Health

Counting Calories Is Essential If You Live in Malaysia

Malaysia is a paradise of food, but many expats find that their waistlines take a hammering with the sudden influx of calorific asian treats. How can, lah? Here are some swaps you can make to avoid the worst offenders.

Living in Malaysia means one is blessed with a buffet of cuisine choices on an everyday basis. Whether you are after Indian, Chinese, Malay or a mixture of these flavours, you are bound to find something to satisfy your palate in this country. Although great for the tastebuds, these delicious dishes are not so beneficial for the waistline. With obesity rates skyrocketing all over the world, it is probably best to equip yourself with the nutritional knowledge of these delectable goodies.

Breakfast Avoid: Nasi Lemak

A typical Malaysian breakfast does not just consist of nasi lemak. There is the addition of a piece of fried chicken, along with anchovies, peanuts, and cucumbers. A plate of nasi lemak typically offers up to about 650 calories, which is equivalent to three bowls of plain white rice. Add a piece of fried chicken and that’s an extra 290 calories. Wash it all down with a cup of teh tarik and you can add another 80200 calories or more (depending on how much sugar you like) to your grand total. At over 1,000 calories, your breakfast alone might put you in the running for a stint on The Biggest Loser.

Choose: Half-boiled eggs

It may not sound as appealing as a big plate of nasi lemak, but half-boiled eggs are a healthier, lighter choice and one that earns a coveted spot on the low-GI food list. Just two plain half-boiled eggs on plain bread (without butter or kaya) will add a mere 227 calories to your morning intake. Wash it down with a cup of tea (without sugar) and you have got yourself a protein-filled meal that will give you energy throughout the day and keep the calorie count low. Perfect!

Lunchtime Avoid: Char kuey teow

Char kuey teow is definitely in the running for the most unhealthy Malaysian meal around. Jam-packed with noodles, eggs, prawns, bean sprouts, fried in garlic, soy sauce, and chilli, this lip-smackingly delicious dish is extremely high in saturated fat. A single plate of this clocks in at a massive 742 calories, with an average portion containing nearly 40g of fat – that’s 10g more than the recommended daily allowance! Frequent consumption of this spells potential weight gain and increased health risks, so this is definitely one that needs to be enjoyed in moderation, followed by exercise.

Choose: Bak kut teh

This delicious meal has its roots in China and is best enjoyed on a rainy day. The clear, herbal soup is seasoned with garlic, meat (usually pork but also commonly cooked with chicken), garlic, pepper and traditional herbs and spices. Stay away from the deep fried breadsticks (yau char kuay), go easy on the rice, and stock up on vegetables like mushrooms and lettuce and you will be clocking in a mere 310 calories per serving.

Teatime Avoid: Roti Canai

Roti canai is everyone’s favourite go-to meal choice. It’s quick to make, versatile, and absolutely delicious. The problem with roti canai is that you never eat it alone. Often there is a generous helping of dhal or curry involved with it, which can turn this into a truly fattening dish. Paired with some sambal and the roti canai and dhal meal is approximately 380 calories. If you order a roti telur instead, that becomes 414 calories – for just one piece of bread! And face it, one is never quite enough.

Choose: Other bread options

Stick to a single piece of roti canai or replace it with bread of a lower energy density. Choose from a chapati (contains 144 calories), a thosai (contains 97 calories), or a roti jala (contains 110 calories) to shave off the extra fat. Better yet, swap the bread for a piece of lean chicken for extra protein. This could save you up to 300 calories per meal.

Drinking Avoid: Teh tarik

Malaysia’s signature beverage, the humble teh tarik, packs a mighty calorific punch in just a small package. Made from black tea and (often quite large amounts of) sweetened condensed milk, many Malaysians consume several cups of this overly sweet drink per day. Since it is prepared with high-calorie condensed milk, teh tarik quickly fills up your daily calorie intake: one serving with sugar may set you back a massive 229 calories – in a single small glass!

Choose: Lassi

Traditionally an Indian drink, lassi is found on many menus throughout the country and is made by blending yoghurt with water or milk and fruits like mango. The result is refreshing and delicious smoothie-like drink that is high in fibre and low in saturated fat and calories. At only 130 calories a pop, lassi is a relatively low-calorie, healthy choice.

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Balance is Key

The lesson here is to not give up your favourite delights just because you are on the path to a healthier lifestyle. If you must have a hearty roti canai for breakfast, pair it with water instead of ordering a drink filled with sugar (“kurang manis” is the way to go). If you’re planning a char kuey teow dinner, try to eat lighter meals throughout the day to ensure the caloric intake balances out – have a salad or soup for lunch and a healthy, cereal breakfast. Everything can be enjoyed – in moderation.

… a single plateof char kuey teowclocks in at a massive 742 calories and nearly40g of fat…

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Source: The Expat May 2013

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