A plate with grilled fish, brown rice, fruits and vegetables and a cup of water

Many people think that eating healthy simply means restricting themselves to salads and carb-free diets, but that couldn’t be further from the truth – extreme dieting could lead to various immediate and long-term health consequences. The resulting nutrient deficiency may lead to lower energy levels, anemia, constipation, a compromised immune system, brittle hair and nails, weakened bones, or even depression. It could also strain your kidney and liver and increase risk of cardiovascular diseases.

The reality is you do not have to completely cut out or avoid certain foods or entire food groups to achieve a healthier weight.

Basic principles of healthy eating

The basic principle behind weight loss revolves around calorie management, and there are many sustainable and enjoyable ways to have a balanced diet. There’s no one type of food that can provide all the nutrients your body needs. You have to eat a wide variety of foods, all in moderation, and in the right balance – here’s how.

What comprises a balanced diet?

Your body needs 6 essential nutrients

There are 6 essential nutrients for a body to function healthily. These are carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals and water. These essential nutrients not only provide energy but are vital for bodily functions, growth, disease prevention, and good health.

A simple, sustainable way to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight is really to focus on ensuring that you are getting all these essential nutrients, while staying within your calorie limit.

It would include all food groups

Eating balanced meals that include all food groups (wholegrains, protein, fruit and vegetables) in the right amounts based on your calorie needs will get you all the essential nutrients you require, and help you stay healthy.

Making healthier choices for each food group is also key in attaining your weight goals. These can be simple choices to opt for food and drinks that contain less saturated fats, sodium and added sugar. Foods that are higher in unrefined carbohydrates like wholegrains also help in weight management as it keeps you feeling fuller for longer and prevents you from overeating.

Healthier eating made easy

Introducing Quarter, Quarter, Half (QQH) – all you need to remember when counting calories becomes too much.

By following the My Healthy Plate (MHP) visual guide, you will attain the essential nutrients from all food groups in the right amounts, while staying within your daily calorie limit. Simply “Quarter, Quarter, Half (QQH) ” your meal by consuming a quarter plate of wholegrains, a quarter plate of proteins and half a plate of fruits and vegetables. This helps you hit your weight goals in a healthy, sustainable way.

My Healthy Plate is a visual guide on what to put on our plates to help us maintain a healthy balanced diet. 

“Quarter Quarter Half” In Action

Here are some examples of how you can use the “Quarter Quarter Half” concept to plan your meals:

  1. Choose wholegrains for Quarter (¼) of your plate

The first quarter of your plate deals with your carbohydrate needs. It is highly recommended that you begin switching over to wholegrains. Not only do they contain more vitamins, antioxidants and fibre, eating wholegrains also makes you feel fuller for longer and prevents you from overeating. Some options include brown rice, wholemeal bread, wholegrain noodles or pasta, oats, quinoa, barley, buckwheat soba and chapati.

Simply look out for food products with the Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS) that states “Higher in Wholegrains” on the packaging during your grocery shopping.

Wholegrains such as brown rice, wholemeal, and quinoa will keep you feeling fuller

When you’re dining out or ordering-in, keep your eyes peeled for indicators such as “Wholegrain options available here” or “Higher in wholegrains”.

Braised Tea Flower Mushroom and Fresh Tau Kwa Bento Set.
Braised Tea Flower Mushroom and Fresh Tau Kwa Bento Set.
Image credit: courtesy of Greendot

If wholegrains aren’t really to your taste, you can always start small and then slowly working your way up. For instance, if your goal is to replace 50% of your grains with brown rice, it may be easier to start with 25% first and increase this amount slowly as you get more and more accustomed to it. You could also start small by swapping white bread with extra-soft or superfine wholemeal bread.

  1. Vary your protein routine for a Quarter (¼) of your plate

The second quarter of your plate deals with your protein intake. It is good to have a mixture of animal- and plant-based proteins from fresh foods. Go for lean and fresh meat – it’s best to avoid or at least limit the amount of processed meat you eat, such as luncheon meat, ham, sausages, and nuggets, which are high in saturated fats and sodium could increase the risk of heart diseases.

You may also want to consider including fish at least twice a week. Fish contains beneficial fats such as Omega-3 fatty acids which support overall heart health. Canned tuna and sardines are good and affordable sources of protein – look out for options with the Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS) displayed on the product packaging.

Steamed fish with fresh vegetables
Steamed fish with fresh vegetables

Dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese are also good sources of protein. Choose low-fat options which are not only healthier but also provide you with a dose of calcium for stronger bones. You can also consider including plant-based protein like tempeh, soymilk, tofu, beans, lentils and nuts – they are good protein sources too and budget-friendly.

Plant-based protein: tofu, nuts, beans, lentils and low-fat milk
Plant-based protein: tofu, nuts, beans, lentils and low-fat milk

  1. Fill Half a plate with a variety of fruits and vegetables

Lastly, don’t forget your fruit and vegetables intake. A good way to include them is to top your breakfast oatmeal with your favourite seasonal or frozen fruit; or simply order additional vegetables, preferably 2 different types, for your meal.

A bowl of oatmeal with low-fat milk, bananas, strawberries and blueberries
A bowl of oatmeal with low-fat milk, bananas, strawberries and blueberries

You can also consider replacing your typical midday snack of sugary sweets like tarts, muffins, and cakes with fruits like pears, apples, and bananas instead.

Bonus Tips To Maintain Your Healthy Diet

For each food group, choose food and drinks that are lower in saturated fats, sodium and added sugar, and higher in wholegrains.

Look out for Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS) products when grocery shopping and read the nutrition information panel. Today, the Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS) is already displayed on more than 3,500 different food products, spanning across over 100 food categories such as convenience meals, sauces, beverages and breakfast cereals. Products labelled with the HCS contain less sugar, saturated fat, trans fat or salt than their non-HCS counterparts in the same category. They are also higher in calcium or wholegrains than regular products within the same category.

Eating out or ordering in?  Look out for HPB’s Healthier Dining Partner (HDP) identifiers! Many partners are offering meals that are well-balanced such as bento sets at Greendot, salad bowls and wraps at Simply Wrapps, wholegrain rice bowls at Mr. Bean, and even economic rice and yong tau fu at Kopitiam.

Not only can your meals and groceries be healthier, but you also get rewarded with Healthpoints that can be converted into sure-win rewards under the Eat, Drink, Shop Healthy Challenge, when you scan the QR code on your receipts with the Healthy 365 app for eligible purchases!

Begin Your Healthy Eating Journey The Right Way

Weight loss may seem daunting, but small changes and simple substitutions are the first steps you can take to make a big difference to your diet and health in the long run.

Start with small changes to build healthier eating habits. Follow the My Healthy Plate (MHP) guide, and “Quarter Quarter Half (QQH)” your meals to get all essential nutrients, and choose foods and drinks with less saturated fats, sodium and added sugar for a healthier you!

Leave your bad eating habits behind and start your journey towards a healthier weight with My Healthy Plate (MHP) – Quarter Quarter Half (QQH) today!

Related: My Healthy Plate

Information on My Healthy Plate is available via the HealthHub mobile app, which can be downloaded for free at the Apple Store and Google Play.