Mosques serve healthier food during iftar this Ramadan

Mr Amrin Amin (second from left), Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health, joins congregants for iftar at Masjid An-Nahdhah on May 10, 2019. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - In a move to promote healthier eating this Ramadan, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) is working with mosques and groups to serve healthier food options, such as brown rice and beverages with less sugar, during iftar, the evening meal that Muslims break their daily fast with.

In a statement on Friday (May 10), HPB said it will be distributing 1,100kg of brown rice to 16 mosques across Singapore, which is twice the amount distributed last year. The mosques will be serving brown rice or porridge during iftar.

HPB will also be distributing low-sugar drink mixes, such as iced lemon tea and roselle, to 11 Qaryah groups, which are Muslim groups in neighbourhood areas.

Of the 16 mosques, six are working with their caterers to offer a modified, healthier iftar menu. The dishes served will be prepared using wholegrains and healthier oils and cooking methods.

Masjid An-Nahdhah in Bishan is one such mosque. Mr Amrin Amin, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health, joined about 150 congregants for iftar there on Friday (May 10), tucking into brown rice briyani, skinless chicken curry, sauteed vegetables and fruit salad.

He said: "This Ramadan is a very good time for us to remind ourselves that religion... is also about making sure that we are in good health, so that we can fulfil our responsibilities.

"During Ramadan, we follow certain practices such as not smoking, watching our diet. These are things that we can continue after Ramadan."

The initiatives are part of a larger campaign by HPB encouraging the community to consume less sugar during Ramadan and Hari Raya - as a high intake of sugar is linked to a higher risk of diabetes - and also to take up healthier habits, such as refraining from smoking.

Among Malays, 61 per cent drink sweetened drinks twice or more a week, which is higher than the Chinese at 41.9 per cent and the Indians at 48.8 per cent. HPB's findings also show that one in six Malays between 18 and 69 has diabetes.

As part of the two-month-long campaign, HPB will engage the community through television and social media.

It has also set up a booth at the Ramadan bazaars in Geylang Serai and Woodlands, where visitors can learn how to eat healthier and can sign up for the "I Quit 28-Day Countdown", a smoking cessation programme that challenges smokers to remain smoke-free for 28 days.

Studies show that doing so will make smokers five times more likely to quit smoking for good.

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