Healthy hawker food in Singapore: 11 dishes that make the cut!
In the National Day Rally this year, diabetes was a key focus of Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong’s speech. One important way to combat diabetes is to eat healthy and watch your calories.
In PM Lee’s words, “Eat less and eat healthily.”
“20 years ago, we ate about 2,100 calories a day, which is about the right amount. Now, it’s gone up to 2,600 a day. So obesity has gone up.”
“We are also eating less healthily. More families are eating out, due to busy lifestyles.”
“The key is to be disciplined and make the right choices. Make small changes, like replacing white rice with brown or mixed grain rice.”
Considering that hawker food remains the staple diet of most Singaporeans, here’s presenting 11 dishes that qualify as healthy hawker food in Singapore (< 500 calories):
1. Yong Tau Foo
Nutrition Information: 1 bowl (175g)
Energy: 165 calories
Protein: 10.7 g
Fat: 8 g
Sodium: 936 mg
In this Hakka dish, you usually build your own bowl by handpicking assorted vegetables and tofu items stuffed with fish paste or a ground meat mixture. The ingredients are boiled and/or fried, then served dry or in a soup. They are eaten on their own, or with rice or noodles.
It is better to order the soup version, as then, very little oil is added to the dish. Make sure you select fresh vegetables and avoid everything fried, and processed meats such as sausages.
Those with high blood pressure should skip drinking too much of the soup as it can be high in sodium.
Opt for fish paste over ground meat for stuffing as ground meat stuffing is usually made from fatty meat parts. Go for vegetable-based ingredients with fish paste, such as okra, red or green chilli, bitter gourd and eggplant, as they are higher in fibre.
And include at least two leafy green vegetables, as well as tofu for sufficient protein.
2. Teochew Porridge
If you are looking for comfort food with low calories, look no further than the humble porridge or congee. Most hawkers use less oil, and it’s best had hot!
You usually get to choose a few sides to go with a bowl of watery congee. Try to order 2 vegetable dishes, preferably dark, leafy greens, and a fish (choose steamed or lightly stir-fried).
3. Thunder Tea Rice
Nutrition information: 1 serving
Energy: 430 calories
Protein: 12 g
Carbs: 42 g
Fat: 10 g
White or brown rice is topped with various finely chopped vegetables like cabbage, spinach, leek, chye sim, green beans and preserved radish, as well as tofu, peanuts and fried ikan bilis. It’s served with a green soup made from basil, mint, green tea, mugwort and coriander.
The soup can be had separately or mixed with the rice. And yeah, wherever there’s the option, go for brown rice.
This dish has a wide variety of vegetables, is rich in fibre and antioxidants and contains little or no fat.
Chapati is usually made with wholemeal flour, which has more fibre. One serving of chapati contains 143 calories and 5g of fat. Lessen the calories by avoiding the ghee. Dip it in dhal or lentil soup for added plant protein.
5. Sliced Fish Soup
Nutrition Information: 1 Portion (175g)
Energy: 180 calories
Protein: 4 g
Carbs: 6 g
- Fat: 6 g
This dish is low in fat, and consists of sliced fish, tofu, tomatoes, seaweed, lettuce, bitter gourd or chye sim. Avoid the fried fish, opt for boiled fish instead. Also omit the evaporated milk.
Ask to add more vegetables, and choose less rice if you are watching your weight.
6. Herbal Tonic Soup
For a change, how about trying a nutritious Chinese herbal tonic soup such as watercress soup or lotus root soup? It has herbs such as goji berries and red dates, and yeah, avoid the rice if you don’t want to pile on the calories.
7. Economy Rice
- Rice + 2 vegetables = 342 calories
- Rice + 1 vegetable + 1 meat = 430 calories
Ideally, half of the plate should be filled with non-fried, lightly cooked veggies, with steamed rice and meat (non fried) making a quarter. Also, opt for clear broths over creamy ones. You might also want to skip the gravy of the meat as it is usually high in sodium and fat.
8. Mee Soto
Mee soto is a spicy noodle soup dish that is essentially a light broth with egg, shredded chicken, beansprouts, and topped with chives. Mee soto clocks in at 433 calories a serving.
To make it healthier, ask for the skin to be removed from the shredded chicken, and for a smaller serving of noodles. Also request for more vegetables like beansprouts and spring onions.
Dosa is an Indian dish, and is technically, fermented crepe made from rice flour and ground lentils. Dosa comes in many varieties, like plain, masala (with potatoes), egg or cheese, and is usually served with sambar (lentil based curry with vegetables) and chutney.
Dosa is much healthier than other Indian dishes like roti prata or rojak. Go easy on the ghee if you want to save on the calories.
Nutrition Information: (1 roll = 188g)
- Energy: 188 calories
- Protein: 4 g
- Carbs: 14 g
- Fat: 7 g
- Sodium: 676 mg
Popiah is a type of fresh spring roll containing bean sauce, filling of finely grated and steamed or stir-fried turnip, jicama, bean sprouts, French beans, lettuce leaves, grated carrots, Chinese sausage slices, thinly sliced fried tofu, chopped peanuts or peanut powder, fried shallots, and shredded omelette.
You might want to ask the hawker to reduce the amount of sweet sauce though.
11. Wanton Noodles
Singapore wonton noodles includes noodles, leafy vegetables (preferably cai-xin), barbecued pork (char siu) and bite-sized dumplings or wonton. It is either served dry or in soup form with the former being more popular. If served dry, the wontons will be served in a separate bowl of soup.
This staple Singapore dish contains a little over 400 calories.