Healthier ingredients, herbs and spices can enhance the natural flavours of meals. By Ng Wan Ching
Chicken and brown rice spicy soup. Photo: Health Promotion Board
Eating home-cooked meals is often touted as being the healthier option to eating out.
You can control the amount of salt and oil used, choose healthier, less fatty ingredients and add more whole grains to your diet.
One downside is possibly a less tasty meal. After all, fat and salt easily up the taste quotient without much effort.
But this is not necessarily so.
The Health Promotion Board’s (HPB) nutrition toolkit for seniors – The Recipe For Healthy Ageing – has many healthy recipes and tips on how to add flavour and increase the nutritional value of the meal.
For example, reducing the salt intake can help one manage high blood pressure, but it does not mean cutting out the flavour.
The toolkit suggests using herbs and spices to enhance flavours.
Vegetables such as tomatoes, spring onions, chilli and pepper can also provide natural flavours to your food.
Pulses including peas, beans and lentils, and bean products such as beancurd and tempeh are good sources of protein which are low in saturated fat.
Replacing meat with beans or bean products a few times a week can be a way to reduce saturated fat in your diet and help to manage your cholesterol level.
You can also use Healthier Choice products or low-salt soup stocks or prepare home-made soup stocks with fresh ingredients, herbs and spices.
Adding vegetables and wholegrains to your meals will increase your fibre intake.
Eating healthily is important in the fight against diabetes. Type 2 diabetes can be attributed to different risk factors such as obesity and a diet high in refined carbohydrates – starchy staples such as white rice, noodles and bread, and sugars from sweetened drinks, said an HPB spokesman.
On top of choosing healthier ingredients by looking out for the Healthier Choice Symbol, Singaporeans also need to be more aware of the need to improve the quality of the carbohydrates they eat.
This is especially since Singaporeans consume far more sugar from starchy carbohydrates in rice, noodles and bread than the sugar from cane sugar in drinks.
The HPB advises switching from refined carbohydrates to healthier varieties such as brown rice, which is one of the many varieties of unpolished rice.
“We do not advocate cutting out staples as a balanced diet must comprise foods from the various food groups so that our body gets the nutrients it needs,” the spokesman said.
Replacing as little as 20 per cent of a bowl of white rice with unpolished rice can reduce the risk of diabetes, she added.
RECIPE: CHICKEN AND BROWN RICE SPICY SOUP
Rice should continue to form the main part of our overall diet, according to the Health Promotion Board (HPB).
About 50 per cent of our daily calorie intake should come from carbohydrates.
The HPB recommends partially replacing white rice with unpolished rice or mixing it. This recipe from its nutrition toolkit for seniors shows you how.
Preparation time for this dish is 10 minutes and cooking time is 20 minutes.
1 cup (200g) cooked brown rice
2 tbsp red curry paste
100ml low-fat coconut milk
100ml low-fat milk
1 onion, quartered
1 thumb-sized fresh ginger, roughly sliced
1 green capsicum, chopped
1 carrot, sliced
2 tomatoes, diced
200g lean chicken, sliced (can be replaced with other meats such as beef or fish)
3 tbsp fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped or 1 tbsp dried coriander
3 kaffir lime leaves, sliced
In a heated pot, add the curry paste, onion and ginger and stir fry for about one minute.
Add the chicken, vegetables, coconut milk, milk and water to the pot. Mix well and bring to a boil.
Bring to a simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked and vegetables are tender.
Add the rice, coriander and lime leaves to the pot and let it simmer for another two minutes.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2016, with the headline ‘Home-cooked food can be yummy too’.