Ministry of Health Singapore. All Rights Reserved.
Eat healthy. Be healthy!
Do you fancy having a healthier, fitter body? Of course! We all do. Yet, it is easy to eat as if we don’t.
For our bodies to function well, we need to eat well. A healthy body is built from healthy ingredients. Healthy eating does not have to be expensive. It also does not have to be complicated by keeping count of every calorie.
Start with one small change at a time, choose
healthier foods over less healthy ones most of the time. And as you begin to feel healthier, you will reap the benefits of choosing healthier.
Making available healthier ingredients in your kitchen can help make it easier to change your diet. No one food can give you all the nutrients your body needs, so when grocery shopping, consider the following tips: balance, variety, and moderation.
Every body is different. Our sizes and bone structures are different. Our genes and metabolic rates are different. Our lifestyles and tastes are different. In other words, we all have different needs and we should balance our diet so that
we eat what we need. Consuming more than we need causes weight gain that may lead to health problems.
Consider this Chinese saying,
qi fen bao, gang gang hao (meaning “eat only till you are 70% full”). We would be wise to heed their gentle warning as eating till we are 70% full can save time, money and our health!
We need to eat from all the food groups for a balanced diet, and in adequate quantities. Our natural tendency is towards convenience and food that pleases the palate, which tends to be food that is sweet, salty and oily.
But how much of each food group should we consume? A helpful guideline is
My Healthy Plate, a friendly visual tool designed for Singaporeans by the Health Promotion Board (HPB). You can use My Healthy Plate to help remember and practise healthy habits that can aid with weight management and protect against chronic diseases.
Our body gets most of its energy from carbohydrates (carbs). Digestion breaks carbs down into glucose (sugar), powering everything we do – from breathing to thinking. This is why we can’t entirely cut out carbs from our diet.
Choose wholegrains where possible. Wholegrains retain their original state after milling, hence retaining all the nutrients. Refined grains like white rice, in contrast, are easier to eat but lack fibre, vitamins and minerals. Wholegrains are nutrient-rich carbs and some examples of these are brown rice; grains such as oats, quinoa, barley, and rye; wholegrain noodles and pasta; whole-meal bread; and wholegrain cereals.
Other choice carbs to go for are lentils, beans, sweet potatoes and potatoes (including the nutritious skins).
Naturally low in fat, calories and sodium,
fruit and vegetables boast a range of essential vitamins and minerals. Fibre is essential for bowel movements; vitamins for skin, bones, teeth, and eye health; and minerals like iron, calcium and magnesium for our blood, bones and nerves respectively.
Shop for a “rainbow” of fruit or vegetables, as their different colour pigments also offer unique health benefits. Incorporate as much fruit and vegetables as possible into your daily diet. Enjoy fruit as a dessert after meals or as a snack between meals, or for an energy boost just before or after exercising. Add colour and flavour to your dishes by incorporating different colours of vegetables.
Protein helps the body grow and repair itself, as well as provides vitamins and minerals. Meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds and beans are good sources of protein.
Milk and dairy, which include milk, cheese and yogurt, provide protein and calcium too. Calcium helps keep our bones and teeth strong, so be sure to include one source of dairy protein in your diet every day.
Our body needs fat to store energy, cushion vital organs and transport vitamins. Pay attention to selecting healthier unsaturated fats and oils while limiting saturated and trans fat intake. But do remember, even healthier oils should be used in moderation.
When cooking, use measured amounts of oils containing good fats such as sunflower, canola, or olive oil. When snacking, have nuts containing good fats such as almonds, walnuts, and sunflower seeds instead of biscuits, cakes, or deep-fried foods. Go for fish and lean cuts of meat. To reduce the amount of oil needed when cooking, use non-stick cookware and change your cooking method to grilling, steaming, baking or stir-frying rather than deep-frying.
While eating out, it can be difficult to make choices on the ingredients. So when cooking your own meals, you can choose the healthier and more nutritious options.
Another tip is to choose whole foods instead of processed foods. Processed foods are foods that have been altered from their natural state to make them last longer, taste better or be more convenient to consume. Salt, fat, sugar, other preservatives, artificial flavours and artificial colours have usually been added, making them less healthy, possible even harmful. Try preparing food using ingredients as close to their original form as possible.
Here are a few convenient and versatile ingredients to always have in the kitchen so you can whip up a quick, healthy and tasty meal:
Eggs are an excellent source of protein, and can be cooked in a variety of ways and for different dishes.
Frozen vegetables which are already cut up can be added directly to dishes while cooking. Frozen fruit can be easily added to yoghurt for a healthier dessert.
Frozen fish already deboned is a source of good fats and an easy addition to dishes.
Tinned fish (especially sardines or salmon) can be stirred into pastas or used for sandwiches. Remember to choose the
Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS)!
Canned tomatoes and bottled pasta sauces, when added to pastas, contribute to your vegetable intake. Remember to choose HCS!
Stock cubes are handy for quick soups or to add to stews. Remember to choose HCS!
It really isn’t that difficult to choose a diet that is balanced, varied and in moderation. You don’t have to make drastic changes – take it one step at a time! Perhaps start with a small proportion of brown rice to white and gradually increase it. Change the oil you are using, and choose HCS products over your regular products.
Occasional indulgences are okay, don’t feel guilty about it. So long as you practise the important keys to
healthy eating - balance, variety, and moderation; exercise regularly; drink lots of water; and smile lots – you will look forward to a healthier and fitter you!
This article was last reviewed on
Friday, September 28, 2018
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Ministry of Health Singapore. All Rights Reserved.