Hawker Food

Healthier Eating At Hawker Centres And Food Courts with Diabetes

You can find some of the best-tasting food in Singapore at your local hawker centre or food court but you may find difficulty in making healthier eating choices when dining at these places. Is it possible to enjoy local Singapore food as part of a healthy and balanced diet when they are often prepared with higher amounts of saturated fat, sodium and sugar?

YES!

When dining out, just remember these 3 healthier eating tips:

  1. More vegetables
  2. Less or no-added sauces or gravies
  3. Limit or avoid sugary drinks

People living with diabetes have put these 3 tips into practice; shown in the following images. If they can do it, so can you!

Healthier Rice Meals

healthier-hawker-rice-meals
Clockwise from top left: Thunder Tea Rice, Chinese Economy Rice (Less rice + 3 vegetables + 1 fish), Nasi Campur (Less rice + 2 vegetables + assam fish), Vegetarian Rice (Brown rice + 2 vegetables + 1 tofu)

Additional tips: Where available, swap white rice for brown rice, or ask for less rice. Remember you can also choose tofu in place of meat. If you choose meat, select steamed, stewed, braised or stir-fried dishes instead of fried dishes e.g. steamed egg over fried egg, and stir-fried sesame ginger chicken over har cheong gai (prawn paste deep-fried chicken).

Healthier Noodle Meals

Left to right: Wanton Mee Soup (with added chye sim), Yong Tau Foo Beehoon Soup (without fried items + 3-4 vegetables)
Left to right: Wanton Mee Soup (with added chye sim), Yong Tau Foo Beehoon Soup (without fried items + 3-4 vegetables)

Additional tips: Soup-based noodles may be the healthier option over dry or fried noodles but remember to leave the soup behind to reduce sodium intake. Alternatively, you may ask for no added oil in dry noodle dishes like bak chor mee.

Healthier Western Meals

healthier-hawker-western-meals
Clockwise from left to right: Grilled Barramundi with Mash and Steamed Veg, Mixed Salad, Grilled Chicken Salad

Additional tips: A salad with only greens may not be enough for a main meal, but it can become quite substantial and filling when topped with ingredients like cheese, a little fish or chicken, beans and legumes (protein food), as well as pasta and corn (carbohydrate food). For mains, choose grilled, roasted or pan-seared items over deep-fried or battered. You can also change your French fries to a side of mashed potatoes (with the gravy on the side) or a baked potato.

Healthier Ethnic Meals

Left to right: Chappati (with vegetable sides), Steamed Chicken Rice (with plain rice, chicken skin removed, added bok choy)
Left to right: Chappati (with vegetable sides), Steamed Chicken Rice (with plain rice, chicken skin removed, added bok choy)

Additional tips: Made from whole wheat flour, chappati can be a healthier option to the white rice sold at Indian stalls, or in place of roti prata during breakfast.

Healthier Drinks and Desserts

healthier-hawker-drinks-and-desserts
Left to right: Fresh Fruit (1 serving), Kopi-O Kosong (Black coffee with no added sugar)

Not sure if you can eat fruit when you have diabetes? Find out more here.

Additional tips: While plain water is best as a drink at meal times, you can go for unsweetened coffee or tea, ask for siu dai (less sugar), or choose a diet soda e.g. diet cola if you are normally accustomed to carbonated drinks. Reducing added sugar from sweetened drinks and desserts is one of the simplest way you can control your blood sugars and weight.

Food sold at hawker centres and food courts are premised on good taste at affordable prices. It is therefore no surprise why 80% of Singaporeans eat at these places more than once a week. However, these dishes may be traditionally prepared without knowledge of healthy nutrition. Approvingly, this is quickly changing with initiatives by the Health Promotion Board. Meanwhile, remember these healthier hawker eating tips when you next eat out for better glucose control and a healthier weight.

For more healthier eating tips when eating out click here!