Build healthy habits for weight management 

Have you had some success with fad diets at first but then found yourself struggling to keep the weight off for good? You may have been successful with keeping a healthy weight for a while but then realized to your dismay that this method was not sustainable. In fact, you may even have gained more than the weight you lost initially.

To achieve a healthy weight successfully for the long term, it is important to understand how to balance energy input and output through healthy eating, regular exercise and physical activities. Read on for tips to eat well and move more.

1. Watch your plate

A serving is not what you put on your plate. It’s a specific amount of food defined by common measurements such as cups, bowls or pieces. If you are eating according to My Healthy Plate, exercising regularly and still struggling to maintain a healthy weight, you may need to pay closer attention to other lifestyle behaviours (e.g. sleep and inactive lifestyle) and portion control.

Keep portion sizes in mind when you indulge in a plate of fried rice.

Some healthy eating tips for your everyday meals:

  • Use smaller serving dishes to eat to better manage your portion and prevent overeating.
  • Share any desserts, snacks or entrees with your family or friends who are eating with you.
  • If the meal portions in the restaurant are bigger than what you would normally consume, share the meal with your family or friends who are eating with you. Do not shy away from packing home the remaining portions or any leftovers.
  • Try to avoid up-sizing in fast food outlets or rather try to reduce your frequency or avoid fast food altogether.
  • Try to reduce your frequency or avoid having buffets. People tend to eat more when presented with a wide variety of food.
  • Store or buy your snack food such as nuts or chips in smaller packs and tell yourself this is the amount that you can eat for each snacking occasion. For a better alternative, opt for healthier snacks such as a piece of fresh fruit or 3 pieces of wholewheat crackers.

2. Mind what you eat

To achieve a healthy weight through food does not mean avoiding food. Instead, eat healthier options of food, (i.e. food lower in fat and added sugar as well as food higher in fiber).

Choose and prepare food with less fat

Fat provides energy and helps our bodies to absorb, transport and store fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. It also provides more than twice the number of calories for an equal amount of carbohydrate or protein. Hence, it makes logical sense that cutting down on high-fat food can help you to cut down your daily calories and help you to lose weight or prevent unnecessary weight gain.

Fat and oils in food contain a mixture of 4 types of fat: saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat and trans-fat. These different types of fat are equally high in calories, and it is recommended to limit all of them for weight maintenance.

So how should you keep your fat in check? Some tips for:


  • Choose oils higher in poly/mono-unsaturated fat (e.g. sunflower/soya bean/corn/canola/olive oil) and use less oil in your cooking.
  • Limit deep-frying to twice a week.
  • Cool soups, stews and curries to allow the fat to solidify. Skim off the solidified fat before reheating.
  • Choose lean cuts of meat and poultry. Remove any visible fat and skin.
  • Use fat spreads (e.g. soft margarine, peanut butter, cheese spreads) sparingly.
  • Go for low-fat milk instead of creamer or condensed milk for your beverages.
  • Replace coconut milk with low-fat milk as it is lower in calories. Or you can replace half of the coconut milk with low-fat milk and gradually increase the proportion of low-fat milk for taste adaptation.

Eating out

  • Choose brown rice over plain or flavoured rice (e.g., chicken rice, nasi lemak, nasi biryani).
  • Remove visible fat or skin from meat and poultry dishes respectively.
  • Choose dishes cooked without coconut cream or coconut milk to lower your overall calorie intake.
  • Avoid drinking soup-based dishes as much as possible.
  • Choose options such as: grill, pan-fry, steam or broiled 

Buying food products

  • Choose food labelled low fat, reduced fat, skimmed or fat-free.
  • Avoid buying processed foods. Choose products with the Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS) because they are lower in fat and saturated fat compared to regular products in similar categories. However, eat these products in moderation because even healthy food choices eaten in abundance can load up the calories and cause weight gain.
  • Instead of white bread, opt for wholemeal bread instead. Whole grain is also a healthier option as it not only provides many health benefits, it also makes us feel full for longer periods of time. This prevents us from over-eating.
  • Read the Nutrition Information Panel (NIP) to compare and choose products that are lower in fat.
  • Read the product's ingredient list for fat and oils. Fat and oils may be listed as vegetable oils, dripping, lard, shortening or hydrogenated vegetable oils in the ingredient list. If they are listed as one of the first ingredients on the ingredient list, the product contains high levels of fat and oils.

Choose food and beverages with less sugar

Sugar provides empty calories, which means it supplies calories with no nutritional value. Taking too much food and beverages high in sugar (e.g. fruit juices, honey, soft drinks, cakes and desserts) can result in excess calorie intake and also cause undesirable spikes to our blood sugar levels.

Some tips to reduce the amount of sugar that you take in your diet:

  • Choose plain water over sweetened drinks and juices.​​
  • Taste your coffee or tea before adding any sugar or syrup. If necessary, add a little only.
  • If you choose to have desserts when eating out (e.g. Cheng Tng), ask for less sugar or syrup.
  • Read NIP to compare the amount of sugar in packaged food.
  • Choose food products labelled, unsweetened, less sugar, reduced sugar, low in sugar or sugar-free and consume them in moderation.
  • Use spreads like kaya, jam and marmalade sparingly.

3. Keep Moving

Physical activity is an essential part of any effective permanent weight management programme. Being physically active not only helps you to work off calories consumed, but also helps to reduce the tendency of emotional eating.

Physical activities such as jogging or climbing a flight of stairs are essential for permanent weight loss.

The Singapore Physical Activity Guidelines for adults recommend at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity and at least 2 days of muscle strengthening exercises every week. The activities can be done any time throughout the day and you are encouraged to incorporate it into your daily routine. You can vary the duration of the different forms of physical activities you do to better fit your schedule. Examples of daily activities that you can do are:

  • Taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalators.
  • Getting off the bus one or two stops before your destination and brisk walking the remaining distance.
  • Parking the car further away from your destination and brisk walking the remaining distance.
  • Doing effortful household chores (e.g. mopping and vacuuming the floor).

Other types of activities may include (but not limited to):

  • Jogging
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Brisk walking
  • Dancing
  • Body weight exercises or resistance training
  • Sports such as badminton, basketball, and volleyball
  • Qigong or Taiji

Choose activities and habits that are realistic and enjoyable to ensure a sustainable lifestyle change. Set small goals and include a friend or family member to join you in achieving a healthy and active lifestyle.

It’s time to stop relying on crash diets that may cause dangerous fluctuations to your body weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. Stick to time-tested medical advice: a healthier lifestyle that consists of better eating habits and regular exercise is the best way for a healthier, fitter you.

So Remember...

  • Reduce your meal portion sizes to reduce the number of calories that you eat.
  • Choose and prepare food with less fat. You should also choose food and beverages with less sugar.
  • Stay physically active to help you achieve healthy weight.

Download the HealthHub app on Google Play or Apple Store to access more health and wellness advice at your fingertips.

Read these next: