Polytechnic students design meals for diabetics

Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong with Temasek Polytechnic student Than Jia Hui, 19, who is studying baking and culinary science, at the launch of the initiative between the polytechnic and NTUC Foodfare.
Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong with Temasek Polytechnic student Than Jia Hui, 19, who is studying baking and culinary science, at the launch of the initiative between the polytechnic and NTUC Foodfare.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Temasek Polytechnic working with NTUC Foodfare to offer low-glycaemic-index dishes

Diabetics might soon get their fill of pad thai and nasi briyani without it being a guilty pleasure that could hike their sugar levels.

Students from Temasek Polytechnic (TP) have come up with a series of diabetic-friendly dishes, and are working with NTUC Foodfare to bring them to the wider world.

Plans in the pipeline mean that they could even be served at childcare centres and nursing homes in the future.

For starters, however, the low-glycaemic-index (GI) meals will be offered at two outlets managed by NTUC Foodfare - they are now available at Mapletree Business City and will later be rolled out at the National University Health System. The meals, which are halal, will also be later made available at St Joseph's Home and NTUC Health's nursing home.

TP and NTUC Foodfare yesterday signed an agreement to collaborate on the project.

The dishes range from pad thai, with noodles made from sweet potato rather than rice flour, to spicy briyani with lamb meatballs, which uses low-GI, long-grain rice.

GI values refer to the rate at which different foods raise a person's blood sugar level.

People with diabetes are often encouraged to eat low-GI food to avoid blood sugar spikes.

However, information on the GI values of local meals is often hard to find, said Mr Perry Ong, chief executive at NTUC Foodfare.

Last year, the social enterprise organised discussions with diabetics, who related their difficulties in finding appropriate food.

"All of them told us that when they go out, they just have to use their own (judgment) and eat less of certain food or avoid certain things. There aren't any meals curated for them," said Mr Ong.

The students have also created a range of low-GI frozen pizzas in six flavours, which will be sold at FairPrice stores from April.

Final-year student Loh Da Wei, who worked to formulate a recipe for glass noodles with soya-ginger chicken, said that his team went through nearly 10 iterations of the dish before they were satisfied with the taste and the carbs.

"We had to find suitable carbohydrates and ended up using sweet potato glass noodles," said Mr Loh, 19, who is from the baking and culinary science programme. "(The broth) also went from a very plain soup to a more flavourful herbal broth."

The students then had to make sure the dishes could be mass produced easily and cheaply.

Said Ms Petrina Lim, domain lead for food and beverage technology at TP's school of applied science: "These are all the very essence of a real market dynamic. The culinary science students had to ensure that the nutrition guidelines and criteria were met without compromising on the (innovation), taste and appearance of the dishes they created."

Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung commended the school's efforts at innovation.

He said: "Every industry has the ability to become highly productive and innovative. But it requires the industry to work with our institutes, and our institutes to be at the forefront of thinking and science."

Correction note: The story has been updated to reflect the correct name of Ms Than Jia Hui. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 06, 2017, with the headline 'Polytechnic students design meals for diabetics'. Print Edition | Subscribe