How to eat healthily in Asia

Since I moved back to Asia a year ago, I have had to learn how to eat Asian food healthily. I lived in England for 5 years and I’m now based in Singapore, which means I am re-learning which foods are good for me, and which are not.

I must say that I was under a lot of pressure to lose weight when I came back. All the years of pasta and potatoes were starting to show, and back when I could hide everything under a Zara coat, in sunny Singapore, you do not want to be bouncing around in singlet and shorts.

Thanks to a very health-conscious culture (a country that penalises you for being fat in school, yes) and marathon-running colleagues, I quickly got into shape and managed to lose about 5kg – not alot but I do feel healthier.

Hoegaarden and chicken wings yeah

So here are some of my tips on how to eat well and stay healthy in Singapore:

1) Eat half a bowl of rice. The lesson I learnt is to never just take what you’re served. Request for a half portion, and eat more of the dishes, not the rice. It’s the dishes you’re paying for anyway.

2) Cut down on portion. As a Malaysian, I find Singaporean portions very large. This applies to both Asian and Western meals. My only way round this is to sometimes do a takeaway or share the meal with a friend.

3) No sugary drinks with your food. What’s the first thing you do when you sit down in a kopitiam? Order your drinks. Teh peng, kopi peng, bali peng, orange juice and the likes – all full of sugar. If I can I will request for no sugar, if it’s something irresistible like teh tarik or teh halia, I will go for less sugar. Sometimes I avoid these altogether and go for Chinese tea.

4) No sachet drinks. We Asians love our 3-in-1 Nescafe, Milo and Nestum packets, but let me tell you my friend, these are processed powders full of sugar. I love coffee, Milo and Nestum, so my way around this is drinking filtered coffee and buying Milo and Nestum in tins.

5) No fried foods. Yes, I know it’s difficult to resist that chicken wing, the curry puffs, the keropok lekor or the fried tofu. But resist you must for the baddies are in the batter.

6) No dessert. This is something I have to tell myself everytime the temptation begins, but this honey trap is easy to fall into, mostly out of habit and not genuine craving. It could be a habit from having “pudding” after my meals in England. Bah.

7) Exercise 3x a week. At the moment, I am running twice a week, but my ideal is to run twice and swim once a week. Needless to say, eating well needs to be complemented by exercise.


  1. wanphing says:

    Thanks Shin for linking to my post. Yours is a good read, too – gives us a good look into the Singapore school system!

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