More healthier hawker dishes on the menu by 2019

The move to identify healthier food in hawker centres is part of the Healthier Dining Programme.
The move to identify healthier food in hawker centres is part of the Healthier Dining Programme.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Four in 10 hawker stalls will sell at least one healthier dish by 2019, if the Health Promotion Board's (HPB) latest effort to get Singaporeans to choose healthy food pays off.

This will mean almost doubling the proportion of such stalls that currently offer healthier choices.

Of the 13,000 hawker stalls today, only 2,700 sell certified healthier items. They cover over 60 hawker centres and 450 coffee shops.

To help diners identify lower-calorie dishes, the HPB has drawn up a list of 63 dishes that tend to be under 500 calories. These include beef noodle soup, masala thosai and mee soto. Dishes are checked to ensure they meet the calorie limit. If they do, the stall gets a label that marks the dish as a healthier option.

The move to identify healthier food in hawker centres is part of the Healthier Dining Programme, which began in June 2014 with restaurants and foodcourts.

It comes as Singaporeansare getting heavier - an adult weighs 3kg more on average today than 15 years ago, a HPB study released last month found.

Eating out could be a source of extra calories. A shop-bought meal usually has 700 to 800 calories on average. Men typically need about 2,200 calories a day, and women, 1,800.


Six in 10 Singaporeanseat out at least four times a week, showed the National Nutrition Survey in 2010. And about 11 per cent of adults here are obese.

It is not the first time hawker food has been targeted in healthy eating schemes. In April 2011, the Healthier Hawker Food Programme was rolled out to encourage hawkers to offer healthier versions of popular foods, using healthier oil or less salt.

However, HPB chief executive Zee Yoong Kang said the scheme was "very heavy going". He said: "It was a very high-risk move for many of the hawkers, who had to change the recipes of dishes that had been developed over several decades."

The scheme was later shelved.

This latest push, however, takes a different tack by giving people information to make better decisions about hawker food.

"We are not aiming to make every stall (one) that offers healthier options, or to make every item on their menus a healthier option," said Senior Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat yesterday.

Some dishes cannot be made healthier without compromising on taste, he told reporters at Bedok Interchange Hawker Centre, where two-thirds of food and drink stalls offer at least one healthier option.

Mr John Ng, 60, who was having lunch there yesterday, said the labels could sway him to change his eating choices once in a while.

"I am not very particular, but I am still conscious of what I am eating," said Mr Ng, a managing director.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2017, with the headline 'More healthier hawker dishes on the menu by 2019'. Subscribe