A green apple being measured. Eating more fruits and vegetables can help keep with weight management.

Build healthy habits for weight management 

Have you had some success with fad diets at first but then found yourself struggling to keep the weight off for good? You may have been able to lose weight quickly at first but then realized to your dismay that the weight loss was not sustainable. In fact, you may even have gained more than the weight you lost initially.

The answer to your struggle is that you do not understand how to balance your energy. Weight loss or weight gain is associated with declines and increases in energy expenditure That is to say, the calories that you consume do not exceed the calories that you use. That's the key to success if you want to manage your weight successfully for the long term.

But why do many of us consistently overeat? How do we stand up to the food temptation and manage the number of calories we take in? Try these strategies:

1. Watch your plate

A serving is not what you put on your plate. It’s a specific amount of food defined by common measurements such as cups, bowls or pieces. If you are eating according to My Healthy Plate, exercising regularly and still struggling to achieve weight loss, you may need to pay closer attention to portion control. Reducing your portion sizes will reduce your calorie intake that will in turn help with your weight loss goals.

Keep portion sizes in mind when you indulge in a plate of fried rice.

Some healthy eating tips for your everyday meals:

  • Use smaller serving dishes to eat so to better manage your portion and prevent over eating on your plate.
  • Share any desserts, snacks or entrees with your family or friends who are eating with you.
  • If the meal portions in the restaurant are bigger than what you would normally consume, share the meal with your family or friends who are eating with you. Do not shy away from packing home the remaining portions or any leftovers.
  • Try to avoid up-sizing in fast food outlets or rather try to reduce your frequency or avoid fast food altogether.
  • Try to reduce your frequency or avoid having buffets. People tend to eat more when presented with a wide variety of food.
  • Store or buy your snack food such as nuts or chips in smaller packs and tell yourself this is the amount that you can eat for each snacking occasion. For a better alternative, opt for healthier snacks such as a piece of fruit or 3 pieces of wholewheat crackers.

2. Mind what you eat

Losing weight does not mean avoiding food. Instead, eat healthier options of food, i.e. food lower in fat and added sugar as well as food higher in fiber.

Choose and prepare food with less fat

Fat provides energy and helps our bodies to absorb, transport and store fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. It also provides more than twice the number of calories for an equal amount of carbohydrate or protein. Hence, it makes logical sense that cutting down on high-fat food can help you to cut down your daily calories and help you to lose weight or prevent unnecessary weight gain.

Fat and oils in food contain a mixture of 4 types of fat: saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat and trans fat. These different types of fat are equally high in calories, and it is recommended to limit all of them for weight loss or weight maintenance.

So how should you keep your fat in check? Some tips for:


  • Choose oils higher in poly/mono-unsaturated fat (e.g. sunflower/soya bean/corn/canola/olive oil) and use less oil in your cooking.
  • Limit deep-frying to twice a week.
  • Cool soups, stews and curries to allow the fat to solidify. Skim off the solidified fat before reheating.
  • Choose lean cuts of meat and poultry. Remove any visible fat and skin.
  • Use fat spreads (e.g. soft margarine, peanut butter, cheese spreads) sparingly.
  • Go for low-fat milk instead of creamer or condensed milk for your beverages.
  • Replace coconut milk with low-fat milk as it is lower in calories. Or you can replace half of the coconut milk with low-fat milk and gradually increase the proportion of low-fat milk for taste adaptation.

Eating out

  • Choose plain or brown rice over flavoured rice (e.g. chicken rice, nasi lemak, nasi briyani).
  • Remove visible fat or skin from meat and poultry dishes respectively.
  • Choose dishes cooked without coconut cream or coconut milk to lower your overall calorie intake.
  • Order soup-based dishes as much as possible.
  • Choose options such as: grill, pan-fry, steam or broiled 
  • Buying food products

Buying food products

  • Choose food labelled low fat, reduced fat, skimmed or fat-free.
  • Avoid buying processed foods. Choose products with the Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS) because they are lower in fat and saturated fat compared to regular products in similar categories. However, eat these products in moderation because even healthy food choices eaten in abundance can load up the calories and cause weight gain.
  • Instead of white bread, opt for wholemeal bread instead. Whole grain is also a healthier option as it not only provides many health benefits, it also makes us feel full for longer periods of time. This helps prevent us from over-eating.
  • Read the Nutrition Information Panel (NIP) to compare and choose products that are lower in fat.
  • Read the ingredient list for fat and oils. Fat and oils may be listed as vegetable oils, dripping, lard, shortening or hydrogenated vegetable oils in the ingredient list. If they are listed as one of the first ingredients on the ingredient list, the product contains high levels of fat and oils.

Choose food and beverages with less sugar

Sugar provides empty calories, which means it supplies calories with no nutritional value. It can also spoil your appetite for nutritious food. Taking too much food and beverages high in sugar (e.g. fruit juices, honey, soft drinks, cakes and desserts) can result in excess calorie intake and also cause undesirable spikes to our blood sugar levels.

Some tips to reduce the amount of sugar that you take in your diet:

  • Choose plain water over sweetened drinks and juices.​​
  • Taste your coffee or tea before adding any sugar or syrup. If necessary, add a little only.
  • If you choose to have desserts when eating out (e.g. Cheng Tng), ask for less sugar or syrup.
  • Read NIP to compare the amount of sugar in packaged food.
  • Choose food products labelled, unsweetened, less sugar, reduced sugar, low in sugar or sugar-free and also, consume them in moderation.
  • Use spreads like kaya, jam and marmalade sparingly.

3. Keep Moving

Physical activity is an essential part of any effective permanent weight loss programme. It helps you to burn calories so that you use more or as many calories as what you have consumed and this will make sure that you maintain a healthy weight.

Physical activities such as jogging or climbing a flight of stairs are essential for permanent weight loss.

Physical activity should be part of your daily routine but you do not have to exercise vigorously to burn off the calories and reap the health benefits. Your activities can be broken down to routine activities or specific activities throughout the day, just as long as you exercise for at least 150 minutes every week. You can vary the duration of the different forms of physical activities you do to better fit your schedule. Examples of daily activities that you can do to burn calories are:

  • Taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalators.
  • Getting off the bus one or two stops before your destination and walking the remaining distance.
  • Parking the car further away from your destination and walking the remaining distance.
  • Doing household chores (e.g. mopping the floor).

Some specific activities are:

  • Jogging
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Brisk walking
  • Dancing
  • Sports activities such as badminton, basketball and volleyball
  • Qigong or taiji

Find one or more activities that you enjoy and get a friend to join you. Remember that your exercise habits need to be sustainable because weight loss involves lifestyle changes to both your exercise and eating habits.

It’s time to stop relying on crash diets that may cause dangerous fluctuations to your body weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. Stick to time-tested medical advice: a healthier lifestyle that consists of better eating habits and regular exercise is the best way for a healthier, fitter you.

So Remember...

  • Reduce your meal portion sizes to reduce the number of calories that you eat.
  • Choose and prepare food with less fat. You should also choose food and beverages with less sugar.
  • Stay physically active to help you lose or maintain your weight.

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