Watch out for these salty hawker dishes that are shockingly high in sugar

Watch out for these salty hawker dishes that are shockingly high in sugar
PHOTO: Shape/Darren Chang

When it comes to reducing your sugar intake, you'd probably start by eliminating the obvious culprits.

Cakes, cookies and chocolates are likely the first to go. Next, you might ask for less sugar in your drinks.

Good on you if you're already consciously cutting back on the sweet stuff, but here's where the bad news comes in: Many hawker favourites like mee siam and fried rice are already sugar bombs in themselves.

According to guidelines by the Health Promotion Board (HPB), added sugars should form no more than 10 per cent of your dietary energy. This translates to approximately 40-55g (eight to 11 teaspoons) daily.

"Added sugar, also known as sucrose, refers to the white substance that you add to tea and coffee," says Jaclyn Reutens, a clinical and sports dietitian and the founder of Aptima Nutrition & Sports Consultants.

"This should not be confused with other sugars like lactose (found in milk) and fructose (found in fruit). Added sugars translate to empty calories as they provide calories with very little nutritional value. Excess intake of calories - especially empty calories - increases the risk of weight gain which ups the susceptibility to diabetes, heart disease and some cancers."

Taking the HPB guidelines into consideration, Jaclyn points out that you should be eating no more than 15g (three teaspoons) of added sugar per meal.

That said, she cautions that this is not as straightforward in reality since it is hard to ascertain how much sugar there is in a dish.

Moreover, each dish can be prepared very differently by two different people.

"It's easier to ask for less sugar or syrup in your drinks and desserts. For hidden sugars such as those found in gravies and sauces, simply eat less and do not ask for extra," she says.

Make an informed choice the next time you pay a visit to your favourite food centre.

Often, savoury dishes can be laden with hidden sugars though they don't taste sweet.

Click on the photo gallery to see what food to avoid.

This article was first published in Shape.

Purchase this article for republication.

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