I’ve never thought Singaporeans looked particularly unhealthy. After all, most people seem to be on the lean side, and many are positively twig-like.
But as it turns out, despite the fact that our BMIs are a fraction of those in the American Midwest, we’re not in such fantastic health either. We’re the 2nd in the world in terms of proportion of diabetics.
Still, most people continue devouring their MSG-laden cai png and their coconut-milk soaked nasi lemak, simply because eating healthily in Singapore has the reputation of being expensive.
Never fear. Here are 7 tips for eating healthily without going broke.
Bring your own water bottle / thermos flask
Singaporeans love their milo peng and kopi. But a great many beverages, whether they be sodas, juices, coffee or tea, contain huge amounts of sugar.
Simply asking only for water or, in the case of hawker centre / food court meals, bringing your own water bottle, can reduce your sugar intake dramatically.
If you don’t like drinking water but have to have a hot drink with every meal, consider bringing along a thermos flask or mug every time you go out to eat. Pop in a teabag and add hot water before you go.
Carry healthy snacks in your bag
Each time I’m feeling peckish when I’m out and about, I buy a curry puff from Old Chang Kee. Other people make a beeline for the nearest froyo stall, or pick up a Kit Kat bar at 7-Eleven.
To avoid turning to junk food each time your stomach rumbles outside of mealtimes, always carry some healthy snacks in your bag. A banana in a ziplock bag or a packet of unsalted almonds works great. These snacks can also help you to tahan until you get home to eat, instead of caving in and eating out.
Invest in a slow cooker
If you think preparing your own meals every day is daunting or takes a long time, these 2 kitchen appliances will change your life: a slow cooker and an air fryer.
A slow cooker is the ultimate time saver. All you have to do is chop up the ingredients, toss them in the machine and turn it on. Come back hours later and your meal is ready. Busy professionals can even activate the slow cooker before leaving for work, and then eat the minute they arrive at home.
… and an air fryer, for that matter
An air fryer is another winner, because it lets you enjoy tasty “fried” stuff without the accompanying calories. Most people use their air fryers to heat stuff like frozen nuggets and breaded chicken wings, which, needless to say, are not very healthy.
But you can totally skip those processed fried things and opt to air fry fresh ingredients instead. Try air frying hardy vegetables like broccoli, carrot and potato. Fresh fish and tofu are other healthy items that crisp up really well in the air fryer.
Plan your meals meticulously
If, like many Singaporeans, you avoid cooking at home because it seems too arduous, know that no amount of yong tau foo and fish soup is going to turn your diet into a healthy one.
The secret to making cooking at home easy, fast and pain-free is to plan your meals meticulously. Make a list detailing exactly what you plan to cook that week and what you need to buy, and then make a beeline for those items on your list when you grocery shop, instead of wandering aimlessly through the aisles.
This also helps you avoid wasting food because it sat in your fridge for too long, so you save even more money.
Rethink your grocery list
Let’s say you already make most of your meals at home and are wondering how you can push yourself to eat even more healthily and spend even less. Well, there are some modifications you can make to your weekly grocery list that will make you healthier and richer.
If you are eating meat every day, reducing your meat consumption to just once a week will dramatically lower your grocery bill and also benefit your health if you’re replacing all that meat with fruit and vegetables. You can also reduce costs further by buying less expensive cuts of meat when you’re feeling carnivorous.
Cutting down on processed food, including pre-made sauces, frozen pizza and junk food will not only benefit your wallet, as these foods tend to be relatively costly, but also your health, as they usually contain a ton of salt, sugar and preservatives.
Freeze food if you can’t finish it
Fresh food goes bad very quickly in Singapore’s hot and humid climate, even when it’s in the fridge. That not only discourages you from eating at home, but also results in lots of wastage when you’re forced to throw away those expensive Japanese-imported strawberries.
Get into the habit of freezing food that you can’t finish. With the help of ziplock bags or plastic wrap, you can freeze fruit, vegetables and meat. You can even attempt freezable recipes that you simply pop into the microwave when you’re ready to eat.
How do you eat healthily without breaking the bank? Share your tips in the comments!