Healthy meals on wheels

Take the guesswork out of calorie counting with bento boxes packed with tasty lunch and dinner options.

Good Food Heals

Valerie Teo is a strong believer that a healthy gut equals a healthy body. She would know. The food therapy consultant was once plagued with severe irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and psoriasis, which were further compounded by an obsessive compulsive disorder and borderline personality disorder, on top of being anorexic and bulimic.

Her life turned around when she focused on healing her gut with a high probiotic lifestyle. Ms Teo credits her mother for introducing the art of fermenting food to her. "I ate my mum's cultured food every meal," says Ms Teo. Within four months, she cured herself of psoriasis and IBS.

"My personal journey has helped me experience the amazing healing potential of food, especially high probiotic food," says Ms Teo. With that in mind, she started Good Food Heals, a cafe in North Canal Road which also offers a delivery service. "I want to spread the food news that probiotic food heals you - body and mind," she says.

Good Food Heals claims to be the first in Singapore to serve high probiotic, in-house lacto-fermented fruit and vegetables in its meals. For convenience, the meals come in bento boxes. For protein, Ms Teo offers salmon or tofu, as they are easier to digest than red meat. Carbohydrates come in the form of vegetables and soba or green rice.

Most importantly, each bento comes with a serving of probiotic food, such as the probiotic cultured guava pineapple relish or the probiotic cultured creamy golden cabbage. The former tastes like a mild achar, while the latter is like a non-spicy kimchi.

"Probiotic food has a high enzyme content, which helps the body reduce digestion time, so you don't get that tired feeling after a meal," says Ms Teo. The meals are tasty without the need for adding extra sauce. Bentos cost from S$9.90, while the jars of probiotic food, or what Ms Teo terms GFH Cultured Superfoods are also available for sale from S$13.90. "Besides the high probiotic foods that are served to optimise nutrient absorption, every GFH meal is smartly combined with the best foods that help you achieve different health goals, be it to build muscles, to detox or for better skin," says Ms Teo.

Island-wide delivery available from Mon to Fri, from 11am to 2.30pm. Minimum order is S$50 and delivery is at S$7. Order one day in advance before 3pm for next day delivery.


In December 2013, Grain was one of the first few to start a health food delivery service. Two years on, business has been picking up. "It's really becoming more of a norm, for people to order healthy food to be delivered to them," says Yong Yi Sung, one of the four founders of the company.

Grain offers weekly meals, and for those working in the CBD area, there's the option of ordering personalised meals as well. "We are seeing a good mix of both types of customers," says Mr Yong. Those in the CBD area can get their meals delivered to them in 15 minutes.

Mr Yong and his three partners - Ernest Sim, Rifeng Gao and Isaac Tan - come from diverse backgrounds in culinary, technology and management consulting. "We aren't and don't pretend to be trained nutritionists but really, cooking good, healthy food is a lot about the heart that you put into it and the values that you draw from it," says Mr Yong.

Grain started when the team found it hard to find healthy food on a daily basis in Singapore. They also felt that food delivery experiences were poor, with most taking over 45 minutes, with unhealthy, oily options. Most of the food deteriorated rapidly in quality because it was not designed for takeaways.

Meals ordered from Grain come in plastic containers, with a label stating the ingredients and nutrient count as well. It offers a weekly menu with four meals and three drinks. Meals cost from S$9.95 and drinks from S$5.95.

"We always use healthier cooking methods, such as sous vide and grilling. We use a lot of complex carbs and are constantly finding ways to creatively substitute items such as sauces. For example, mayonnaise is swapped with cauliflower puree," says Mr Yong. "We are cuisine-agnostic, so you can expect anything from a deconstructed burger to a chirashisushi, not just standard Western sandwiches or salads typically associated with 'healthier' food."

Grain works well for those who like their carbs, such as soba noodles, barley or black rice, which come in rather large portions. "Our customers are generally working professionals in their early 20s to late 30s. Over 65 per cent of them come back for their second meals," says Mr Yong.

Island-wide delivery. Free delivery to Marina Bay and Raffles Place. For other areas, delivery fee varies based on number of meals ordered and location. Orders must be placed before 10am.

Lean Bento

Good friends Charles Ng and Dionis Chiua (right) feel that when it comes to clean eating, there can only be so many salads and wraps anyone can eat, so you're not going to find any of them on the menu at Lean Bento.

The eatery opened two months ago, and serves what Mr Ng calls: "healthy and quality calories with micro and macro nutrients".

He adds: "The food is high in protein, low in carbohydrate and fat content, and low in calories as well." The meals hover around 500 calories.

The food is also tasty. The salt-baked salmon that we tried looked dry, but was still juicy. And while most people avoid eating chicken breasts even though it's the healthiest part because they dry up quickly during cooking, it's one of their bestsellers. "Instead of just serving chicken breast as it is, we mince it and make it into a patty," says Mr Ng. The duo believe that giving a variety of textures to a meal make it more appetising.

The meals are served in bento boxes for convenience, and come with a serving of edamame, and wakame, or seaweed. "These add some crunch, and fibre too," says Mr Ng.

Balance here is the key, so while some may shun carbs altogether, there are small amounts in them, say three small balls of brown rice. Those who don't like rice can opt for noodle bowls, which use Japanese shiratake noodles - made from yam which has no carbohydrates and are low-calorie, gluten-free substitute for flour-based noodles.

All the cooking is done inside a small kitchen at the eatery, and the staff take pride in serving up not only tasty food, but also dishes that look good. The meals are properly plated, and the packaging that it comes in, is professionally presented too. "Regardless of whether you eat in or takeaway, you still get a good-looking bento," says Mr Ng. A bento costs from S$12.90.

He says that half of his business comes from the Raffles Place crowd, while the other comes from delivery, to even as far as Woodlands and Tuas. Companies are even choosing to cater food from Lean Bento rather than relying on regular food caterers.

"Having a balanced diet can be a tough task, which is why we have done all the tedious work for customers. They know they are getting a balanced meal from us," says Mr Ng. "You still feel full, but you won't get that bloated feeling."

Islandwide delivery, except to Sentosa, Jurong Island and restricted areas. No minimum order for delivery. Delivery fees are between S$5 and S$20 based on local and total amount of orders. A S$5 discount is offered for all orders above S$70.

Fitness Ration

How many calories should you be consuming? It all depends on your gender and level of activity. Fitness Ration takes away those tedious calculations, by coming up with personalised meal plans. The company was started last month by a group of friends who are all into fitness. Jerome Seow, a co-founder of Fitness Ration says that while he enjoyed going to the gym, "I saw the importance of having effective and sustainable food options to support my lifestyle."

He could not find time to cook for himself and there were limited healthy options on the market. Fitness Ration works with a nutritional consultancy firm that advises on the calibrations of macro nutrients and calorie ranges for our different meal plans. Meals are split into two categories - for females and males.

Customers can also choose between "Lean on Me" or "Heavy Duty" meals. Lean on Me is a calorie-controlled meal for those looking to lose extra weight. On the other hand, Heavy Duty meals contain more calories, and are meant for those who want to build more muscle mass.

The meals come frozen, but are definitely better tasting than a typical frozen TV dinner from the supermarket. Snap-freezing helps maintain optimum quality, shape, size and taste of each ingredient, and also prevents bacteria from entering the food. "The meals are delivered frozen to customers, and can be kept frozen for three to four weeks while still maintaining freshness and nutrition values," says Mr Seow. They are thawed and then reheated in a microwave. Some of the meals available include a chilli con carne with minced beef, served with wholewheat pasta, and broccoli and mushrooms. A Lean on Me meal comes with slow-cooked dory, baked sweet potatoes and broccoli and mushrooms. The meat dish fares better being reheated compared to fish.

To make it convenient, meals are delivered in bundles of five and 10. A bundle of five meals costs from S$47. "At Fitness Ration, customers don't have to order a week's worth, rather, you order a bundle of five or 10 meals. This is so that they can easily stock up on our meals without having to order numerous times, and it is also our way of making meals even more affordable as they purchase in bulk," says Mr Seow.

Islandwide delivery is available. It is a standard delivery charge of S$7 while deliveries to Sentosa are subject to additional charges. Order before 5pm for next day delivery. Deliveries only on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The Bento People

A meal from The Bento People is literally what the doctor ordered. The doctor being its founder Chan Tat Hon, a registered general practitioner.

Last year, he started The Snack Culture Company, and became its chef by accident when the real chef that he hired didn't turn up for work. The Snack Culture Company was about creating a lunch menu of dishes inspired by different cuisines from around the world.

"Over time, I began to see my unique position as a doctor working as a chef in my F&B business as a great opportunity and platform to engage and educate my customers about healthy eating," says Dr Chan. "That through creating healthier and yet hearty and tasty dishes, I would be able to encourage my customers to embrace healthy eating as a lifestyle. This soon became my passion and a personal mission I embraced." He even started a blog,, to encourage people to eat healthily.

In April, he revamped the Snack Culture Company's lunch menu and launched it under a new brand - The Bento People, to offer a new "make your own healthy bento" concept where customers get to practise choosing healthy dishes. The menu offers more than 20 items with an emphasis on wholegrains and vegetable dishes.

"The bento box works as a visual tool to help customers see that healthy eating is essentially first and foremost about a balanced proportion of the different types of food in their meals," says Dr Chan.

Customers choose a healthy balanced meal using the compartments of the bento, ideally half of which should be filled with vegetables or fruit, a quarter with wholegrains and a quarter with good proteins.

Some of the popular items include brown rice with fresh herbs, spicy mayo cauliflower, quinoa salad with yuzu balsamic vinegar dressing and sous vide chicken breast Chinese Emperor Chicken Herbal style. Pick from three dishes for S$9.80.

The bento boxes have become so popular, that Dr Chan has had to recently start a delivery service. For now, delivery is only to Pico Creative Centre and Aperia, which are within walking distance of The Bento People cafe at CT Hub at Kallang Avenue.

For ease of delivery, only set meals are available, such as the Balanced BBB Bento, which has bulgogi beef with tofu, brown rice with fresh herbs, and broccoli with wolfberries. Set bento meals costs from S$9.80.

There are plans to offer delivery to more places as well as customisation of bentos for deliveries.

"Besides the health-conscious folk, our customers also include people who are generally less informed or less committed about healthy eating but who find our food healthy and also hearty," says Dr Chan.

Free delivery only to Pico Creative Centre and Aperia, from Monday to Friday. Delivery times at 12pm, 1pm, and 2pm. Place orders a minimum of 90 minutes in advance.

This article was first published on July 18, 2015. Get The Business Times for more stories.