a plate of nasi lemak with cinnamon sticks and side dishes

It’s Not Rocket Science

While 2,200 and 1,800 kcal are commonly cited as the recommended caloric intake for adult males and females respectively, these are just the median figures. For a more accurate number, you need to take into account your age, gender, weight and lifestyle. For example, a desk-bound worker, who spends most of his day sitting down would expend a lot less calories than say a delivery person who is constantly on the move.

Here’s a useful calorie calculator that you can use to generate your recommended caloric intake figure. You can also download the Healthy365 app by HPB for iPhone or Android — a step tracker and food intake calculator that features an extensive database of local dishes.

Related: Cut 100 Calories from each Meal Every Day - Without Going Hungry

Portion Control

a carefully portioned meal with ideal servings of vegetables, carbohydrates and protein

One of the simplest and most effective methods for controlling your calorie intake is portion control. Often times, we eat what is on our plate rather than what our body needs. By deciding beforehand how much we need and what goes on our plate, we are a lot more likely to succeed at controlling our diet.

Here’s a scenario: You’ve identified that your recommended daily caloric intake is 2,200 kcal. It’s now time for dinner and you’ve already consumed 1,500 kcal throughout the day. That leaves you with an allowance of 700 kcal for dinner. You should then portion what goes onto your dinner plate accordingly.

A range of dishes on your dining table to choose from:

  • Brown rice — 137 kcal (½ bowl)

  • Deep-fried lemon chicken — 347 kcal (100 g)

  • Sambal egg — 67 kcal (1 egg)

  • Beef rendang — 201 kcal (90 g)

  • Fish ball soup — 53 kcal (½ bowl)

  • Stir fried spinach — 163 kcal (100 g)

  • Ice cream— 136 kcal (1 scoop)

To achieve your target of 700 kcal, you can only pick, for example the brown rice (137 kcal) + beef rendang (201 kcal) + sambal egg (67 kcal) + fish ball soup (53 kcal) + spinach (163 kcal), which would add up to 621 kcal. If you wanted the scoop of ice cream, you would have to forgo another item such as the sambal egg.

Depending on your physical output for the day, you might also want to adjust your food intake accordingly. For example, if it’s the weekend and you did nothing but sit in front of the TV all day, you could consider adjusting your portion downwards.

Related: Just What Exactly Are Calories?

Quality Not Quantity

wholegrain bread and grains

Consuming the right number of calories is a good first step towards achieving a healthier body. However, you should know that not all calories are equal. Keeping to the calorie count on a diet consisting of only sugary cakes or meat dishes is far from ideal. This is because your body needs a variety of vitamins and minerals, as well as fibre in order to function properly.

One simple way to achieve this is to follow My Healthy Plate guidelines for a balanced meal. Simply put, fill your plate with ½ portion of fruits and vegetables, ¼ portion of whole grains and ¼ portion of meats or proteins.

In addition to eating the right amount and the right mix, it is also important for optimum nutrition to choose food prepared with healthier ingredients.

For example, whole grains are healthier than refined grains (white rice or bread) as they contain more vitamins, antioxidants and fibre. In addition, they also keep you filling full for longer, which helps reduce the risk of overeating. Choosing healthier cooking oils are also important as they can affect your body’s good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol levels.

Tips for Hitting Your Target

an elderly asian gentlemen enjoying a healthy meal with an asian woman

Here are six useful tips to help you achieve your food intake target:

  1. Order less — The tendency, with big groups especially, is to order more than you can finish. Even if you can finish what’s on the table, it’s likely that you would have busted your recommended daily calorie count.

  2. Pack leftovers — If you’ve ended up over-ordering, it doesn’t mean that you have to finish it all to avoid food wastage. Don’t be afraid to ask for unfinished dishes to be packed for takeaway.

  3. Share your food — When eating out, it isn’t always easy or possible to control the amount of food that comes to you. If you know beforehand that the portions are too large, get a friend to share a meal with you.

  4. Be flexible — Remember that the recommended caloric intake figure is a daily target. If you overate at breakfast, try to make up for it at lunch or dinner or by cutting down on your snacks.

  5. Keep healthy snacks handy — Achieving your target doesn’t have to involve depriving yourself of food. It’s about eating smart. Whenever you’re feeling hungry, have a healthy low-calorie snack ready.

  6. Choose healthier food options when eating out — Look out for HPB’s healthier dining identifiers on menus in partner food courts and restaurants. These identifiers indicate if the dishes use healthier oil, whole grains, or are lower in calories

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