Got cravings for fatty food, desserts and caffeinated drinks? Nutrition experts give their take on which hawker favourites make more balanced and nutritious meals.
CHICKEN SATAY V BARBECUED CHICKEN
Chicken satay V barbecued chicken. Image: The Straits Times
The lesser evil: Barbecued chicken
It is more nutritious and poses a lower risk of contamination than satay, which is often accompanied by raw onions, cucumber and ketupat (rice cakes).
The latter can carry harmful bacteria, depending on the cleanliness and storage conditions of the stall, said Ms Pauline Xie, a senior dietitian at clinical services at National Healthcare Group Polyclinics.
Order smart: Check that your barbecued chicken is thoroughly cooked – stick a fork through it and it should come out clean.
MEE SIAM V MEE REBUS V MEE SOTO
The least evil: Mee soto
In terms of nutrients, all three dishes are relatively similar, says Ms Melissa Koh, a nutritionist from the Health Promotion Board (HPB). But mee soto (yellow noodles served with shredded chicken in soup) would be the least sinful at 432 calories per serving. Mee siam and mee rebus contain close to 700 and 571 calories, respectively.
But all the dishes have sky-high sodium levels, with mee soto and mee rebus containing about 2.6g per serving and mee siam, 2.1g per serving. According to the HPB, Singaporeans eat an average of 9g of salt a day, which is more than the daily recommended amount of 5g.
Order smart: Get more protein by asking for lean meat, hard-boiled eggs and veggies, advised Ms Koh. Refrain from slurping up the gravy to cut down on the salt and calories.
CHICKEN BRIYANI V NASI LEMAK (WITH TWO FRIED KUNING FISH, EGG, FRIED ANCHOVIES AND SAMBAL CHILLI)
Chicken briyani versus nasi lemak. Image: The Straits Times
The lesser evil: Nasi lemak
Both dishes are far from healthy, but nasi lemak contains less saturated fat at 7g per serving compared to briyani’s 12.3g, said Ms Xie. The rice in briyani is typically made with ghee and fat from chicken skin, she added. Saturated fat raises bad cholesterol levels in your body, increasing the risk of heart disease.
Order smart: Go easy on the sambal chilli. Apart from being oily, it is often loaded with salt.
MILK TEA V MILK COFFEE VS MILO
The least evil: Milo
The chocolate drink contains a negligible amount of caffeine – about 5 per cent of what is in a cup of instant coffee, said Ms Xie.
Too much caffeine can increase the risk of miscarriage and premature birth, she added. During pregnancy, stick to less than 300mg, or about two cups of coffee or tea.
If you are nursing, take less than 200mg of caffeine a day as it can pass through breast milk and cause your child to be restless, she said.
Order smart: Ask for the less sweet version.
ICE KACANG V CHENG TNG
Ice kacang versus cheng tng. Image: The Straits Times
The lesser evil: Ice kacang
Both local desserts contain about 180 calories per serving each. But ice kacang offers more than twice the protein and five times the fibre, thanks to ingredients such as corn and red beans, said Ms Xie.
Order smart: Ask for less sugar syrup.
CHICKEN RICE V CHICKEN CUTLET
The lesser evil: Chicken rice
Both are equally sinful dishes because of their high calorie and fat content, said Ms Koh. If you must make a choice, take chicken rice, which has 525 calories and 20g of fat per serving. A regular portion of fried chicken cutlet, served with French fries, salad, baked beans and toast, can easily set you back by as much as 800 calories, she added.
Order smart: Opt for brown rice if the chicken rice stall offers it. The added fibre can keep you full for a longer time, and is beneficial to your heart, said Ms Koh.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2014.