Reduce Your Salt And Sugar Intake

Reduce sugar and salt intake for a healthy diet. Drink in moderation to limit empty calories. Learn more at Nutrition Hub.

Eat Less

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

Sodium Calculator

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.

Find out your daily sodium intake

Sodium Calculator Start Calculating

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.

1 in 3 Singapore residents have high blood 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 diseases.

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.

30% increase in stroke and heart diseases caused by excessive salt intake

1Source: National Nutrition Survey (NNS) 2018, National Registry of Disease Office, Health Promotion Board

Negative effects of excessive salt intake

Some of the negative effects of excessive salt intake include:

  • Hypertension
  • Cardiovascular disease (e.g. stroke, heart attack)
  • Kidney disease (e.g. kidney stones)
  • Stomach cancer
  • Osteoporosis
  • Water retention
  • Weight gain
  • Headaches
  • Low sleep quality
  • Decline in mental wellness

Sugar

What is sugar?

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.

How much sugar should we consume?

Consuming too much added sugar sets up a vicious cycle:

Dangers of excessive sugar intake

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.

Dangers of excessive sugar intake

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:

Spotting hidden sugar

The sugar myths

Some added sugars are marketed as healthier options but are actually no different from simple white sugar.

The sugar myths

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 Well Do You Know Your Sugar?

How Well Do You Know
Your Sugar?

Read More

How can we consume less sugar?

1. Read the labels

Read the labels

A single can of sugar-sweetened soda can contain as much as 7 teaspoons (35g) of added sugar (140 kcal). Check the Nutrition Information Panel (NIP) to find out the sugar content in our beverages.

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

Read the labels

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:

Plainly Good Ways To Make Water Tasty

Plainly Good Ways To Make Water Tasty

Read More

3. Ask for “less sugar” or “no sugar” when ordering freshly-prepared beverages or desserts

less sugar or no sugar

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

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

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 expect.

Here are some examples of the sugar content hiding in our favourite hawker dishes.

Recommended Reads:

Mango Tofu Pudding

Mango Tofu Pudding

View Recipe
Berry Yoghurt Surprise

Berry Yoghurt Surprise

View Recipe
Pom Pom Parade

Pom Pom Parade

View Recipe

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)

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.

Non-caloric Sweeteners

Non-caloric Sweeteners

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 more palatable flavour.

Some names of non-caloric sweeteners that may be familiar to us include:

  • Acesulfame K
  • Aspartame
  • Stevia
  • Sucralose

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

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

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

Use the right amount

Check the sugar equivalent of the sweetener for the right amount to convert in our recipe.

For most people

For most peoplesafe

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 those managing weightsafe

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.

For diabetics

For diabeticssafe

Sweeteners can be safely consumed by diabetics as they do not increase blood sugar levels.

For people with Phenylketonuria (PKU)

For people with
Phenylketonuria (PKU)
unsafe

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.

Recommended Reads:

Excess Calories

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

What are calories?

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 Fat = 9 Calories

 
1g Carbohydrate = 4 Calories

1g Carbohydrate = 4 Calories

1g Protein = 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.

Why do we need calories?

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

Maintain weight and stay in shape

Reduce risk of obesity

Reduce risk
of obesity

Reduce risk of diabetes

Reduce risk
of diabetes

Reduce risk of other chronic diseases

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.

FEMALE

Female

7 - 60 years old
and above

Recommended daily
calorie intake for females:

1,800 kcal

MALE

Male

7 - 60 years old
and above

Recommended daily
calorie intake for males:

2,200 kcal

Find out your daily recommended calories requirement with the Calorie Calculator and track your daily calorie intake easily with the Meal Log tool.

Portion control

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
Portion control

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).

Choose quality over quantity

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.

500 kcal is the magic number
Choose healthier options

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:

Nasi lemak

Nasi lemak

  • Go easy on the gravy
  • Ask for less coconut rice
  • Choose vegetables over deep-fried items
Rojak

Rojak

  • Go easy on the fried items like You Tiao (fried dough fritters)
  • Opt for more fruit and vegetables
  • Ask for less sugar and sauces
Chicken rice

Chicken rice

  • 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:

Order less

Order less

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.

Pack leftovers

Pack leftovers

If you’ve ended up over-ordering, don’t be afraid to ask for unfinished dishes to be packed for takeaway.

Share your food

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!

Have regular meals

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 balanced, healthier meals

Budget those calories
Simply look out for this "Lower-calorie options available here" Healthier Dining Programme identifier.
Track your daily calorie intake easily with the Meal Log tool .

Budget those calories

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: Saturated Fats

Eat Less: Sugar
Sugar supplies calories with little nutritional value. These empty calories increase your calorie intake without providing nutrients.

Eat Less: Sugar

Eat More: Wholegrains, Fruit & Vegetables
The bulk from high-fibre foods such as wholegrains, fruit and vegetables helps you feel full longer and prevents you from overeating.

Eat More: Wholegrains, Fruit & Vegetables

Recommended Reads:

Alcohol

Drinking in moderation

Limit intake of sugar

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

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 with 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?

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.

Healthy fats

Lowers risk of heart disease

Lowers low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol levels

Healthy fats

Unhealthy fats

Increases risk of heart disease

Raises low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol levels

Lowers high-density lipoproteins (HDL) cholesterol levels

Unhealthy fats

When preparing meals at home

Choose healthier oils

Look out for healthier oils with the Healthier Choice Symbol as these are at least 25% lower in saturated fats than similar products within the same category.

Read More

Read the Nutrition Information Panel (NIP) to check for the calorie content and quality of fats

Pick food items with less saturated fats.

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

Recommended Reads:

Back to Top