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  • Writer's picturekenneth sin


Hawkers serve a large percentage of our population from breakfasts to dinners daily. However, most food sold at hawker centres have a high caloric content that comes from ingredients that are high in saturated fat and added sugars. Currently, over 20% (1) of our population is categorised as high-risk for cardiovascular diseases such as type-II diabetes. In this article, we will explore how we can lower the calories and put a smile on our doctor's faces at our annual checkups.

hawker centre singapore
(Photograph: MICHELIN Guide Digital)

In general, there are no "healthy" foods per se. All foods can be considered healthy or unhealthy. It's largely a matter of eating in moderation. However, as hawker foods are the most readily available food option for most Singaporeans daily, we need to make minor adjustments when we can to lower the calories in each meal. Below are 10 food options you can choose from when you have your next hawker meal.


chicken rice in Singapore hawker centre

There are many things you can change to this meal that lower the calories from over 750 to just 400 kcal. Chicken rice is known to be a bodybuilder's or fitness enthusiast go-to meal. But left unchecked it could be less healthy than you think. The rice is usually cooked with sesame oil to make it more fragrant but also more calorific. Further adding calories to the mix are the sauces and sesame oil drizzle added to enhance the flavour of the meal.

What you could do to reduce the calories:

1 - opt for chicken breast (without skin)

2 - white rice instead of sesame oil rice

3 - Ask for no or less sesame oil drizzle

4 - Ask for no or less dark sauce


economical rice in Singaporean hawker centre
(Photograph: MISSTAMCHIAK)

As per the "MY HEALTHY PLATE" design by Health Promotion Board (2), we want to have a healthy serving of protein (1/4 of plate), vegetables (1/2 of plate), and carbohydrates (1/4 of plate) to have a balanced meal. The economical rice stall is the best place to achieve that! However, with the choices available heavily drenched in sauces, the calories could easily rack up.

What you could do:

1 - Ask the vendor to remove as much sauce as possible

2 - Pick the braised items instead of the fried ones

3 - when he/she if you want some curry, say no.


sliced fish soup noodles Singaporean hawker centre
(Photograph: THE.FAT.GUIDE)

Sliced fish soup noodles might be ranked the lowest calorie hawker food and possibly the "healthiest" meal in this whole article. Calories from 1 bowl of sliced fish soup noodles is at an average of 400 kcal. Here's how we can keep it that way with the following choices you make on your next purchase.

What you could do:

1 - Ask for no fried Ikan billies or fried onions

2 - have clear soup by not having condensed milk added

3 - choose the boiled fish slices instead of the fried one


Yong Tau Fu hawker centre Singapore
(Photograph: CNA LIFESTYLE)

Of all the hawker food here, Yong Tau Fu might be the most deceiving food choice. You could either go right or bad with this ambiguous meal. Yong Tau Fu stalls offer a myriad of choices such as hotdogs, seaweed chicken, and fried beancurd skin to tomatoes, mushrooms, and different types of leafy greens.

What you could do:

1 - choose a clear soup

2 - do not ask to fry your food items

3 - select lesser fishballs/meatballs as they are mostly made up of flour

4 - take a selection of green vegetables, mushrooms, and eggs


Chapati in Hawker centre
(Photograph: THE SPICE MESS)

As Singaporeans, we love our Roti Prata, but sometimes we want the option that is not heavily fried in butter or ghee. The chapati is the wholemeal version of Roti Prata. Little to no oil is used to make this amazing staple. Having this instead of a Roti Prata, with some curry would be a great low calorie option. Calories from 1 serving of Chapati is at an average of 80 kcal (3).

What you could do:

1 - complete this staple with some chicken Tikka to form a macronutrient-friendly meal


dosai at a Singapore hawker centre

Thosai, dubbed "The Indian Crepe" is something you want to have for a seemingly big breakfast. The calories for a Thosai is much lower yet It is high in fiber compared to a Roti Prata due to the use of dal and rice to make the batter. Calories from 1 serving of Thosai is at an average of 120 kcal (4).

What you could do:

1 - complete this staple with some chicken Tikka to form a macronutrient-friendly meal


Thunder Tea Rice at a Singapore hawker centre


THUNDER TEA RICE - A mixture of nuts, legumes, and seeds that is both high in fiber and heart-friendly unsaturated fats. Some might say this Hakka Dish's only downside is its low protein count. However, this healthy meal is bound to keep you feeling satiated! Calories from 1 serving of Thunder Tea Rice is at an average of 480 kcal(5).

What you could do:

1 - complete this amazing meal with a serving of chicken breast from 7-11 or the roasted meats stall.


Ban Mian at a Singapore hawker centre
(Photograph: SETHLUI.COM)

Ban Mian includes minced meat, noodles, an egg, Bak Choy, fried anchovies, and chicken stock cubes to give the soup its flavour. One serving of Ban Mian contains an average of 475 kcal (6). The only downside to this amazing meal is the high sodium content from the chicken stock cubes and fried anchovies. However, if you do not have high blood pressure or are an existing stroke patient. This meal is a good low calorie option to have at the hawker centre.

What you might want to do:

1 - Remove the fried anchovies


Mee Soto Ayam in a Singaporean hawker centre
(Photograph: BURPPLE)

I remember ordering my first Mee Soto from the Makcik in my primary school canteen for only 60 cents. How time flies. This comfort meal could be a real go-to if we remove the chicken fat floating on the surface of the soup base. However that would be hard to ask for as it is an item used to prepare the meal. But here's what you might be able to do, to create a more macronutrient-friendly meal. Also, the calories from a bowl of Mee Soto averages at 350 - 450 calories (7).

What you might want to do:

1 - Remove the begedil

2 - Ask for less chili

3 - Ask for more ayam (chicken)

Beancurd and Ginkgo Nut

Beancurd and Gingko Nuts at a Singapore hawker centre

Made simply with beancurd, gingko nuts and barley sweet soup (added rock sugar). This tasty dessert is averaging at 266 kcal per bowl (8). Usually, you can't make changes to this dish as the rock sugar has already been added beforehand. Nonetheless still an amazing low-calorie dessert to have.

If you found this article helpful, do give it a share to a family member, friend, or a colleague. Always remember small actions are the building blocks of change.

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Sep 23, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Singapore Food trademark is Hawker or Coffee shop food selections. Eating out in Singapore is the #1 most convenient and economical way to satisfy our cravings or to feel satiated or just to simply survive. But to eat right for our body is another story or is a story many neglected and gradually and eventually resulted in gaining the 3-hi, High Blood Pressure, High Cholesterol, Diabetes. this is a good reference article and I look forward to more ....thank you.


Mar 20, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

A good read!


Mar 19, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Thanks that's helpful.

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