Parliament got a crash course in healthy eating on a budget yesterday, after MPs asked why the healthier food option often costs more.
Mr Chong Kee Hiong (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) cited a kaya spread that comes in regular and low-sugar varieties. The regular spread cost $2.95, while the version with lower sugar content cost $3.95.
He said that this price difference can confuse people. "The general public don't understand. It's healthier, I want to choose it, but it costs more."
Senior Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat responded that eating healthy does not necessarily mean having to purchase such products.
Food preparation techniques such as steaming instead of deep-frying, or using less salt and sugar can help, he said.
Certain methods of food preparation can even help to lower a food's glycemic index (GI), he added.
The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly a food causes blood sugar levels to rise. People are generally encouraged not to eat too much high-GI food to avoid repeated blood sugar spikes.
"What studies have found is that if, for example, you cook rice and then leave it to cool, and you reheat it later... this helps to lower the glycemic index," Mr Chee said.
Consuming protein - for instance, unsweetened soya milk or clear chicken stock - before tucking in can also help to reduce a meal's GI load, he noted.
Mr Chee added that healthier foods on supermarket shelves sometimes cost more because demand is low and such products are not being manufactured on a large scale.
"When... there's inadequate economies of scale, the merchant finds it difficult to price it at a very competitive level," Mr Chee said. "We saw this happening with healthier cooking oils and with wholemeal bread.
"During the initial phase when the healthier products were being introduced, they had to go through this phase where consumers were getting used to it and the demand was not quite picking up."