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Navigating Healthy Eating in Hawker Centres

Eating well at a hawker centre can be tricky. Nutritionist Fiona Chia shares her top tips on how you can have your cake (or char kway teow) and eat it too!

  • Navigating Healthy Eating in Hawker Centres
    Photo courtesy of U-Jin

Singapore is undeniably well known for its mouth-watering delicacies such as satay,
roti prata, char kway teow, hokkien mee, and prawn noodles. As a Singaporean, it is difficult to see a week go by without having to visit local hawker centres or food courts for meals with family and friends. These hawker dishes are usually, oily, salty and sugary and are far from the recommended low-fat and high fibre diet.

I am often asked how I maintain my health as a nutritionist living here. My profession as a nutritionist does not mean that I boycott hawker foods and only
eat at restaurants that use organic ingredients. I occasionally love laksa and mee siam. The trick is to learn how often you are actually eating them. A bowl of laksa has approximately 700 calories, having it for all 3 meals a day sums up to 2100 calories which is too much for someone built like me. I suggest having hawker foods that are high in fat (for eg. curry noodles, laksa, roti prata) at most twice a week.

If you’re scheduled to meet someone at Maxwell Hawker Center, do not panic, it’s perfectly fine! Remember that you have the ultimate choice in deciding what goes into your body. I would choose foods that contain more vegetables as it usually contains less calories. Hence my first choice, economical rice! Inexpensive, full of vegetables and delicious!

If you decide to order a $5 plate of char kway teow with cockles, just breathe. If you’ve not regretted your decision by now then that plate of char kway teow was the right choice. Still you do not want to feel too guilty from your meal. I recommend not finishing your what’s on your plate as your body probably does not need that amount of calories in one sitting. Sharing food creates bonds and of course reduces the calorie load each person bears- allowing us to consume 35% less calories in one sitting.

These 3 tips are enough to allow you to both easily navigate and enjoy your meals at hawker centres.

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About the Author

Fiona is a recognized registered nutritionist from the Singapore Dietetics and Nutrition Association, Nutrition Society (UK) and Association for Nutrition (UK). She studied nutrition for six years and obtained her Master’s qualification in human nutrition from University of Glasgow, majoring in Public Health. Fiona conducts various health and wellness talks, workshops and intervention programs where she coaches individuals in a group setting to take ownership of their health. Being a strong advocate of health, she enjoys reaching out to a diverse community and believes that knowledge is power.

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