You know you should eat healthily, especially during pregnancy and when breastfeeding. But what if you crave high-fat hawker food? We get nutrition experts to pick the better option.
Chicken biryani vs nasi lemak (with two fried kuning fish, egg, fried anchovies and sambal chilli)
The better option: Nasi lemak
Both dishes are far from healthy, but the lesser evil would be nasi lemak, because it contains less saturated fat at 7g per serving compared to biryani's 12.3g, says Pauline Xie, principal dietitian with the Clinical Services Division at National Healthcare Group Polyclinics.
The rice in nasi biryani is typically made with ghee and fat from chicken skin, she explains. Saturated fat is the bad guy that raises bad cholesterol levels in your body, increasing the risk of heart disease.
Order smart Go easy on the sambal chilli. Apart from being oily, it is often loaded with salt. Ordering a serving of vegetables to go with your nasi lemak can help balance the unhealthiness of your meal, suggests Pauline. If you plan to indulge, eat clean for the rest of the day.
Barbecued chicken vs chicken satay
The better option: Chicken satay
It is more nutritious and poses a lower risk of contamination than satay, which is often accompanied by raw onions, cucumber and ketupat.
The latter can harbour harmful bacteria, depending on the cleanliness and storage conditions of the stall, says Pauline. Remove the chicken skin for a healthier dish.
Order smart Go for well-cooked hot food when eating out. Check that your barbecued chicken is thoroughly cooked - stick a fork through it and it should come out clean. If you're craving satay, get it from a hygienic and reputable source, says Pauline.
Meat and poultry are good sources of protein, iron, niacin, riboflavin and vitamin B6, nutrients that you'll need to support a healthy pregnancy and milk supply.
Mee siam vs mee rebus vs mee soto
The better option: Mee soto
In terms of nutrients, all three dishes are relatively similar, says Melissa Koh, a nutritionist from the Health Promotion Board (HPB). But mee soto (yellow noodles served with shredded chicken in soup) would be the least sinful at 432 calories per serving. Mee siam and mee rebus contain close to 700 and 571 calories, respectively.
But all the dishes have sky-high sodium levels, with mee soto and mee rebus containing about 2.6g per serving and mee siam at 2.1 g per serving. According to the HPB, the average salt intake of a Singaporean is 9g per day, which is more than the recommended daily 5g.
Studies show that you can lower your blood pressure when you reduce your salt intake to less than 5g per day. Plus, taking too much salt can worsen oedema (swelling caused by fluid retention) during your pregnancy, adds Jenny Ng, principal dietitian from Mind Your Diet.
Order smart Get more protein by asking for extra-lean meat, hard-boiled eggs as well as veggies, advises Melissa. Refrain from slurping up the gravy to cut down on salt and calories.
Bak chor mee vs wonton mee
The better option: Wonton mee
With fewer calories (about 410 calories per bowl) and almost half the amount of fat at about 11g, a bowl of wonton mee (noodles with dumplings) is a more balanced meal as it is usually served with chye sim.
Order smart Increase the nutrition content of this dish by asking for more veggies. Even better, choose the soup version; the dry one has added salt and other preservatives from chilli and tomato sauce, says Melissa from HPB.
Ice kacang vs cheng tng
The better option: Ice kacang
Both local desserts contain about 180 calories per serving each.
But ice kacang offers more than twice the protein and five times the fibre, thanks to ingredients such as corn and red beans, says Pauline.
Order smart Ask for less sugar syrup.
Milk tea vs milk coffee vs Milo
The better option: Milo
It's the best option among the three. The chocolate drink contains a negligible amount of caffeine - about 5 per cent of what's in a cup of instant coffee, says Pauline.
Too much caffeine can increase the risk of miscarriage and premature birth, she adds. During pregnancy, stick to less than 300mg, which translates to about two cups of coffee or tea.
If you're nursing, your caffeine intake should be less than 200 mg per day because it can pass through breast milk and cause Baby to be restless, she says.
Order smart Ask for the siu dai (less sweet) version so you're not consuming unwanted calories.
This article was first published in Young Parents.