Recently I went for a full health check-up. While undergoing something called the “stress test”, which involved me running on the treadmill with numerous pads strapped to my chest, the doctor told me that 2 out of 5 Malaysians are either obese or at risk of becoming obese. I almost took a tumble upon hearing that.
Although I was surprised at the number, it is however not that hard to believe. Lets look at the daily meals of an average Malaysian.
1. Breakfast – Nasi Lemak or Roti canai washed down with a creamy teh tarik or coffee.
2. Lunch – Nasi campur washed down with a can of soft drink.
3. Tea time – Half a dozen of curry puffs or kuihs washed down with a glass of sweetened beverage.
4. Dinner – Rice and dishes washed down with more sugary beverages.
5. Supper – A burger or nasi lemak, again.
Lets not forget the in-between meal snacks such as potato crisps, chocolates, biscuits and more kuihs. Also, how about the sweetened coffees and teas that are casually consumed throughout one’s day?
It’s not unfair to say that a typical Malaysian’s diet is extremely unhealthy. It’s high in refined carbohydrates, sugar, artificial flavourings, preservatives, saturated fats as well as salt. Add to that a sedentary lifestyle, honestly, we don’t stand a chance.
That said, I don’t think Malaysians are unaware of the risks posed by eating so unhealthily. I think the main problem is just procrastination with a little bit of denial thrown in.
We have all been there, haven’t we? “I’ll start eating healthier tomorrow”, “I’m still young, I can afford to eat like this”, “I’ve got great genes”…and then one day, you wake up wondering what the hell happen to your jawline.
The change of appearance is, of course only the tip of the iceberg. None of us could see what’s really happening beyond our skin. Fatty liver? Hormonal changes? Cell changes? Those stuff you can’t see until you go for an expensive health check.
Really, we are what we eat. It’s amazing what a minor change in your diet could do to your entire life! For instance, instead of eating rice, I now process cauliflowers into fine pieces and steam it for 5 minutes.
I was surprised as to how similar it is to rice. Afterall, rice is only a sort of vehicle to deliver rich dishes into our system isn’t it? So by substituting rice with finely chopped cauliflower, not only do I get to enjoy the sensation of eating rice, it’s also incredibly healthy!
# – Check out the plate at the bottom. Looks like rice, right? It’s not. It’s just cauliflower!
We still need to eat carbohydrates but in moderation. For instance, I make pancakes & crepes with chickpea flour instead of wheat flour. Chickpea flour is still a form of carbohydrate but it has very low glycemic index, which means it delivers energy to your body in a consistent and lengthy manner, preventing sugar crash and unnecessary cravings.
# – Crepe made with chickpea flour. More flavoursome, yums!
It’s not really that difficult when it comes to changing your eating habits. As I have pointed out, there are always substitutes for the things we normally indulge in.
For instance, instead of refined sugars, I now use a natural sweetener called oligo as well as stevia. While stevia is still quite difficult to find on our grocery shelves, oligo is pretty common at the health food sections. Yes, it’s a little more expensive than common sugar but hey, imagine the hospital bills that you could save in the long run!
# – Oligo, the sugar substitute. Good for your digestive system too!
That said, if you have no budget for healthy sugar substitutes, limit your sugar intake to just 1 teaspoon.
Instead of frying, try baking or roasting instead. I love steaming my food too…especially when the cleaning up part. No oily, greasy pans to wash!
# – Roast chicken. Healthy and yummy! Recipe here.
# – Delicious steamed fish. Recipe here.
I also believe in reading labels. Reading labels really help in getting the most value out of your money.
Just like many things, food products are also priced higher for better known brands. You’d be surprised to find that some less popular brands have better ingredient list than the “superior” brands. For me, the shorter the ingredient list, the better.
For example, lets say you’re buying milk. Look for an ingredient list that says “Cow’s milk only” or “Milk” rather than something along the line of “Reconstituted milk solids, Water, Vitamins”.
# – Buy only milk that has one ingredient – milk!
Also, try to avoid any product that has “High Corn Fructose” on it. That’s like the worst thing that you could put in your body! If you got to have something sweet, eat fruits! Fruits are awesome, so many variety of texture and taste. Of course, they are also nutritious and full of fibres.
#- Stock your fridge up with fruits – you never know when you feel like something sweet.
When you eat healthily, you’d feel different both physically and mentally. Feeling better mentally when you eat better isn’t just some housewife’s hogwash. It really has been scientifically proven that some food mess with your brain’s chemistry and cause psychological issues such as depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD).
So there, my 2 cents on eating healthily. Get more reliable tips on good eating habits and active lifestyle by watching Sihat 1 Malaysia hosted by Fahrin Ahmad. You can see for yourself the healthy living suggestions as well as stories of staying healthy from celebrities such as Siti Saleha, Chef Zaidah, Ifa Raziah and more!
Also, don’t forget to check out Gaya Hidup Sihat :)