By Melody Foo, Dietitian, Ng Teng Fong General Hospital

Are Hawker Foods Unhealthy?

More than 50% of Singaporeans eat out on a weekly basis, with convenience being one of the primary reasons. Many choose to eat at hawker centres as it is an affordable option.

People may think that eating out is unhealthy, but this may not necessarily be the case. In 2014, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) launched the Healthier Dining Programme to encourage Food and Beverage (F&B) companies to sell healthier foods and drinks. Offering meals under 500 calories, providing wholegrain options, as well as reducing the amount of sugar and oils used during food preparation are some of the efforts by the F&B companies as part of this programme. With more than 2,700 stalls joining the programme to date, you can make healthier food choices even when eating at hawker centres.

Tips when Eating Out

To reduce salt intake:
  • Choose clear based soup noodles over fried/dry noodles, such as slice fish bee hoon soup, chicken macaroni soup and mee soto. Avoid finishing the soup which can be high in salt.
  • Limit gravies added to food
  • To reduce fat intake:
  • Opt for plain rice over fried/flavoured rice.
  • Select dishes prepared without coconut milk/cream.
  • Limit oils added to food.
  • Trim the visible fats from meat and remove the skin of poultry.
  • Limit deep fried foods to no more than two times a week. Choose healthier cooking methods such as steaming or grilling.
  • To reduce sugar intake:
  • Ask for less or no sugar when ordering a drink. Alternatively, have a glass of plain water.
  • When craving for something sweet, go for a piece of fruit or a bowl of less sugar soya bean curd (tau huay).
  • To increase fibre intake:
  • Swap white rice/normal noodles for brown rice/wholegrain noodles.
  • Ask for more vegetables when eating out.
  • Aim for 2 servings of fruits a day.
  • Lastly, when ordering foods, you may also look out for dishes with the “lower-calorie option” healthier choice symbol, which provides less than 500 calories per serve.