Who doesn’t love a good hawker meal? From laksa and nasi lemak to chicken rice and satay, the food combinations are endless, and delicious! However, many of the classic hawker dishes can be rather unhealthy. But, dining out doesn’t mean you have to give up on healthy eating habits! Here are expert tips on how you can make more nutritious choices without giving up the delicious local delicacies you love.
Putting a healthier spin on local specialties
“Despite deep and long-standing hawker culture as the symbol of Singapore, food options available may not be always necessarily the best for your health,” say gastroenterologist Dr Andrea Rajnakova and nutritional consultant Veronica Cavallini of Andrea’s Digestive, Colon, Liver and Gallbladder Clinic at Royal Square at Novena.
According to the Health Promotion Board’s National Nutrition Survey done in 2018, the increasing trend of average calorie intake over the years has shown signs of slowing, but sugar and sodium intake remains high. Therefore, Dr Andrea and Veronica say it’s best to eat light meals while dining out. “But, if you cannot give up local delicacies, make them healthier with some changes.”
They suggest following some of these healthy eating tips:
- Control your portion size, following the “healthy plate” proportion of nutrients: a quarter of your plate should comprise of whole grains, another quarter of the plate should be made up of protein like meat or tofu, and half the plate should comprise of vegetables;
- It’s best if the veggies are steamed, braised or stir-fried with light seasoning;
- Swap white rice for brown rice;
- Do not choose any deep-fried ingredients. Instead, opt for fresh toppings like spring onion, garlic, parsley, coriander or fresh chili;
- Avoid or reduce processed food like fish balls, meatballs or fish cake, and choose fresh alternatives like fish, salmon, tofu or sliced meat;
- Avoid gravy, or at least have less gravy;
- Drink plain water and avoid any sweet drinks or flavoured milk while eating.
If you like chicken rice…
“Chicken rice can be eaten with a lot of cucumber,” say Dr Andrea and Veronica. They also recommend removing the chicken skin and substituting oily rice with a steamed version.
“If you go for economic rice, choose braised or steamed dishes avoiding fried or deep-fried ones.”
They also recommend choosing at least two vegetables and one meat, asking for brown rice if possible, and asking for no gravy. Also, it’s best to remove any visible fats!
If you like fish ball noodles…
“If you like fish ball noodles, choose the soup version, avoiding any lard bits or fried anchovies on top – and drink less soup, as it’s high in salt!”
Another option can be fish bee hoon soup; you can ask for more vegetables, fresh fish instead of the fried fish – and, again, drink less soup.
If you like soup…
“In general, it’s best to choose clear soup instead of thickened soup, coconut-based or oily soup – and always drink less of it,” say Dr Andrea and Veronica.
Handmade noodle soup like Chinese ban mian can be eaten replacing minced pork with sliced chicken and asking for less fried ikan bilis (dried anchovies) and fried shallots.
Mee soto can be modified by asking for more vegetables like beansprouts, and removing the skin from the shredded chicken. You can also ask for a smaller serving of noodles when ordering the Indonesian specialty.
If you like nasi lemak…
Dr Andrea and Veronica suggest asking for regular steamed rice instead of the coconut rice. “Also, skim away oil from the chilli sauce and avoid asking for extra ingredients like chicken wings.”
If you like Indian food…
“If Indian is your cuisine of choice, a roti with some spinach paneer or fish tikka and additional vegetables could be a good idea,”say Dr Andrea and Veronica. “But, always control the portion size!”
More dining out tips
In general, it’s best to eat a light meal no matter where you dine, say Dr Andrea and Veronica.
“If you want to go for a Western meal, choose some pasta with fresh tomato sauce and basil, with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese on top and an extra plate of fresh vegetables with a good extra virgin olive oil!”
Eating in? Check out these top tips for healthy eating at home.
Andrea’s Digestive, Colon, Liver and Gallbladder Clinic
#21-11/12 Royal Square at Novena, 101 Irrawaddy Road
6264-2836 | andrea-digestive-clinic.com
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