time he is on a crusade to fight worldwide obesity. And together with his wife, Dr. Liat Zivan, he is using a low-tech product: a plate.

“Obesity and weight gain are global problems into which billions of dollars are poured to find solutions, but with very few results,” Tamir said in an interview. “One of the problems is that the issue is generally dealt with when people are already overweight. Our idea is prevention. Habits are formed in the first 1,000 days of a person’s life, so actually parents are responsible for the eating habits of their children.”

Their joint business, “Plate my Meal,” has created a set of 5 plates, each one for a certain time of the day — breakfast, lunch, and dinner; and two mid-meal snacks. Each plate has a time on it, so you know for which meal it is intended. Indentures in the plate show parents the correct amount of food they should be serving; paintings on the plate itself indicate the variety of foods they should offer for that meal — pasta, rice, veggies, or fish — to ensure their children have a balanced meal.

The plates target various age ranges — from 1–4; from 5–8; from 9–14; and then adults. The company is planning a whole set of plates for adults — making different ones for women and men, to cater for the older population, those with various health conditions; and also vegans and vegetarians.

As of now, sets of plates have been created in English, Hebrew, Arabic and… Persian. Apparently, an Iranian health official in charge of weight problems in his country heard about the product and asked Tamir for information via LinkedIn.

“I am not allowed to sell them my plates because I am an Israeli, but we sent them our educational presentation,” Tamir said.

Tamir and Zivan are developing an app for mobile phones that will make it easier to reach wider populations and to adapt the virtual plates to the various cultures, languages and tastes.

Plate my Meal's co-founder Dr Liat Zivan (Courtesy)
Cofounder of ‘Plate my Meal’ Dr. Liat Zivan (Courtesy)

“At the end of the day, if you look at the plates of an Indian or an American, the ingredients are not that different. It is the finished product that is generally different,” added Tamir.

Tamir said preliminary results of a study at the Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba — among normal-weight children who used the plates — showed they ate smaller portions and increased their consumption of vegetables and proteins. The company is in talks with the Health Ministry to encourage it to include the product in the battle against obesity, he explained. There was no immediate response from the Health Ministry to an email requesting comment.

Tamir added that they have also had inquiries from Finnish officials in the Middle East who are interested in distributing the products in Abu Dhabi and Dubai — to combat obesity in the Middle East.

The plates in Arabic were developed with the help of Prof. Naim Shehadeh, director of the pediatric diabetes and obesity clinic at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, together with dieticians at the hospital, Tamir commented. Prof. Shehadeh did not reply to an email requesting a comment.

In Israel, the plates are sold in a store for baby products in the north. And Plate my Meal is being interviewed for acceptance into the social accelerator of alumni of the elite 8200 Israeli army technology unit to be in a position to develop the app, said Tamir.

Worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980. The main cause of obesity and of being overweight is the imbalance between calories consumed and those that are burned. This is because people are eating more “energy dense” foods that are high in fat, but burning less because of the sedentary nature of their jobs, increased transportation and urbanization, the World Health Organization says.

According to the American Heart Association, close to 70% of American adults are either obese or overweight. Obesity increases the risk of health problems such as heart disease, a stroke, high blood pressure, or diabetes.

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