We Singaporeans love our hawker food – oh, yes we do. But as with all relationships in life, some love are a little more toxic than others. I got a local dietitian to help shed light on what dishes we should keep a distance from. Check out Singapore’s 10 unhealthiest hawker dishes, listed according to total calories. I do apologise for the impending heartbreak.
10. CHICKEN SATAY AND SAUCE
5 sticks of satay with 5g of sauce each (75g) = 185cal
Well, this is a small number – what’s the big deal, right? But this is a lot of calories, fat (10g) and sodium (249mg) in a small amount of food. Typically you’ll have satay alongside other dishes as well. Oh, and if you wolf down 10 sticks, you would have already hit about one-third of your daily fat allowance.
Grass jelly, red bean and pandan jelly served in a sweet coconut milk base soup (368g) = 386cal
Who can resist the addictive combo of gula melaka and coconut milk? But it is precisely all of its sweet goodness that’s leading to the high calorie count. Plus, a bowlful has about nine teaspoons of sugar. Chendol has a high glycaemic index (GI), which means it’s digested and released into the body quickly, giving you a spike in energy that crashes, and leaves you tired and hungry quickly.
8. FRIED ECONOMIC BEE HOON
Fried vermicelli with fried luncheon meat and fried egg (273g) = 427cal
A favourite at breakfasts, this dish will almost hit your daily limit for cholesterol (300mg) at 219mg, so be careful with the rest of the day’s intake. Luncheon meats are also highly processed and contain a lot of MSG, which will make you thirsty. Try to reach for water instead of a sweet drink.
7. BLACK FRIED CARROT CAKE
Fried radish with egg and sweet sauce (295g) = 493cal
This dish scores high marks not just in taste but in all the wrong nutrients as well. There is a lot of fat in it (35g), because it’s usually cooked in pork lard. There is also a lot of sugar from the sweet sauce (up to 6 teaspoons) and about 1,289mg of sodium – this is more than half of your 2,000mg daily requirement.
6. MEE GORENG
Yellow noodle with vegetables, egg, cooked in tomato and chilli sauce (309g) = 500cal
This one’s a real danger for adults with hypertension as the salt content of 1,851mg is close to one entire day’s requirement of 2,000mg. A large proportion of mee goreng’s calories come from fat (20g), which makes the quality of the calories low. A dish with high quality calories would be a better balanced one (think salads with olive oil dressing and lean meats).
5. LAKSA LEMAK
Noodles with prawns and fish cakes in coconut-based soup (540g) = 591cal
The richness of the coconut milk which gives laksa that wonderful full-bodied mouthful is also the undoing of this dish – nutritionally. More that half the fat (32g) comes from saturated fat (17.8g), which is harmful to the heart. The sodium levels are right up there as well at 1,588mg.
4. CHICKEN RICE
“Roasted” chicken with skin, served with rice and chilli sauce (382g) = 607cal
The rice, while delicious, was cooked swimming in chicken fat. The total fat count here is at 23g, which is about one-third, or half of your daily requirement, depending on your gender. A fatty meal takes about four hours to digest – a plate of this will leave you sluggish and sleepy after you eat it, especially with a rush of serotonins (a feel-good hormone) from the high carbohydrate content. Again, watch the sodium too (1,287mg).
Read: recommendations on some of the best chicken rice in Singapore.
3. NASI LEMAK
Coconut rice with fried chicken wing, fried egg, fried anchovies and chilli sauce (306g) = 657cal
This one’s my personal favourite and I’m horrified to find it third on the list. The fat content of 25g is high and it’s all thanks to the rich coconut milk-soaked rice and deep fried accompanying dishes. At 657 calories, this exceeds your “budget” for a meal, based on a 1,800cal diet.
2. MEE SIAM
Thin, white rice noodle, hard boiled egg and dried beancurd in tangy gravy (655g) = 694cal
A bowlful of mee siam always looks so unassuming, until you find out about the high amount of carbohydrates from the noodles and sugar-laden gravy (92g). This dish also takes home the award for highest amount of sodium, clocking in a whopping 2,659mg – that’s one entire day’s allowance and a third of tomorrow’s.
1. CHAR KWAY TEOW
Rice noodles fried with cockles, Chinese sausage and sweet sauce (384g) = 744cal
This tasty plate of wok hei-heavy kway teow noodles tops the list at 744 calories. It is also extremely heart-unfriendly with it’s high levels of fat (38g) – of which 70% is saturated fat (29.2g) – and cholesterol (234mg). It gets most of its calories from the sweet sauce, highly processed meats and pork lard used. Also take note of the sodium levels, which sits at 1,459mg.
So there you go, remember that you don’t have to cut these hawker favourites from your life forever – they are after all, as Singaporean as they come. Enjoy them no more than once a week, and choose healthier dishes for your other meals on the days you decide to indulge.
Expert source: Jaclyn Reutens, clinical dietitian at nutrition consultancy Aptima Nutrition & Sports Consultants www.aptima-nsc.com
About the writer:
Ruby Tan used to write for Her World, and is now a freelance writer with a dream to travel the world. She believes that the some of best things in life don’t have to be bought. If you want to make a friend, share travel tips and advice, or even to discuss deeply about life, write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org