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This Clinical Dietician Shares His Best Tips On How To Eat Healthier In Singapore

The phrase, "you are what you eat" should be taken literally. The food and drinks that you ingest have a direct impact on your health and well-being. 

Did you know that your body replaces almost 300 billion cells every day? The foods you consume are the source of building materials for these cells. [1] 

If your diet is constantly filled with foods that are low on nutrients, you're not giving our body much to work with. However, consistently maintaining strict diets or finding clean food can seem really challenging. So, what's the fix?

Dr Naras Lapsys, a clinical dietician, hosted an AMA session and answered a lot of reader questions on how to eat healthier in Singapore.

He has a PhD in molecular genetics, a master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics, and has had more than 14 years of experience in this field. Here's what you need to know. 

Healthy ingredients exist in hawker centres

Singapore wet market Singapore wet market

Most people have the misconception that healthier food choices can only be found in pricier cafes or salad bars. However, that's far from the truth. 

According to Dr Naras, there is plenty of fresh produce and different fresh sources of protein at the hawker centres. Think fish, chicken, vegetables, fruits, etc. 

The problem lies in the seasoning and large portions

Singapore food court.

The heavy use of oils and sugary sauces is what makes a dish unhealthy. When the ingredients are cooked with too much oil and processed sauces, you are also taking in a lot of extra sugar and sodium. 

For instance, highly processed chilli sauce is actually really bad for you.

Don't be afraid to make demands 

singapore chicken rice

The trick to eating healthily is to get picky. Firstly, don't line up for food that has already been prepared. You should always find places that make fresh food on the spot. That way, you are able to tell vendors what you'd like in your food item. 

Always ask for lean cuts of meat, extra vegetables, less rice/noodles, and cut back on the sauces. You should also request that they cook with less oil. Watch them and make sure that they do so!

If they want to charge a little more for the extra vegetable, then pay a little more – it will still be a fraction of the price than the expensive café food. 

For extra flavour, you can ask for more fresh chilli, herbs, and spices.

Watch your sugar intake

bubble tea singapore

According to Dr Naras, your soft drinks, bubble teas, along with the milky, sugary drinks should only be taken as a treat and not daily!

Fast food and junk food are some of the worst things to eat

fast food junk food 

When asked about the worst foods one can eat, Dr Naras made it clear that fast food and junk food should be avoided as much as you can. 

He said that any food that is high in refined carbohydrate, added sugars, full of poor quality, highly refined oils and high in salt, are the worst foods to put into your body. Fast food and junk food fits these criteria perfectly. [2]

A lot of cereals are loaded with sugars

sugars in cereals

For some reason, cereals are often marketed as 'healthy' breakfast options. However, it's important to note that most cereal options sold at supermarkets are usually loaded with excessive amounts of sugar.

Dr Naras recommends untoasted muesli (swiss muesli), or an organic one that mixed with steel cut oats as healthier alternatives. 

If you'd like to have a little more flavour, simply add some nuts, seeds and dried fruits. 

Colourful foods are packed with nutrition

colourful foods good for health

You should always incorporate fresh, seasonal, and colourful vegetables and fruits with edible skin into your daily diet. Dr Naras reveals that the skin of these foods contains all the great antioxidants we need. These foods can also help to combat inflammation. 

Look for the purples, yellows, blacks, bright red, and orange!

Anti-inflammatory foods can help with ageing

Dr Naras noted that as the mechanisms of ageing are becoming better understood, there's no doubt that diet plays a major part.

According to him, inflammation impacts ageing and dietary strategies that are anti-inflammatory in nature can help slow the process. [3]

Highly processed food can indirectly cause acne

highly processed food

While there are no proven studies linking diet as a factor that causes acne, Dr Naras explains that a combination of highly processed food and hormonal responses are certainly contributors to acne. 

These types of foods can have a significant impact on hormonal profiles, especially testosterone.

Excess testosterone can trigger sebum production and excess sebum in the pores of the skin can attract dirt and bacteria, leading to inflammation and acne.

Eating less processed food, eating food that is high in anti-oxidants all contribute to improved skin health and less acne.

The best piece of nutritional advice for Singaporeans?

family cooking at home

Dr Naras's last piece of nutritional advice for Singaporeans is to go back to basics: cooking at home.

While he loves that its part of the culture to get out together and eat socially, he thinks that you shouldn't lose the skill and pleasure involved in handling and making your own food.

He explains that when you home prep, you have total control over what you are putting into your body. 

Conclusion

Healthy eating should really be part and parcel of a more holistic lifestyle but for those who aren’t used to managing their diets, switching to healthier food options can be a painstaking and rather difficult process.

However, with proper guidance and determination, you too can enjoy healthier food/healthier eating habits.


DxD’s Ask Me Anything (AMA) enables open health conversations between readers, health professionals and patients from all walks of life. View the complete list of upcoming DxD AMAs here.

If you are a patient or health professional who's interested in hosting an AMA to share your story, please email jeeyan@dxd.com.sg. Our team will contact you with more details.

References:

 1. Arandjelovic S. et al. Phagocytosis of apoptotic cells in homeostasis. Sep 2015. 

 2. Ahmed, Z and Y Farjana. “It is Time to Obligate the Warning Messages on Junk Food Packages and Advertisements: A Step to live long” Diabetes & obesity international journal vol. 2,2. Mar 2017.

 3. Havard Healh. Foods that fight inflammation. Nov 2018. 

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