If you’re looking to enjoy hawker Singapore street foods but want to take care of your waistline, look no further than this list compiled by a dietitian!
Ahh, one of the quintessential Singapore street foods! There are certainly ways to enjoy this meal while keeping your blood sugars and weight in check!
What can you do to improve the healthiness score?
If you’re eating alone…
– Take the skin off the chicken. This helps cut down the fat by 2 teaspoons!
– Ask for plain unflavoured rice instead of flavoured oil rice. Flavoured oil rice contains 466 calories; with ~1.5 teaspoons chicken fat inside!! Compared to a bowl of plain rice which is only 280 calories. If you are in a healthier choice food court, you may be in luck to even get brown rice available!
– Ask for the hawker to hold off the sauce! It contains soy sauce and sugar, and is not necessary considering how flavourful the chicken itself already is! Instead, you may add a little spring onion and chilli sauce yourself!
– Tell the hawker to give chicken breast instead of chicken thigh
– Ask for more slices of cucumber, grated ginger, and coriander (a little sneaky but good ways to get a little more fibre and antioxidants!)
– Try not to finish the soup! It tends to have a lot of sodium which can increase your blood pressure.
If you’re sharing with a friend…
– If you’re really craving for flavoured rice and sharing with a friend, consider ordering 1 bowl flavoured, 1 bowl unflavoured, to mix the two to share. Insider tip: often the chicken rice stalls selling the roast meats too tend to have unflavoured rice available.
– Get the set with a big plate of vegetables as well. Sure it may cost a dollar more, but it’ll help you feel much more satisfied and give you important fibre too! Think of it as a long-term investment.
As delicious as laksa is, this one is another one to control the frequency. It’s high in saturated fat and salt plus low in fibre, making it no good for our blood sugars or heart health.
Strategies to improve it nutritionally:
– Choose assam laksa instead of lemak laksa (assam laksa isn’t made with coconut milk so will be lower in fat)
– Leave the gravy behind and don’t drink it up; that will more than halve the amount of salt and fat you take in!
– Contrary to popular myth, cockles and eggs are both heart-healthy, low-fat proteins, and not ‘bad for our cholesterol’. Enjoy more cockles and egg instead of fishcake, which is processed, contains half the protein, but 32 times as much salt as plain fish.
– Add more taugeh and sprinkle a bit more Vietnamese coriander in it!
– Try to pour out some of the oil from the sambal on the spoon, before it reaches the gravy
Bak Kut Teh
Bak kut teh is best kept to a once a while indulgence of Singaporean street foods because it’s high in saturated fat (it has 25g fat, 10g of it is saturated fat. That’s 2 tsp saturated fat!), and contains 70% of your entire day’s salt allowance!
Here are ways to make it a bit better for you:
– It’s best if you can get lean pork slice instead of rib (this helps lower the fat a lot)
– Order a big bowl of vegetables to go with it to fill you up. Often there will be enoki mushroom, tung-o, kai lan, and spring onion available, and they soak up the yummy soup wonderfully!
– Watch out for high-fat toppings like youtiao, or high-salt sides like braised peanuts and salted vegetables. Share these sides if you’re really craving for it. One plate of braised peanuts also high in fats (6tsp fat) and have 1 tsp sugar, so just stick to one spoonful of those.
– Resist the urge to ask for seconds of the bottomless pouring of the soup to take care of your blood pressure!
Roti prata is cooked in ghee or palm oil, both are high in saturated fats. We know that saturated fat can make you insulin resistant, which can increase blood sugars. It also is low in fibre, being made of refined wheat flour.
Tips on improving the nutrition of the meal:
– Stick with just one piece of prata each time. Get an egg prata, which helps to give you protein to keep you full and some other nutrients like vitamin D in eggs too.
– Order a vegetable dish or sambar to go with it instead of meat curries which tend to be quite oily
– Don’t finish up all the curry sauce! And avoid dipping it in sugar. 😉
– Ask the hawker to add less oil when cooking
– Go for chappati, idli, and thosai most of the time instead of prata!
Kaya Toast and Kopi/ Teh Tarik
This is a must on any tourists’ to-do list of Singapore street foods. But kaya toast is high in sugar and fats (from both the coconut milk in the kaya, and the thick slab of margarine/butter). You can go for peanut butter on wholegrain toast or other healthy breakfast options! Kopi/teh Tarik also tends to be high in sugar and fat from the condensed milk and sugar the coffeeshop uses.
Ways to improve the breakfast:
– Ask for no butter/margarine (or just take half of it if you really want!)
– Scrape off some of the kaya if they give too much
– Share it with a friend and have it with two boiled eggs (with just a few drops of soy sauce!)
– Make it yourself! There’s no-sugar added kaya you can buy at health shops which contain less carbohydrates, and you could spread it on wholemeal bread without butter.
– Ask for Kopi O Kosong or Teh O Kosong to save yourself 230 calories and 8 teaspoons sugar. Alternatively, Kopi C Kosong or Teh C Kosong could be alternatives if you want something milky (but beware that coffeeshops typically use evaporated milk with palm oil inside, which isn’t great for your cholesterol).
Enjoying Singapore Street Foods – The Healthy Way!
With this knowledge in mind, go forth and enjoy the delicious plethora of Singapore street foods without guilt! Just a few simple modifications is what it takes to make it healthier. There are plenty other healthy Singapore street foods that are inherently healthier that you can try too! Check out these blog posts: (it says it’s for diabetes but really it’s for anyone who’s keen to eat healthy!)