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Anyone who's ever had a meal at a hawker centre will tell you that they are not only places to eat reasonably-priced local food, but that they are culinary institutions as well.

Hawker food: obesity on the go?

The problem is that most of the traditional dishes served at hawker centres go way back to when tough physical labour demanded larger meal portions and higher calories. However, most people today are have a sedentary lifestyle and thus require less calorie intake through the day.

The average recommended daily calories is 2200 kcal for males and 1800 kcal for females. If we look at a very typical Singaporean meal (for example, a plate of chicken rice with a can of regular soft drink), we find that the calorie intake already exceeds 800 kcal. And with three of such meals a day, it's pretty easy to exceed the calorie mark of 1800 kcal to 2200 kcal per day.

According to the 2010 National Health Survey, obesity rates are on the rise, with one in 10 Singaporeans classified as obese. This rise has been partly attributed to an increased number of people eating out, and being physically inactive.

So how and where can you get the pleasure of traditional dishes such as chicken rice and char kway teow without the unhealthy side effects?

Related: Healthy Hawker Hacks

Healthy Hawker Food Choices

The Health Promotion Board (HPB), together with several partners, recently introduced the Healthier Hawker Programme to provide healthier hawker food options.

At the Yuhua Hawker Centre, for instance, 90% of the dishes offered contain healthier ingredients such as brown rice and wholegrain noodles. Besides wholegrain ingredients, the hawkers there also cook with healthier cooking oils, which have reduced saturated fat, and offer customers reduced-sugar drinks.

Here are some appetising offerings from the Yuhua hawkers:

Lighter char kway teow

 

Simei Penang Laksa Speciality offers a healthier version of char kway teow. Its signature fried kway teow, Penang style, contains 500 kcal, which is still rich for a single meal, but much better than the traditional char kway teow recipe (which is above 740 kcal).

The improved dish still consists of similiar ingredients to char kway teow (such as cockles and Chinese sausage slices), but the rice noodles have been replaced with a wholegrain version. Also, a burst of colour from the additional vegetables makes the dish more appealing.

There's no compromise to the taste of this popular dish, despite it being a healthier version. So char kway teow fans need not despair!

Related: Eating Light At A Hawker Centre Is Possible

Healthier chicken rice

 

Nestled in a corner of Yuhua Hawker Centre, Alan Poon mixes in brown rice along with white rice, resulting in a delicately-balanced chicken rice that's not overly oily but still retains the signature ingredients and flavours that we know and love.

The portion of cucumbers is more than the usual few slices usually offered, providing a crunchy - and savoury - bite to the dish.

The chicken itself is extremely tender and the absence of the fatty chicken skin reduces the calories in this dish to a lean 420 kcal. That's quite a healthy difference when compared to the usual 600 kcal of chicken rice sold elsewhere!

Related: 7 Tricks For Surviving The Food Court At Lunchtime

Wholegrain Mee Goreng

 

Doesn't this plate of noodles look just like any other mee goreng? Of course it does!

Except that Mohd Niyaas Muslim Food substituted the regular noodles in its mee goreng with wholegrain mee to add a higher nutrition value. The noodles still retain that unique fragrance and are deliciously moist.

As an added fibre bonus, many types of vegetables are tossed in the mix, including cabbage, bean sprouts and lady's fingers!

Related: Looking Out For Your Whole Grains

Visit Yuhua Hawker Centre today

With the variety of lip-smacking dishes available at Yuhua Hawker Centre, you don't have to give up your favourite foods to reduce your calorie intake.

Instead, opt for healthier replacements and choose whole-grain alternatives. So if you happen to be in the western region of Singapore, do drop by Yuhua Hawker Centre and try out these delicious dishes for yourself!

Being calorie-conscious does not mean compromising on taste!

Yuhua Hawker Centre is located at Blk 347 Jurong East Avenue 1; it's a short walk from Chinese Garden MRT and easily accessible by other means of transport.

Note: The Healthy Hawker Food Programme is replaced by the Healthier Dining Programme which encourages food and beverage (F&B) businesses, including hawkers, to provide healthier food and drink options. Learn more about the Healthier Dining Programme.


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