Hawker Food Hacks
By Revathie Dhanabalan
January 25, 2018
Singaporeans love food and local favourites will stay as the most afforadable and practical option for most people. As tasty as these dishes are, most of our choice dishes tend to be saturated in fats and high caloric content. According to the National Health Survey in 2010, 1 in 9 Singaporeans are obese and are facing an increased risk of chronic ailments such as diabetes.
What's more, as Singapore moves closer towards a "unified cashless ecosystem", you will soon have the option to pay for hawker food with your ez-link card. When lunchtime rolls around, you are able to pick your dishes as you go and you might just end up choosing 745-calories plate of fried kway teow.
Fortunately for you, not all is lost! Here are our top hawker food hacks you can adopt to sustain a healthy eating lifestyle in busy Singapore!
Dish 1: Yong Tau Foo
Yong Tau Foo lets you build your own bowl with a great mixture of your favourite ingredients. But that also means that you more likely to pick your comfort foods. Who doesn't love a piece of fried fishcake?
What to order? - Order the soup version and the key point here is to avoid deep-fried items such as beancurd skin and processed meats. Obviously, with most Yong Tau Foo stores, there is a minimum of six items or more. This is allows you to skip the noodles and just eat the items you picked.
How to make it healthier? - Ensure that you choose four items that are vegetables or vegetable-based items. If you can't bear to avoid the sauces or fried items that are available, you can opt to have brown rice with your meal instead of noodles.
Dish 2: Ban Mian
Who would have thought whole wheat Ban Mian is actually an option and it would be tasty? Turns out, Ban Mian has a lower glycemic index and little fat added to the cooking process. It's a good balance of lean protein with carbohydrates and fibre.
What to order? - Since Ban Mian is a healthy option for a meal, what's more important in this case is the portion size. You can try by sticking with a palm size portion of rice or noodles.
How to make it healthier? - Even though it's a soup dish, you have to ensure that you watch for the salt intake in Ban Mian. The soup base in Ban Mian has a high sodium content so try not to finish the soup.
Dish 3: Thosai
Time to take a break from your usual prata and try out Thosai! Known as the pancake of India, plain Thosai is usually made from rice flour, chickpea flour and yeast. Thosais are healthier options since they are relatively low in calories and are a rich source of carbohydrates.
What to order? - Plain Thosais are always a great option to start with, but it's hard to restrict yourself to just one serving. Instead of two plain Thosais, try out Rava Thosai or even an egg Thosai. These Thosai options are a great source of protein and fibre.
How to make it healthier? - To keep it healthy, go easy on the chutneys. Thosais that are usually served with chutneys ups your calorie content of your meal. Instead pick out veggie curry options such as Sambar that is still a great accompaniment with your Thosai!
Dish 4: Economy Rice
For a budget fiends, economy rice is a great option during lunchtime. You can easily achieve a balanced meal if you select the items carefully.
What to order? - For a healthier option, order two types of vegetables and meat with rice. You can also skip the standard meat fare such as chicken or beef and pick a palm-sized serving of fish.
How to make it healthier? - Ensure that the vegetables are lightly cooked and it should take up half your plate. Obviously, skip the gravy but if you can't do dry rice, ask for gravy on the side in a bowl or replace your rice with congee.
Dish 5: Sliced Fish Soup
To start with, this a great lean protein dish that you can pick as a filling meal. The piping hot soup is great after a long morning at work. As an added bonus, you can add more vegetables to your bowl.
What to order? - If you can't bear to avoid the evaporated milk that goes into the soup, you can compensate by consuming lesser noodles or rice.
How to make it healthier? - For a healthier option, you should pick steamed/boiled fish over fried ones.
Tip 1: Plan your Portions Accordingly
Value for money is one thing that most Singaporeans can stand by when it comes to food - but more doesn't always mean the best. Often times, we skip out on vegetables and tend to stick to meat dishes.Take a look at My Healthy Plate by HPB [shown below] to create balanced and healthy meals.
You can plan your portions accordingly by filling half your plate with vegetables, a quarter of whole grains and another quarter of meat and proteins.
Healthy Plate Image from HPB
Tip 2: Look for Healthier Choice Symbol
Certain hawker stalls are awarded the Healthier Choice Symbol by the Health Promotion Board (HPB) when they offer healthier dining options. Look out for food that are prepared with healthier oils such as peanut oil or corn oil. Healthier oils help to protect your heart by reducing the chances of you developing chronic heart disease.
Tip 3: Balance your Calories
Goes without saying that cutting back on fried foods definitely helps to keep the calorie count and cholesterol levels low. You can cut out at least 300 calories by not having deep fried food and asking for less rice or noodles. You should complete your meal with a serving of fruits that gives you a boost of vitamins, minerals and fibre.
Eating healthy food is just one part of the equation, learn more about different diets out there or how eating certain types of food can keep your brain in tip-top condition.