500-calorie meals at 700 outlets

1 bowl of mee soto: 434 kcal.
PHOTO: 500-calorie meals at 700 outlets

Eating out no longer means you have to blow your calorie budget.

As more Singaporeans eat out more frequently, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) has tied up with 18 food service providers that cover some 700 outlets and stalls islandwide to serve 500-calorie meals.

They range from stalls in food courts like Kopitiam, restaurants like Fish & Co, and even McDonald's, which traditionally serves up highly calorific fast-food.

They have been using healthier ingredients or cutting down on portion size, to get people to eat better.

The number of healthy-food providers is set to double to 30 by the end of the year, with the long-term aim of ensuring that two in 10 eat-out meals (or 180 million meals a year) in 2020 are healthier options.

The Healthier Dining Programme was launched by HPB yesterday, as part of the Healthy Living Master Plan to provide Singaporeans with at least three healthy living options near their home, office and schools by 2020.

Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Parliamentary Secretary for Health, said that as Singaporeans live longer, they have to maintain a healthy diet.

"Often, because of the sheer variety of tasty and affordable food available, we eat more than what we need, because big portions represent value for money," said Prof Faishal, adding that "we do not always make the healthiest choices when it comes to food".

The recommended energy intake for men is 2,600 calories per day, and for women, 2,000 calories.

Citing the most recent National Nutrition Survey 2010, Prof Faishal noted that 60 per cent of Singaporeans eat out at least four times a week and, on average, such a meal contains 700 to 800 calories.

So someone who eats out thrice a day could "easily exceed his or her recommended daily energy intake", said Prof Faishal.

The same survey, which polled more than 1,600 people aged 18 to 69 online, also showed that six in 10 Singaporeans consume more calories than needed.

HPB chief executive Zee Yoong Kang conceded that healthier ingredients will be costlier for restaurants.

But more Singaporeans "want and will demand" healthier food choices, said Mr Zee.

Roast duck restaurant Dian Xiao Er's managing director, Samuel Yik, said that customers have been asking for brown rice or less salt and sugar and lower fats when they order food.

Next month, the restaurant will be switching to rice bran oil, a healthier option from the palm oil it is using, even though the cost will double.

Phyllis Cheung, managing director of McDonald's Singapore, added that 20 per cent of customers opt for the wholegrain muffins, a healthier alternative to the English muffins in its breakfast menu.

She added that the fast-food chain will "launch more new wholesome choices", but declined to share details.

The healthy-eating drive will also encourage Singaporeans to choose unsweetened or lower-sugar beverages.

Besides a smaller waistline, healthy eaters can look forward to incentives.

Customers who opt for the healthier meal option will get a stamp on a loyalty card, to be launched by end-June.

Once they accumulate five stamps, they can take part in a lucky draw and win prizes, like travel vouchers and spa staycations.

Visit www.hpb.gov.sg for more information.


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