Eat healthy, the Malaysian way

Posted on July 10, 2019 · Posted in Blog, General, Personal

Start your day right with these nutritious local offerings, writes Kasmiah Mustapha

REGARDLESS of the article in Time magazine last year, nasi lemak is not a healthy breakfast option unless you replace the ingredients — coconut milk with low fat milk, white rice with brown rice, and substantially increase the greens.

Nasi lemak’s side dishes such as sambal sotong, beef or chicken rendang add extra calories and fat to the dish.

But that does not mean that most of our local favourites are unhealthy.

In fact, there are several that you can have without having to worry about high calorie intake as they contain the right combination of carbohydrates, fibre and protein.

According to Sunway Medical Centre Dietetics and Nutrition Services, here are some of the healthy local breakfast dishes you should opt for.

Nutritional content
1 serving (6” size)

Calories: 147 (kcal)
Carbohydrates: 27.4 (g)
Protein: 4.8 (g)
Fat: 2.0(g)
Fibre: 0 (g)
Sodium: 132 (mg)

WHY IT’S HEALTHY: Prepared with minimal oil, thosai is a good source of protein as it is made from rice, urad dhal (spit black lentils) and fenugreek seeds. Eat it with dhal instead of chutney, which is made from coconut milk and is high in saturated fat.

TRY IT AT HOME: Make your own thosai using more beans than rice as well as adding spring onion and carrot to increase fibre.

Nutritional content
1 serving (1 piece)

Calories: 100 (kcal)
Carbohydrates: 19.7 (g)
Protein: 3.6 (g)
Fat: 0.3 (g)
Fiber: 0.2 (g)
Sodium: 283 (mg)

WHY IT’S HEALTHY: It is made by steaming a batter consisting of rice, urad dhal and fenugreek seeds. It is recommended to eat idli with dhal gravy as dhal is rich in fibre which provides longer satiety and is also a good source of low fat protein.

TRY IT AT HOME: You can use parboiled rice to prepare idli as the fibre content is higher than white rice.

Nutritional content
1 serving with chicken slice

Calories: 181 (kcal)
Carbohydrates: 21 (g)
Protein: 12 (g)
Fat: 6 (g)
Fibre: 0 (g)
Sodium: 308 (mg)

WHY IT’S HEALTHY: Congee has a greater water-to-rice ratio than steamed rice. Every 100g of congee has about 65 calories and 7.5g carbohydrate. The same amount of white rice has 140 calories and 31g carbohydrate.

TRY IT AT HOME: For homemade congee, use brown rice or whole grain as they are healthier. They have healthier benefits such as fibre, vitamins and mineral. To make it tastier, use homemade soup stock and add vegetables such as sweet potato, carrot or mushroom.

Nutritional content
1 serving with sliced beef

Calories: 303 (kcal)
Carbohydrates: 48 (g)
Protein: 23 (g)
Fat: 8 (g)
Fibre: 4 (g)
Sodium: 2372 (mg)

WHY IT’S HEALTHY: The dish has less calories than fried noodles. However, the downside is that the soup is prepared with stock cube which has high content of sodium that increases the risk of hypertension. As such, it is better not to sip too much of the soup.

Nutritional content
1 piece

Calories: 29 (kcal)
Carbohydrates: 3 (g)
Protein: 1 (g)
Fat: 1 (g)
Fiber: 0.3 (g)
Sodium: 99 (mg)

WHY IT’S HEALTHY: Steamed dim sum has less fat compared to the deep fried variety. However, they are high in sodium and to reduce additional sodium intake, avoid the dipping sauces. The sodium intake for five pieces of dim sum is at 495mg, so eat in moderation.

Nutritional content
1 serving (8” size)

Calories: 202 (kcal)
Carbohydrates: 31.5 (g)
Protein: 7.7 (g)
Fat: 5.1 (g)
Fiber: 3.3 (g)
Sodium: 278 (mg)

WHY IT’S HEALTHY: Unlike roti canai, it does not use a lot of oil. It is better to eat chapati with dhal instead of chicken or fish curry because dhal is low in fat and high in protein (compared to white rice) and also rich in fibre.

TRY IT AT HOME: If you want to make homemade chapati, use heart-healthy oils such as olive, sunflower and canola instead of ghee, butter or margarine.

Nutritional content
1 serving (500g)

Calories: 870 (kcal)
Carbohydrates: 93.8 (g)
Protein: 47.3 (g)
Fat: 33.2 (g)
Fiber: 1.9 (g)
Sodium: 1850 (mg)

WHY IT’S HEALTHY: Nasi dagang comprises three macronutrients that your body needs including carbohydrate, protein and fat. The lean protein, fish and egg, as well as fibre from the pickled vegetables help you feel fuller, longer.

Nutritional content:
One serving (mixed items with sweet and chilli sauce)

Calories: 307 (kcal)
Carbohydrates: –
Protein: 19.8 (g)
Fat: 15.6 (g)
Fiber: 9.1 (g)
Sodium: 733 (mg)

WHY IT’S HEALTHY: The dish provides protein and fibre to give you the feeling of satiety and satisfaction. In order to control your calories and sodium intake, do not include deep-fried items and take only minimum sauces.

Nutritional content:
1 serving (plain, white sauce)

Calories: 133 (kcal)
Carbohydrates: 45 (g)
Protein: 1.7 (g)
Fat: 6 (g)
Fiber: 0 (g)
Sodium: 1048 (mg)

WHY IT’S HEALTHY: Chee cheong fun is a steamed rice noodle roll which means low calories. Add some vegetables such as kangkung or bittergourd with fish paste and white soya bean curd for extra fibre and protein. However, the dish is served with sweet sauce, chilli sauce and sesame seeds which are high in sodium. To control your sodium intake, make sure the sauces are served separately.

Nutritional content:
One serving (with one small fried fish, fish crackers, fried grated coconut, fish

sauce and raw vegetables)

Calories: 535 (kcal)
Carbohydrates: 57.7 (g)
Protein: 24 (g)
Fat: 23.1 (g)
Fibre: 10 (g)
Sodium: 2180 (mg)

WHY IT’S HEALTHY: Nasi kerabu is a healthy dish as it comprises a mixture of herbs and green salad (ulam). As the vegetables are eaten raw and fresh, they are high in fibre, vitamin and antioxidants.The dish is also served with fish, which is a good source of protein. It is better to grill the fish, in order to minimise the usage of oil. Another tip is to limit the intake of fish sauce (budu) or sambal and only take a quarter of the salted egg, as it is high in sodium.

Nutritional content:
1 serving (~75g)

Vegetable pau

Calories: 150 (kcal
Carbohydrates: 22.9 (g)
Protein: 4.2 (g)
Fat: 4.7 (g)
Fiber: 2.5 (g)
Sodium: 281 (mg)

Lotus seed pau

Calories: 170 (kcal)
Carbohydrates: 33.6 (g)
Protein: 5 (g)
Fat: 4.0 (g)
Fiber: 1.6 (g)
Sodium: 70 (mg)

Red bean pau

Calories: 205 (kcal)
Carbohydrates: 32.9 (g)
Protein: 4.0 (g)
Fat: 6.4 (g)
Fiber:2.1 (g)
Sodium: 89 (mg)

WHY IT’S HEALTHY: Chinese steamed buns or pau are relatively healthier as they are lower in total calories and fat. Vegetable buns are high in fibre and low in calories, while lotus seed and red bean buns contain fibre and are lower in sodium compared with salted egg yolk buns. However, be mindful of the bun size, as the bigger it is, the more calories it contains.


FOR a healthy breakfast, we Malaysians have our thosai and congee but how about people living in other countries? Here’s a look at what constitutes a healthy breakfast in some parts of the world.

Hard-boiled eggs with avocado

This naturally gluten-free recipe is a must to start your day. Hard-boiled eggs and diced avocado is a throw-together breakfast that will fill you up with protein and fibre, keeping you surprisingly full and satisfied until lunchtime rolls around.

A bowl of steamed rice with miso soup is often the choice for breakfast in the Land of the Rising Sun. It is also served with side dishes such as grilled fish, seaweed, rolled egg omelette, fermented soy beans and green salad.

Congee is a common breakfast dish in China. To give the congee some flavor, it is usually served with different toppings that vary by region, such as pickled vegetables, fermented tofu, peanuts, eggs, and meat.

Source: Popsugar, USA Today, China Highlights

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