Ready-to-eat meals are satisfying but are also low in nutritional value and high in fats. The Nutrition and Dietetics Department at KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KK) explains what the healthy plate is about and gives tips on reading food labels.
When people get too busy, they tend to neglect their diet. They make do with ready-to-eat foods, snacks and sugary drinks that seem satisfying at the time but remain woefully low in nutritional value and high in fats. This type of eating pattern inevitably results in weight gain.
“Being overweight plays a part in many diseases, from heart disease to high blood pressure, diabetes, certain cancers, gout and osteoporosis,” says Christine Ong, Senior Principal Dietitian at the
Nutrition and Dietetics Department,
KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH), a member of the
In particular, excess fat around the abdomen has an adverse effect on the risk of stroke, diabetes and heart disease. For Singaporeans, a waist measuring over 80 cm in women and over 90 cm in men is considered high-risk, even in people of normal weight.
“Men or women whose body is apple-shaped due to fat deposits around the abdomen are more likely to develop obesity-related health conditions,” Ms Ong says.
My healthy plate
The Singapore Health Promotion Board’s "My Healthy Plate" clearly outlines the different food groups and the number of servings you should consume every day for a balanced and healthy diet. It consists of the following:
- Wholegrains (brown rice and wholemeal bread) – 1/4 of your plate
- Meat and alternatives (including dairy or high- calcium products) – 1/4 of your plate
- Fruits and vegetables – 1/2 of your plate
Reading labels of packaged foods
If you depend on packaged foods for your meals, remember to carefully read the date, ingredients and nutrition information on the package.
- Date marking:
This includes the “use by” or “sell by” dates which tell you when the food should be eaten for best quality.
- Ingredients list:
Except for water, ingredients are listed in decreasing order of quantity. As a general guide, if an ingredient is listed amongst the first 3 ingredients in the list, it indicates that the food contains a large amount of that particular ingredient. E.g. if sugars like sucrose, fructose, maltose are listed amongst the first 3 ingredients, the product is usually high in sugar.
- Sugar can be listed in a variety of different ways such as sucrose, fructose, maple syrup and cane sugar.
- Similarly salt can be indicated as sodium bicarbonate, sea salt, MSG, stock cubes and baking powder/soda, etc.
- Fat can be listed as shortening, milk solids, sour cream, hydrogenated fat, etc.
- You can disregard water, since it doesn’t contain any calories.
- Nutrition facts:
This informs you of the energy (calories), protein, total fat, saturated fat, carbohydrate, fibre and sodium. The amount of other nutrients like vitamins and minerals may be available, especially when specific nutrients are the subject of a nutrition claim. E.g. for a “high calcium” claim, the amount of calcium must be indicated to justify the claim.
When reading the nutrition label, pay special attention to the energy (kcal) if you want to lose weight. Next, look at the fat content, and then the fibre, suggests Ms Ong.
See next page for
healthier food choices and the recommended calorie intake per snack.