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Staying slim whilst eating out: Wise food decisions at the food court

Staying slim whilst eating out: Wise food decisions at the food court

For those who are health- and weight-conscious, what to eat at the hawker centre or food court is a real concern as as hawker fare is often labelled as being high in saturated fat, carbohydrates and hence calories.  Here’s a quick tip on healthier food options that can be found at food courts and hawker centres.


The premise of weight loss

More often than not, individuals tend to be unable to discern between eating for health and eating for weight loss. Contrary to popular belief, eating healthy and weight loss are not necessarily synonymous. It is possible to eat healthy and gain weight. On the flip side, you can eat unhealthily and lose weight at the same time.  

Simply put, weight loss is about achieving an overall negative calorie balance, regardless of how healthy the diet is. Of course, if this negative calorie balance is achieved through healthy means, that would be the most ideal. Therefore, it is possible to have hawker food and lose weight if you make the right choices, substitutions and reductions

In this article, we will show you ways you can trim down a full day’s hawker meal so you can have your cake and eat it!


Kaya toast with two soft boiled eggs and coffee with condensed milk (kopi)

Energy: 561 kcal; Carbs: 59.2g; Protein: 15.7g; 39g Fat

This popular breakfast choice may not seem like much but it packs a whopping 561 calories in a single serving! This is about a third of the daily calorie requirement of an average female. Despite this, it can be a healthy, nutritious breakfast by just tweaking some parts of the meal.

The kaya toast
How do I make it healthier and better for my waist line?

For starters, you could avoid the butter added to the toast to reduce the fat content by 10g. From this 10-gram omission, you are cutting back by 100kcal! In addition, you would be avoiding the trans-fat found in butter, lowering your risk of cardiovascular diseases.

The eggs

Eggs are a good source of complete, muscle-building protein which is extremely beneficial if you’re vegetarian. Apart from this, egg yolks contain a whole host of vitamins and minerals (Vitamins A, D, E, choline, folate and carotenoids) which are good for the skin and cognitive function. The protein and fat in eggs can help increase satiety which aids in weight management.

How do I make it healthier and better for my waist line?

Hold back on the dark soya sauce in order to reduce sodium intake as the recommended intake (RNI) for salt is 5g/day or 2000mg sodium/day.

Despite the whole host of nutritional benefits derived from eggs, it would be prudent to limit our intake to less than one to two but no more as they are rich in cholesterol. To err on the safer side, a good guide would be to not exceed consuming four yolks per week especially if you are suffering from certain medical conditions*.

*Do note that if you are suffering from diabetes, high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease of any sort, please do adhere to the cholesterol reference nutrient intake (RNI) of 300mg.

The Coffee

A coffee or two is almost mandatory for some in the morning in order to get them through the day. However that lovely cuppa might be doing more harm than good for your waist line if you opt for kopi (black coffee with condensed milk), which contains approximately 131kcal.

How do I make it healthier and better for my waist line?

Choose black coffee without sugar or condensed milk (kopi) for a calorie free option or coffee with evaporated milk and lesser sugar (Kopi C Siew Dai) for the lesser of two evils with which contains 75kcal.


Assorted Yong Tau Foo

Calorie count is variable for this dish.

Yong Tau Foo is a dish which is rather popular with Singaporeans because not only is it delicious, it also provides flexibility, which lets you pick items such as different types of vegetables, tofu and meat. These ingredients are either boiled or deep fried and served with noodles or rice.

The flexibility this dish offers could allow for two extremes – a healthy, lower calorie meal or an unhealthy, high calorie monstrosity. 

How do I make it healthier and better for my waist line?

Opt for vegetables with fish paste stuffing such as eggplant, chilli and bitter gourd as they are rich in fibre and vitamins and lower in saturated fat and sodium when compared to their processed counterparts such as chicken franks and deep fried dumpling. 

This dish is not especially high in protein but adding tau kwa (pressed bean curd) and egg is a good way to not only include protein into your meal but also include calcium for healthier teeth and bones.

Avoid stuffing using minced meat as well as these ground meat uses trimmings, making them very high in fat, especially saturated fat.

Whenever possible, choose the soup version over the dry one because the sweet sauce and chilli, which are usually added to the dry version, are high in sodium, sugar and fat, making an unnecessary contribution to your caloric intake.

Fried Fish Soup

Energy: 641kcal; Carbs: 66.2g; Protein: 46.3g; Fat: 19.8g

Fried fish soup is a simple and tasty dish which is a favourite amongst Singaporeans. It comprises vegetables, fish and vermicelli simmered in a milky broth.

How do I make it healthier and better for my waist line?

Making the switch to non-fried sliced fish reduces the fat content of the dish significantly by an approximate 10g-12g (90kcal- 108kcal). In addition, it reduces the sodium content preventing hypertension!

Rice and vermicelli does not differ much when it comes to nutritional value and calories. However to reduce overall calories, you can opt to consume only ½ to ¾ of the noodles!

To make it healthier, add extra vegetables into the dish to increase your consumption of fibre and vitamins and abstain from finishing the soup so as to reduce the sodium intake significantly, which is beneficial for your blood pressure.

This way, you will never have to worry about dish choices when you get dragged along to a hawker centre for meal with friends. Not only that, you need not consume bland and boring food during a diet.

Fitness 101
Staying slim whilst eating out: Wise food decisions at the food court

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