Move towards plant-based diets good for health too

Besides a culinary awakening, we need to equip Singaporeans with the nutritional knowledge on how to substitute animal-based proteins with a variety of plant-based proteins.
Besides a culinary awakening, we need to equip Singaporeans with the nutritional knowledge on how to substitute animal-based proteins with a variety of plant-based proteins. PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

The recent article (Want to go flexitarian? Do it gradually; Jan 18) has brought awareness to how current dietary habits are harming the planet.

While the report was referring to the health of the planet being in trouble, we should not forget that our health is at stake too.

In a national study done by Health Promotion Board in 2010, 1.7 million Singaporeans were found to be susceptible to developing diseases related to obesity, such as heart diseases and diabetes.

There is an urgent need for the people in Singapore to work towards healthier eating habits.

Contrary to expert beliefs, local dishes that are dear to most Singaporeans can be made plant-based. Some examples include plant-based versions of chicken rice, laksa, rendang and briyani.

Besides a culinary awakening, we need to equip Singaporeans with the nutritional knowledge on how to substitute animal-based proteins with a variety of plant-based proteins, such as tempeh, tofu, lentils and beans.

As with any behavioural-change campaigns, we need to work on reaching out to all parts of society.

As nutritional needs vary with age, it would be useful to develop nutritional food guides for different stages in life.

A recent example would be Canada's new food guide, which emphasises plant-based proteins and does not promote meat or dairy as a main component.

A key target would be students in schools, who can be guided to form healthier eating habits.

It is of paramount importance that we allow them to enjoy their favourite foods through a whole food, plant-based diet rather than sugary drinks and processed meats which are prevalent in school canteens today.

Healthier plant-based food options should also be subsidised to make healthier diets affordable, and unhealthy options should be taxed.

Sumita Thiagarajan (Miss)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 05, 2019, with the headline 'Move towards plant-based diets good for health too'. Print Edition | Subscribe