Perhaps the New Year has seen you resolving to get down to, or maintain a current healthy weight. Good for you! With the festive season over, it is time to put the endless party snacks, alcoholic drinks and special occasion meals behind us, and to return to a normal eating routine. But perhaps the last couple of weeks have been a reality check. After, Singapore’s reputation as a gourmet paradise is founded on the reality that everywhere you look there is food – and it is darn good food.

Lunchtime options don’t get more Singaporean than the food court or hawker centre. It’s cheap, it’s fast, it’s tasty, and you have so many options. Not so fast! If you visit the food court on a daily basis, it comes to at least 5 main meals out of 21 a week, and your choices here can either help you keep, or break your resolution. Here are some simple guidelines on staying on the right track.

Choose the healthier dishes

You may be a runner, but this doesn’t give you license to go nuts on the char kway teow, roti prata, or nasi lemak. Your body needs fuel that’s nourishing, not the lor mee that will put it to sleep.

  1. The best options are soup dishes – think yong tau foo, sliced fish soup, herbal soups or herbal soups with rice.
  2. You don’t always have to go with the best, just choose a healthier alternative. Mee soto, ban mian and thosai with idli make better alternatives to laksa, mee pok and roti prata with curry.
  3. If you must have something sweet to finish your meals, nothing beats fresh fruit. Avoid the cakes and nonya pastries, as well as the dessert soups rich in coconut cream and evaporated milk.

Fill up, not out

Fibre is your secret weapon in feeling full without overdoing the calories. Soluble and insoluble fibre can be found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, so make these the highlights of your meal.

  1. Ask if there is a wholegrain option for your rice or noodles.
  2. At any of the stalls which let you pick and mix your food, ask for less rice, then order more vegetables. Choose dishes which are stir-fried, steamed or braised, and avoid items that are deep-fried or drowning in rich sauces and gravy.
  3. If you really want to order a meat-based dish like stingray assam, satay, roast duck rice or wonton noodles, half your portion of rice/noodles, then order some extra vegetables .

Less fat, less salt, less sugar

Eating out is so darn tasty because vendors tend to be very liberal with flavourings like salt, sugar and fat. Unfortunately, these are the exact causes of sneaky weight gain and poor health.

  1. Wherever possible, ask for less gravy, sauces and oil. Limit garnishing like fried shallots and ikan bilis.
  2. Even with the healthier options like soups, there is still too much salt in the food. Don’t drink it all!
  3. Order your hot drinks kosong, and if you must sweeten it, at least you can control the amount of added sugar.

With these simple guidelines and a little discipline, you no longer need to worry that your food court meals are sabotaging your healthy weight goals, or your running performance.

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