Let’s face the facts: Malaysian food, while absolutely delicious, is not ideal when you’re thinking of health and weight loss. The coconut cream based curries, delectable fried delights, and sweet milky drinks are just the tip of the iceberg when we look at the fatty culprits. This doesn’t mean you have to rule them out completely and once in a while it’s fine to indulge in the odd treat here and there. Cutting back and making a few small changes can add up to overall weight loss. Here are five simple steps you can take to enjoy our local delights while still keeping health in mind.
Balance is key
Don’t completely give up your favourite Malaysian delights just because you are on the path to a healthier lifestyle. A drastic diet change can lead anyone to relapse and even the most vigilant will find it hard to maintain. Life is too short to completely do away with the foods that bring us joy, so instead, strike a happy balance. If you’re going to tuck into a hearty roti canai for breakfast, pair it with water instead of ordering a drink filled with sugar and empty calories. See if you can find a way to eat lighter throughout the day so that your caloric intake balances out. Have a salad or soup for lunch and for dinner a lean protein with some veg. When you’re about to indulge in a local dish planning is important. Think about what you’ll be having for the rest of the day to balance it out.
Kurang manis is the way to go
Majority of the calories consumed in Malaysia are purely through the sugary and often milky drinks. Pair a drink like this with an equally fatty meal and this is a recipe for instant weight gain. If you’re not a fan of plain old ice water, ask for your drinks to come with less sugar (kurang manis). Better still if you ask for no sugar at all.
Bring your own rice
Various dishes here are best served with a steaming plate of white rice, which unfortunately is a refined grain. To up the nutritional value of your meal and to give it a fiber boost, consider packing your own brown rice. It is a fact that women who consume more whole grains consistently weigh less than those who have a lower instance of fibre intake. While the texture may take some getting used to, you’ll find that brown rice will keep you full longer and it has a wonderful nutty aroma.
When cooking, substitute!
If you’re cooking local dishes you can always find a way to substitute ingredients to make the dish healthier overall. Whip up a nasi lemak, by cooking the rice with water and some ginger and pandan for fragrance and omit the santan. Once the rice is cooked you can toss it with a small spoonful of virgin coconut oil. Not only does this give the rice the same coconutty aroma, but it has many health benefits such as stress relief, maintaining cholesterol levels, weight loss, and increased immunity due to its antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial and soothing properties. It is a healthy fat that contributes to a well-rounded diet rather than taking away from it. In curries you can substitute the santan with low fat milk or yogurt. In just making small changes to your recipes you’ll find that your food can take on a healthy makeover.
Enjoy but don’t finish
Eating less overall will contribute to weight loss. By all means don’t starve yourself, but be mindful of the portions you are taking in. Make sure that your plate is filled with more veggies and grains and less protein and carbs. If you want to enjoy a curry mee, eat half of it and leave the rest behind. Ask the stall to pack half of it to go, or share the meal with a friend. Once you get into the habit of not finishing everything on your plate you’ll see that you don’t need as much to keep your body full and satisfied, and soon enough those inches will melt off.
Alexandra Prabaharan is a Certified Nutrition Consultant with the American Fitness Professionals & Associates and a Food Editor with FriedChillies Media.