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We live fast-paced lifestyles. We like things quick and fuss-free. That's why it's not surprising that we love our hawker centres so much. They offer a whole variety of tasty and cheap food, served up lightning-quick by seasoned hands.

Food these days comes so fast (and often gets swallowed just as quickly) that we don't stop to think about our choices. How healthy — or unhealthy — are our food choices?

 

You might think that it's lame, but there's a whole lot of truth to the saying "we are what we eat".

So, what are we eating? We're likely to be among the 60% of Singaporeans who eat out at least one meal daily. Not that that's totally bad. Given the variety, we've got lots to choose from — food courts, restaurants, organic fare or vegan. These days, we are absolutely spoilt for choice.

The real question is, what are you choosing these days?

Related: 5 Healthier CBD Lunchtime Dining Options

The End of Char Kway Teow

If Dr Leslie Tay's book title says anything, we are starting to be smarter about our food choices ("The End of Char Kway Teow"). Seriously though, what makes Char Kway Teow — a dish we grew up eating and love — one of worst enemies to maintain a trim waistline?

The main ingredients sound traditional. There's shrimp paste, bean sprouts, soya sauce, Chinese chives, lap cheong (traditional Chinese sausages), cockles and pork lard (though some may argue that this isn't essential). Sounds okay to you? Well, our buddies at Health Promotion Board (HPB) tell us that the average daily calorie intake of a healthy male between 16-18 years old is recommended at 2,850 kcal. Of this amount, about 25-30% may come from fats, and of that, less than 10% should be saturated fats. This works out to be 79-95 grams of fat per day, of which only 31.6 grams should be saturated.


 

Here's the kicker. The humble Char Kway Teow has more than 29 grams of saturated fat. That's almost the total fat allowance for a day! The calories alone for this dish take up more than a third of your daily requirements. Talk about an unbalanced meal!

Related: Eating Light at a Hawker Centre Is Possible

Where Char Kway Teow Comes From

The history of Char Kway Teow dates way back to the early days where simple dishes were the staple meals of fishermen and farm workers. Having manually strenuous lifestyles, a dish rich in carbohydrates and fats provided them with the much-needed energy required to do heavy lifting.

Fast forward to today. Most of us live a sedentary lifestyle. We're more likely to be resting on our behinds than doing hard physical labour. It doesn't help that our lives are dominated by modern technology, where nearly everything is (or can be) automated.

This 744 kcal meal provides us with a lot of energy and fat which we may not be able to use that energy in today's lifestyle.

Knowing this, it's not hard to see why we're staying away from food that just isn't right for us; nobody needs or wants to be affected by nasty long-term effects such as weight gain and other serious illnesses like diabetes, heart diseases, clogged arteries, an unhealthy liver and stroke.

Char Kway Teow: Each serving of 384g

 

Related: Survive the Hawker Paradise

But fret not. These days, it's not hard to find healthy alternatives to even the seemingly evil Char Kway Teow. Here's how you can find a delicious but balanced meal even in this fried noodle dish:

  • Look for stalls displaying the 'Healthier Choice' logo on their food hygiene certificate.

  • Ask for the dish to be cooked with no lard.

  • Ask for less oil.

  • Ask for more vegetables to be added (you may need to pay a little extra).

  • Most importantly, eat this dish (as with all food) in moderation less frequently)

 

Don't believe us? Well, healthier alternatives are already available. Some food court cooks have created a wholegrain Char Kway Teow, cooking with chicken breast, low sodium soya sauce, and wholegrain noodles.

With these few simple modifications, the amount of calories in this dish could easily be reduced. Great for those who love their favourite dish without compromising their taste buds!


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