Find out more about cutting down on salt, sugar and
alcohol to reap the benefits of a healthier diet.
Salt & Sodium
You can’t trust your tongue to taste excess salt
On average, Singapore residents consume 3,620 mg of sodium compared to the recommended daily average of 2,000 mg1.
Over time, this causes our tongue to become less sensitive to the taste of salt, leading us to consume even more salt. Eating too much salt can result in health complications such as hypertension, heart disease and stroke.
Although “salt” and “sodium” are often used interchangeably, they are not the same. Sodium is a mineral that is found in salt and also occurs naturally in foods. Salt, also known as sodium chloride, is a compound comprising about 40% sodium and 60% chloride.
Learn how you can reduce our sodium intake with these easy tips.
Source: 1National Nutrition Survey, 2022, Health Promotion Board
With 31% of dine-out dishes exceeding the daily recommended sodium intake of 2,000 mg in a single serving, you likely consume more salt than you think. Find out your daily sodium intake with our Sodium Calculator to monitor your consumption and stay healthy.
While our bodies need sodium for normal bodily functions,
excessive salt intake can cause hypertension or high blood
pressure, which refers to blood being pumped around the body
at higher-than-normal pressure.
2Source: National Population Health Survey 2020 (NPHS 2020), Health Promotion Board
Consuming excess sodium causes our bodies to retain more
water, raising blood pressure and exerting extra pressure on
blood vessel walls, which may become damaged. As the walls
of weakened vessels thicken to
cope with the strain, the space within each vessel is
narrowed, increasing the risk of heart and kidney
Narrowed vessels are also more prone to clot formation. If a clot partially or completely blocks blood flow to the heart or brain, a heart attack or stroke can occur. Sometimes, a weakened vessel may even rupture and bleed into the surrounding brain, causing damage to brain tissues.
Studies consistently show that reducing salt and sodium intake helps lower blood pressure in both healthy individuals and individuals diagnosed with hypertension, easing the workload on both our heart and kidneys while reducing our risk of stroke.
Contrary to popular belief, diseases caused by consuming too much salt are not just a problem for the elderly, but also for younger Singapore residents.
1Source: National Nutrition Survey (NNS) 2018, National Registry of Disease Office, Health Promotion Board
Some of the negative effects of excessive salt intake include:
- Cardiovascular disease (e.g. stroke, heart attack)
- Kidney disease (e.g. kidney stones)
- Stomach cancer
- Water retention
- Weight gain
- Low sleep quality
- Decline in mental wellness
1. Know that not all salts are the same
Many people are under the wrong impression
that gourmet salts such as sea salt and
Himalayan pink salt are lower in sodium
content and contain more minerals because of
their claims to be
Other than trace amounts of additional
minerals, these salts provide no health
advantages compared to table salt and
contain comparable amounts of sodium by
Excessive consumption of any type of salt will inevitably lead to higher risks of high blood pressure and other ailments. To reduce sodium intake, take a look at the Nutritional Information Panel and choose lower-sodium salts like potassium salt (K-salt) or other healthier salt blends.
Read this article to learn more about lower-sodium salt:
2. Make the healthier choice
Products carrying the “Lower in
Symbol (HCS) identifier contains at
least 25% less
sodium compared to similar products in the
same food category. Reducing your sodium
intake is easy when you choose such
Foods that are lower in sodium doesn’t mean that they will taste bland. You’ll find the “Lower in Sodium” HCS identifier on many of your favourite sauces, seasonings, cooking mixes and pastes that are not only tasty, but also healthier too!
3. Spice up your dishes with herbs and more
Natural herbs, spices and aromatics like onion, ginger, garlic, chilli, parsley, spring onions, cinnamon, and pepper all help to enhance the taste and aroma of food. As a common Chinese saying goes, a delicious dish is one that is rich in colour, fragrance, and flavour. Jazzing up your dishes with herbs or spices adds flavour, colour and fragrance, while reducing the need to use too much salt or seasonings, hence reducing your sodium intake.
4. Oomph with umami
Dried mushrooms, seaweed and kelp are often
added to soups and stews to impart a savoury
deliciousness which we now recognise as
“umami”. This can be translated
to “essence of deliciousness”
actually the taste of glutamate, a naturally
occurring amino acid.
Sources of “umami” also include Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) which is a food additive. Contrary to popular belief, decades of research have shown no evidence linking MSG to commonly purported symptoms such as hair loss and palpitations. MSG is generally recognised as safe and not as unhealthy as one might think. Both sources of glutamate, naturally occurring glutamate and MSG, are processed by the body in the same way. In fact, a teaspoon of MSG contains 615 mg of sodium, less than a teaspoon of table salt which contains 1,960 mg.
To add a healthier umami flavour, you can use MSG or foods such as tomatoes, mushrooms, seaweed, meats, seafood and even aged cheeses, instead of adding more salt or seasonings.
Get inspired with our delicious, lower-sodium recipes!
1. Take less soup and dipping sauces
Gravy, sauces and soups can be high in sodium. Avoid drinking all the soup in soup-based dishes, and ask for less gravy and sauce. Alternatively, you can ask for these to be served on the side. Taste your food first - you may not need to add extra salt, more sauce. (e.g. chilli sauce, ketchup, soya sauce), or use too much dipping sauce.
Here’s some tips to cut your sodium intake:
Savouring Duck Rice?
(Sodium content: 1,446 mg)
Ask for gravy on the side and pour sparingly to reduce sodium consumption!
2. Choose healthier choice lower-sodium options
Look out for the lower-sodium healthier dining identifier at our F&B partners.
Explore these lower-sodium products from supporting brands to help you savour more flavours with less salt*.
Ayam Brand Tuna Flakes in Water - Light 150 g
2 for $6.55 (U.P. $3.45)
Chng Kee’s Laksa Paste 240 ml
$3.50 (U.P. $3.90)
Wholegrain Hokkien Noodles 400 g
Knorr Chicken Cubes (No Added MSG) 60 g
Limited edition Knorr tote bag with $15 spend (till 31 Oct)
Lee Kum Kee Panda Brand Reduced Salt Oyster Sauce 500 g
$5.55 (U.P. $6)
Heritage Farm Baked Macadamia and Cashew Nuts 150 g
$4.90 (U.P. $5.90)
SSH Premium Chilli Crab Sauce 270g
*Terms and conditions apply. Check in-store for details.
What is salt and sodium?
While the words “salt” and “sodium” are often used
interchangeably, they actually do not mean the same thing.
Sodium is a mineral and is required in small amounts for normal bodily functions like fluid balance, nerve conduction and muscle contraction. It occurs naturally in foods or is added during food processing to enhance the texture of foods or preserve them.
Salt, also known as sodium chloride, is a compound comprising about 40% sodium and 60% chloride. It is often referred to as table salt.
Whether it’s salt or sodium, excessive consumption can cause high blood pressure, often leading to cardiovascular disease (CVD).
What is sugar?
Sugar is essentially a carbohydrate that occurs naturally in a wide range of
nutritious foods such as fruit, vegetables, grains and dairy.
Sugar is often added during food processing to enhance flavours or act as a preservative. Added sugars are largely empty calories that provide little to no nutrients and should be consumed in moderation.
Our sugar consumption should be no more than 10 percent of our daily energy intake. For most adults, that is about 10 teaspoons (50g) of sugar based on a 2000-daily calorie intake. For those who would like to reap additional health benefits such as a decrease in weight, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends a further reduction to 5 teaspoons (25g) of sugar a day.
Consuming too much added sugar sets up a vicious cycle:
Furthermore, our body converts any excess sugar that we eat into fat, storing it as a future fuel source. By eating large amounts of sugary foods, we place ourselves at risk of various health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
Spotting hidden sugar
Sugar comes in many forms, with names that do
not actually include the word
“sugar”. They include fructose, corn
syrup, sucrose, maltose, and many more.
Just like consuming sugar, having all these added extra calories in our diet can harm our health. Learn to spot different kinds of sugary substances on food labels to help cut down on our sugar intake.
Here’s a list of common added sugar and their calorie count per 100g:
The sugar myths
Some added sugars are marketed as healthier options but are actually no different from simple white sugar.
While brown sugar does contain additional minerals such as magnesium, potassium and iron, nutritional benefits are miniscule.
Read this article to learn more about the common sugar myths:
How can we consume less sugar?
1. Read the labels
A single can of sugar-sweetened soda
can contain as much as 7 teaspoons
(35g) of added sugar (140 kcal).
Nutrition Information Panel
to find out the sugar content in our
Look out for products with the Healthier Choice Symbol as these are at least 25% lower in sugar than similar products within the same category.
Also, look out for Nutri-Grade A or B drinks that are lower in sugar and saturated fat. Discover if your favourite drinks are Nutri-Grade A or B or find similar alternatives that are lower in sugar and saturated fat here .
2. Make water the default drink option
Choose water as our beverage of
choice. Water is needed for
essential bodily function and the
excretion of waste, and forms up to
60% of the human body.
Replace fluid losses and keep our body functioning well by drinking water. This can be made even more enjoyable by infusing water with fresh fruit and herbs for great taste and a dose of vitamins!
Read this article to learn more about how to make drinking water more enjoyable:
3. Ask for “less sugar” or “no sugar” when ordering freshly-prepared beverages or desserts
Freshly-prepared beverages such as
kopi and teh, and desserts such as
ice kachang and chendol can add lots
of sugar to our diet.
Ask for less or no syrup, sugar, and sweetened condensed milk in our drink or dessert.
- Kopi or teh - Ask for less (siu dai) or no sugar (kosong), enjoy more flavour with less sugar
- Bubble tea - If not already ordering less sugar, start small and ask for 50% sugar level. To enjoy more benefits, go for 25% level or less.
- Ice kachang - Ask for less sugar syrup
4. Portion control
There are certain sweet drinks, snacks or desserts that we may find irresistible and tend to overindulge. Rather than depriving ourselves completely, we can portion control by:
- Choosing a smaller pack size (e.g. 250ml instead of a 500ml bottle)
- Using a smaller plate - it tricks us into thinking that we are enjoying more food than what is really on our plate
- Sharing with friends and family
- Enjoying such sweet treats in moderation or making it an occasional treat
5. Replace sugar with alternatives/substitutes in our home cooked meals
We use sugar in our home-cooked
meals; whether it’s baking or
stir-frying, sugar is added to our
food as a way to enhance the
flavours of our dishes.
Instead, use fresh, chopped, pureed fruit and vegetables to give our desserts flavour and fibre boost.
We can also try sweeteners like stevia or xylitol that contain fewer to no calories, and won’t cause a spike to our blood glucose levels. Try to gradually adjust and decrease the amount of sweetners we use. Train our palate and learn to enjoy the natural flavours in food.
6. Watch out for the sugar trap
Watching our sugar intake may not be
easy when some sugar traps are hard to
detect. Seemingly savoury foods could
contain more added sugar than what we
Here are some examples of the sugar content hiding in our favourite hawker dishes.
These sugar substitutes offer a sweet taste with fewer calories than sugar. They fall into two categories – (i) low-caloric sweeteners and (ii) non-caloric sweeteners.
Low-caloric Sweeteners (Sugar Alcohols)
Naturally present in plants, sugar alcohols such as sorbitol and xylitol are often used in sugar-free sweets, beverages and desserts.
Chemical-based and containing almost no calories,
their intense sweetness somewhat differs from the
taste of simple white sugar. These are used less
often or in combination with other sweeteners for a
Some names of non-caloric sweeteners that may be familiar to us include:
- Acesulfame K
Both categories of sweeteners do not cause tooth decay nor affect blood glucose levels, the way regular sugar does.
We can replace sugar with sweeteners in recipes, but do take note:
Aspartame is not heat stable
For baking and cooking, avoid aspartame as it is the only sweetener that breaks down and loses sweetness in prolonged or high heat. Use sweeteners like acesulfame K and sucralose instead.
Less bulk and browning
Compared to sweeteners, sugar offers more bulk, browning, colour and aroma to baked goods. Simply replace 50% of the sugar with sweetener for healthier, yet appealing bakes.
Use the right amount
Check the sugar equivalent of the sweetener for the right amount to convert in our recipe.
For most people
Sweeteners in our food products are safe for consumption. Any food containing sweeteners can only be sold if it follows regulatory requirements and is approved by the Singapore Food Agency (SFA).
For those managing weight
For individuals concerned about weight management, the transient use of a small amount of sweeteners can be a gradual means to help reduce intake of free sugars in the short term. However, the long-term use of non-sugar sweeteners is not ideal and sustained improvements in overall diet quality will be better for weight control in the long run.
Sweeteners can be safely consumed by diabetics as they do not increase blood sugar levels.
For people with
People with PKU cannot consume aspartame as it breaks
down into phenylalanine upon digestion.
PKU is a rare condition where the body cannot break down amino acid phenylalanine, which causes it to build up and become toxic.
What are calories?
Calories counting seem to be necessary when we want to get started on a healthy
eating journey. But how many of us actually understand what calories are and how
to count them?
Easily track your daily calorie intake with the meal log tool on the Healthy 365 app
Learn more here
The energy that fuels your body comes mainly from nutrients such as fats, carbohydrates, and protein. These nutrients take on different forms, like how carbohydrates can be sugars or starches. Each of these nutrients contain energy value and is measured by calories. Calories are therefore units of measurement for the energy value of food.
1g Fat = 9 Calories
1g Carbohydrate = 4 Calories
1g Protein = 4 Calories
Why do we need calories?
Calories are needed for energy to fuel our daily activities from simple breathing to intense exercise.
On average, Singapore residents consume about 2,500 calories daily,
which is above the recommended calorie intake. This stems from unhealthy
meals and regular grazing between meals.
Lowering your calorie intake lowers your health risks too. Have lower-calorie meals to keep your weight in check and lead a healthier lifestyle.
Maintain weight and stay in shape
Reduce risk of other chronic diseases
The amount of calories your body needs depends on your age, gender, level of physical activity, and body size. People who are active and exercise regularly would require more calories than someone who is mostly desk-bound.
7 - 60 years old
calorie intake for females:
7 - 60 years old
calorie intake for males:
One simple way to achieve this is to follow the My Healthy Plate (MHP) guidelines. Fill your plate with:
- ¼ Wholegrains
- ¼ Good sources of protein
- ½ Fruit and vegetables
Choose quality over quantity
Not all calories are equal. It’s important to
consume the right number of calories from a variety of
nutrient-dense foods such as wholegrains, lean protein,
fruit and vegetables.
Be sure to also choose foods prepared with healthier ingredients and methods, and limit your intake of high-sugar food and drinks as they increase your calorie intake with little to no nutrients (empty calories).
500 kcal is the magic number
Your favourite meals could hit a whopping 700-800 kcal each time! To keep within your daily caloric intake, try to swap one of your regular meals for a lower-calorie one that is around 500 kcal.
Choose healthier options
When dining out, keep an eye out for this Healthier
Dining Programme identifier to enjoy healthier meals.
These dishes are cooked with healthier oil, wholegrains,
or are lower in calories.
Singaporeans love eating local delights like nasi lemak, rojak, chicken rice and more. As tasty as these dishes are, they are also rich in calories and saturated fats. The good news is, we don’t have to give up our favourite hawker fare to stay healthy!
Try these healthier hacks when ordering your hawker favourites:
- Go easy on the gravy
- Ask for less coconut rice
- Choose vegetables over deep-fried items
- Go easy on the fried items like You Tiao (fried dough fritters)
- Opt for more fruit and vegetables
- Ask for less sugar and sauces
- Opt for leaner cuts of chicken
- Ask for less rice
- Choose brown rice if available
- Request for more cucumber slices
Here’s how else you can make healthier choices when dining out:
In big groups, you may tend to eat more than your recommended daily calorie intake or order more than what you can finish. Avoid these situations by ordering less.
If you’ve ended up over-ordering, don’t be afraid to ask for unfinished dishes to be packed for takeaway.
Share your food
It isn’t always easy to control the portion of your dish. Get a friend to share a meal with you if you know that the portions are large beforehand.
The key to weight management is a healthy diet and an active lifestyle. Here are some simple tips to help you maintain a healthy weight.
Have regular meals
Space out your meals to keep you energised throughout the day. Avoid skipping or delaying your meals, those hunger pangs will leave you vulnerable to eating unhealthy food or overeating!
Eat balanced, healthier meals
Fill a quarter of your plate with wholegrains, a quarter with protein, and half with fruit and vegetables to give your body all the essential nutrients it needs. Eating these foods in the right proportions will help you keep the amount of calories you consume in check.
Eat Less: Saturated Fats
Fats, especially saturated fats, are a concentrated source of energy with twice the amount of calories as carbohydrates or protein. Cut back on fat consumption to minimise excess energy and calorie intake.
Eat Less: Sugar
Sugar supplies calories with little nutritional value. These empty calories increase your calorie intake without providing nutrients.
Eat More: Wholegrains, Fruit &
The bulk from high-fibre foods such as wholegrains, fruit and vegetables helps you feel full longer and prevents you from overeating.
Drinking in moderation
Limit intake of sugar
Our sugar consumption should be no more than 10 percent of our daily energy intake. For most adults, that is about 10 teaspoons of sugar (based on a 2,000-daily calorie intake). If you are determined enough, a further reduction to 5 teaspoons of sugar a day can bring about additional health benefits such as a decrease in weight. Added sugar can be found in sweetened drinks, fruit juices, honey, jam and processed foods like canned fruits.
Drinking in moderation
Having drinks with your friends? Healthy adult men should drink no more
than 2 standard drinks a day, and women should drink no more than 1
standard drink a day. A standard drink is 1 can (330ml) of regular beer
5% alcohol content, ½ glass (100ml) of wine with 15% alcohol
content, where the glass height is not more than 15cm, or 1 shot (30ml)
of spirits with 40% alcohol content.
Better yet, drink something other than alcohol, which is a concentrated source of calories. To view the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for adults in Singapore, click here.
Trans & Saturated Fats
What are the different types of fats?
While we all know fats are a concentrated source of calories, it’s still
essential for our body’s needs. Let us learn more about fats and how to
get the most out of it.
There are 4 different types of fats - polyunsaturated fats (PUFA), monounsaturated fats (MUFA), trans fats, and saturated fats (SFA). These fats can affect our health differently so be sure to choose healthier options!
What are trans fats?
Trans fats are formed when unsaturated fats undergo hydrogenation. Trans fats come from
two sources - natural and artificial. Natural trans fats occur in dairy products and red
meats such as beef and lamb; while artificial
trans fats come mainly from partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) in processed foods like
snacks, baked goods, prepared meals and fat spreads. Currently, there is a ban on PHOs
in Singapore, so products like frozen cakes and
fat spread have been reformulated to be PHO-free.
To learn more about healthier fats and oils you can consume, visit: /programmes/nutrition-hub/eat-more#healthier-oils-and-fats .
Trans and saturated fats are unhealthy fats that increase the risk of heart disease. Some sources of saturated fats include animal fats (e.g. butter, lard), full-fat dairy products (e.g. full-cream milk), and some plant-based oils.
Lowers risk of heart disease
Lowers low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol levels
Increases risk of heart disease
Raises low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol levels
Lowers high-density lipoproteins (HDL) cholesterol levels
When preparing meals at home
Use controlled amounts of oil
Use a teaspoon to control the amount of oil added into the pan instead of pouring it straight from the bottle. Using non-stick cookware also means less oil is needed.
Pick food products lower in saturated fats
Healthier choices include low-fat dairy products, lean meats, and fish. Remove visible fats from poultry or meat too.
Include fish in your diet
Oily fish such as mackerel and ikan tenggiri or batang pack lots of healthy fats such as Omega-3 which is good for the heart. Frozen fish are budget-friendly. Include fish in your diet twice a week.
Consider other protein-rich sources
Bean products like tofu, beans, and lentils offer protein with little saturated fats.
When eating out
Eat out the healthier way
Go for healthier food options. Look out for the Healthier Dining Programme identifiers - like this one!
Ask for less gravy and keep deep-fried foods to a minimum
Less gravy and less deep-fried food mean less fats and fewer calories.
Choose fruit or dessert
Satisfy that sweet tooth with fruit instead of pastries, cakes and cookies.