Young friends enjoying lunch together in a restaurant

The next time you are at one of Singapore’s Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs), you may be delighted to find that your healthier eating options have increased. Thanks to the Healthier Dining Programme (HDP) by HPB at these institutes, patrons can now make more informed choices about their meals and tuck into guilt-free dishes that have been cooked with healthier ingredients or methods. Steamed chicken with brown rice, anyone?

At NUS for example, over ten eating outlets across the university including food courts, restaurants and cafes have calorie counts for lower calorie dishes i.e. ≤500 calorie meals, making it a breeze for students, staff and visitors to choose a lighter meal.

Other tertiary institutions such as the ITE colleges, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Nanyang Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic, Singapore Polytechnic, Temasek Polytechnic, Nanyang Technological University, SIM University, and Singapore Management University also offer dining outlets that are partners of the HDP. The HDP aims to encourage F&B businesses to provide healthier food and drink options.

The healthier eating movement among the IHLs has been gaining momentum. Mr Sunny Peh, who runs FoodClique, a food court at the NUS University Town, said: “Initially, the uptake (of the healthier dishes) wasn’t that much but, over time, with knowledge and publicity on healthier dining, people become more aware of healthier living.”

Related: Build a Healthy Food Foundation

Educating Healthier Eating

Healthy and organic tofu rice buddha bowl

Following guidelines from the HDP, IHL food vendors have been making innovative and healthier changes to their menus, without sacrificing on taste. Some of the guidelines from HDP include:

At Least One Lower Calorie Meal Per Stall

Being health-conscious used to limit your food court options to just a few stalls. Now, most food courts and canteens in IHLs have at least one lower calorie meal, so that you can take your pick from Thai/Korean food to traditional hawker fare without bursting your calorie budget for the day.

Making Calorie Counting Easy

In a rush but don’t want to grab a quick and greasy meal? It’s now easier to choose a lower calorie meal as their calorie counts will now be displayed on the menu. This also makes it extra convenient for those using fitness apps to clock in their daily calorie count.

Less Deep Fried Food

Instead of deep frying, more stalls are now using healthier cooking methods to prepare their food such as steaming or baking.

More Wholegrain Options

Wholemeal pasta, noodles, bread and brown rice offer greater nutritional value as they have been made from the wholegrain. So, you would be glad to know that as part of the HDP, there will be more wholegrain options on your campus.

Less Sauces and Gravy

Those innocuous sauces and gravies in your salads or roast duck rice can actually add significant calories to your meal. You can request to skip them altogether or ask for less. Stalls that serve salads are also committed to serving dressings on the side.

Reduced Sugar Drinks

Life’s sweeter with less sugar! Besides choosing Teh-O over Teh-C, other typically sugar-laden drinks such as soya bean milk or chin chow can also be made with less sugar syrup for a healthier option, if you just ask for it!

Related: Happy with Healthier Food

How do I look out for lighter choices?

Fresh salmon salad with vegetables

Ready to go light? Look out for the healthier choice logo below at stalls before your next meal. HPB-certified lower calorie meals will also have their calorie count on display:

Healthier Options Label

450 Calorie Tag

Related: How Much to Eat at Each Meal?

A Creative Spin on Lighter Meals

Spring rolls with fresh vegetabls and chicken

Lighter meals need not be bland or unsatisfying. Using a little creativity and with support from HPB, vendors have been able to offer healthier options that are becoming a hit with their patrons.

Mr Alson Ng, the operator of Indonesian Express, serves dishes such as ayam panggang and ayam penyet at its four stalls in NUS. He said that 20 percent to 30 percent of students and staff choose the healthier option — steamed chicken with brown rice.

His stalls have also changed their preparation methods, by boiling the chicken to remove excess oil before grilling or frying it. This removes about 30 percent of oil, said Mr Ng.

“Students naturally like the fried or grilled options, but it’s good that they have the choice to eat healthily when on campus where many of them spend a lot of time,” he said.

Related: Beat the Lunch Hour Rush—Better Meals at Your Workplace Canteen

Your Directory to Lighter Choices

Watermelon and tomato salad on a wooden table

With such a galore of healthier options, there is no excuse to not make your next meal a lighter and healthier one at school. So skip the gravies, cut down on the sugar and skim off the fat. With a refreshed body and mind, you’ll also be more ready to tackle that next task or deadline with gusto!

Related: How Much to Eat? Perfecting Portions

NUS

Canteens

  • Flavours
  • Frontier
  • Terrace
  • The Deck
  • Restaurant/Café

  • Alcove Eating House
  • Humble Origin’s Café
  • Hwang
  • Indonesian Express
  • Liang Ban Kung Fu
  • McDonald’s
  • Reedz Café
  • Platypus Café
  • Spice Table Eating House
  • Spinelli Café
  • Subway
  • ITE College Central

    • Central Delights
    • Koufu

    ITE College East

    • East Gourmet
    • East Delights

    ITE College West

    • FoodFest
    • Refresh

    Ngee Ann Polytechnic

    • Makan Place
    • Munch
    • Poolside Canteen
    • Food Club
    • Subway

    Nanyang Polytechnic

    • Subway

    Republic Polytechnic

    • Eco Canteen
    • Koufu
    • Lawn Food Court
    • Subway

    Singapore Polytechnic

    • Food Court 1
    • Food Court 3
    • Food Court 4 (Koufu)
    • McDonald’s
    • Subway

    Nanyang Technological University

    • Canteen 1
    • Canteen 2
    • Koufu @ South Spine
    • McDonald’s
    • Subway

    Singapore University of Social Sciences

    • FoodFest
    • Food Clique
    • Food Note
    • Souperlicious

    Singapore Management University

    • Koufu
    • Pasta Mania
    • Subway

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    References

    1. Teng, A. (2016, Apr 18). On the menu: Healthier meals across NUS campus. The Straits Times.
      Retrieved from http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/on-the-menu-healthier-meals-across-nus-campus
    2. Teng, A. & Yuen, S. (2016, Feb 1). More canteens serving healthy food but rising prices a concern. The Straits Times.
      Retrieved from http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/education/more-school-canteens-serving-healthy-food-but-rising-prices-a-concern
    3. Health Promotion Board (2015, Jun 3). Eating healthily at the school canteen. Health Hub.
      Retrieved from https://www.healthhub.sg/live-healthy/511/Healthy%20meals%20in%20school