You Are What You Eat
Written By: Daniel Koh | Alumnus, Class of 2012, BSc Marketing
I’ve always had a sweet tooth growing up and everyone around me can vouch the same. Amongst all the delicious desserts around, my favourite would be the sweet jellies named konnyaku (pronounced as CORNN-YA-KOO). They come in various flavours and each has its own distinctive taste — grape, peach, orange, apple, and melon. Moreover, when it comes to marketing, jelly-making companies are extremely clever. They design their products’ packaging in ways that are truly convincing. For 150g of jelly, there are only 44 kilocalories. To put things into perspective, it is equivalent to half a cup of teh from the coffee shop. Hence, two packs of jellies simply add up to about one cup of teh.
In the recent webinar by the 365 Cancer Prevention Society (365 CPS), the topic on “Sugar: Recommended Limit” was one that particularly caught my attention. The dietician from 365 CPS shared that our recommended limit for sugar is “8 teaspoons or 10% of total kcal intake”. This would mean that a pack of konnyaku jellies contains approximately 2 teaspoons of sugar.
Before you decide to grab a konnyaku jelly packet from the shelves and embark on a jelly-eating spree, you may want to think twice (or potentially thrice). While 4 packs of 44kcal jelly a day may seem reasonable according to the recommended limit of the amount of sugar intake by the Singapore Health Promotion Board, we need to take the sugar content from other sources of food and drinks into consideration as well. Our daily meals generally contain sugar too. In other words, you may unknowingly exceed your daily sugar intake when you factor your daily diet as a whole, even if it is just a 44kcal pack of jelly.
Salt forms another big part of our daily diet. When it comes to salty food, many of us can never resist the temptation of laksa. While it is such a defining dish for Singaporeans, many are unaware of the salt content present in this dish. The recommended limit for sodium in a day is 2,000 mg. A typical bowl of laksa, however, contains approximately 7,900 mg of sodium. That adds up to 4 days’ worth of sodium in just one bowl! Just like sugar, salt is also commonly found in our daily diet. As such, the consumption of a bowl of laksa when combined with other meals in a day, would well exceed the daily recommended sodium intake.
Surely, it was not all damnation and doom that the dietician was trying to convey. In light of maintaining a healthy diet while dining out, the dietician offered nuggets of advice. For one, we could use a meal-size plate to measure and ration the intake of our carbohydrates, proteins, fruits and vegetables. Plus, we could also opt for healthier choices like water instead of Teh or Kopi or use rice bran oil instead of sesame oil for cooking. Lastly, remember to clock in some exercise or movement like going for a stroll or jog.
The way food portions are prepared is also just as important. Choice of meat preferably be low-fat, cooked by steaming, baking, blanching, searing, poaching or broiling. Always avoid deep-fried and BBQ or grilled food and remember to add at least 150g of leafy or non-leafy vegetables in your meal. Finally, eat slowly and always be three-quarter full.
Singapore is truly a food haven. We are surrounded by tantalising delicacies that we can hardly resist! Just as tasty as they are, we just need to keep in mind the sugar or salt content that we’re consuming. Hence, it is very important to be well equipped with proper and essential knowledge, so as to help us in deciding what to eat while dining out. The tide for collective consciousness in a healthier diet and eating lifestyle has come. Let’s ride on this tide together!