Help At Your Fingertips

Kick your 'char kway teow habit'

Avoid junk food, set realistic goals and make incremental changes for a healthy lifestyle

A plate of char kway teow.
A plate of char kway teow.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

Most people will agree that leading a healthy lifestyle is important. After all, no one wants to battle a chronic disease for years.

But giving in and having that plate of char kway teow or mee goreng can be all too easy, especially when everyone else is doing the same.

Before long, instead of healthy lifestyle habits, one has acquired a "char kway teow habit".

Dr Lim Su Lin, chief dietitian at the National University Hospital (NUH), said: "The influence of family, friends and our surroundings can be so powerful and yet detrimental to our health.

"Singaporeans are surrounded by good food. Unfortunately, most of these options are unhealthy."

The best defence comes from oneself. Simple adjustments to daily routines can help one sustain a healthy lifestyle. Dr Lim offers some tips:


There are many reasons to maintain a healthy lifestyle and what is important for one person may not be for another.

Knowing your goals can be a powerful tool to keep you on track, from preventing the onset of chronic diseases or controlling existing conditions to achieving well-being or simply looking good.


Aim for something achievable. For example, if you have not been exercising for a while, setting a goal to jog for an hour every day is setting yourself up for failure.

Always start with small goals, be consistent and gradually increase your targets when you have achieved the previous ones.

You will have a sense of achievement if you are able to fulfil your targets, even if they are small steps.


Changing habits to achieve a healthy lifestyle does not happen with a single bite or a single meal.

The key is to make small changes that your body and mind can gradually get used to.

Long-term success is more achievable when these changes become a habit.

For example, gradually reduce the sugar in your cup of coffee over a few weeks to allow your tastebuds to get used to it.


One way to do this is by keeping healthy foods available and visible at home. For example, keep fruit on the middle shelf of your refrigerator or in a bowl on your kitchen table.

Store unhealthy foods out of sight and avoid them altogether. Remove junk food from your home and office desk so that you would not need to struggle with your willpower to reach out for them.


Find out what makes it hard for you to eat healthily and be active, and make some changes. For example, if television and computer games are preventing you from exercising, set aside the same time every day for exercise instead.

During social events such as meals with friends or colleagues, choose healthier options whenever possible.


Do not be discouraged when you deviate from your plans to eat healthy and be active. Tell yourself that you will do better next time.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 08, 2016, with the headline 'Kick your 'char kway teow habit''. Subscribe