Recently, the Heart Institute of Malaysia (also known as Institut Jantung Negara, or IJN), released a statement warning Malaysians that many of us take our health for granted, unaware that our unhealthy diets can lead us to serious conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. The statement also said that Malaysians consume too much red meat and not enough vegetables.
Half the population in Malaysia is already suffering from obesity, and we are already ‘Southeast Asia’s fattest nation’. Taking care of our bodies and health is essential so we can live longer and maintain a better quality of life. Furthermore, we need to set examples for our children so they can learn good eating habits from a young age.
Most of us know this, yet we complain... how does one eat healthy in Malaysia? We are a foodie nation! Everything so oily, so fatty, all goreng-goreng only. The truth is, with some dedication and more awareness on what we are eating, we can easily shed a few kilos, trim down our waistlines, and have less cholesterol clogging our arteries even though we live in this food haven we call Malaysia. Here are some simple ways you can start eating healthier.
1. Cut down on sugary drinks
Thanks to our mamak culture and love for sweet stuff, it’s hard to avoid the delicious drinks such as sirap bandung, teh tarik, and milo ais. But these drinks are LOADED with sugar and just one or two a day can ruin your entire diet. If you’re a cafe person, it’s also wise to stay away from beverages such as mocha frappucinos with whipped cream, full-fat caramel lattes, and thick sugary milkshakes as they are loaded with calories and sugar.
Instead, drink water as much as you can, or hydrating drinks such as coconut water. Another great option is flavoured detox water. Just infuse a few citrus fruits such as lemon or orange in a pitcher of water, add in some sliced cucumber and/or mint leaves, and refrigerate for a few hours. The flavoured water will be refreshing, delicious, and with no added sugar.
2) Reduce portion size
You can still eat the things you like even if they are supposedly bad for you, like rice, but reduce the portion. When having economy rice or nasi kandar for lunch, load your plate with more vegetables (at least half the plate), some proteins such as chicken (not fried) and tofu, and less rice. A good rule of thumb is that the portion of rice should equal the size of your clenched fist. Gradually reduce the portion that you normally eat and soon you will get adjusted to it, and you may notice yourself feeling less heavy and sluggish.
3) Avoid the fried stuff
Several of Malaysia’s snack foods are known to be fried - curry puffs, goreng pisang, keropok lekor, vadai, and so on. But we can avoid them if we really want to! These things are loaded with fat and unnecessary calories. It’s okay to indulge once in a while, but limit yourself to one or two pieces on a rare occasion. It’s best to snack on fruits, granola, nuts, whole grains, and vegetables like carrots when you’re feeling hungry between meals. But you can also explore other Malaysian goodies that aren’t dunked in fatty and unhealthy oil….yes they exist! Some that you can eat instead of the fried stuff that are pretty decent for you are taufu bakar, thosai, chapatti, tandoori chicken, appam, steamed dim sum, and fruit rojak.
4) Eat at home
When it comes to dieting or trying to eat healthier, nothing beats eating at home. You can choose your ingredients wisely and know exactly what you’re putting in your food, right down to the oil you use. But not everyone has the time and energy to cook every day, for every meal, especially with a full-time job. Choose healthier menus when ordering in, or order from a meal delivery service. Having a function, but want to serve healthy and delicious food? On RecomN, we can connect you healthy caterers so you and your family can maintain a balanced diet even on a busy schedule.
Are you ready to eat better and live longer? Next time you go out for a meal, drink or snack, think before you select your food. A few wise choices can make all the difference. Along with regular exercise, losing weight and staying healthy doesn’t have to be difficult.
by Hridya Anand
A biochemist by education who could never put what she studied to good use, finally found GetDoc as a medium to do what she loved - bring information to people using a forum that is dedicated to all things medical. View all articles by Hridya Anand.