If you’re looking for cheap, healthy food in Singapore, keep looking.
You won’t find it.
Because our great hawker food has probably spoilt you.
With that steaming, delicious plates of char kway teow at $4 wafting into your nose, it might be hard to choose something ‘healthy’ like that limp looking salad.
Here’s something that may help.
Cut, before you start
In October 2019, I was struggling desperately with my weight. Despite exercising every single day, I was still stuck desperately at 68kg.
I was very overweight, and very, very unhappy.
Then, COVID started.
And for some reason, with no reason to go out to get nicer food, I was stuck with the healthier food my parents bought.
I ate it all. And promptly found my weight dropping further and further.
Chris van Tulleken’s great book, “Ultra Processed People” talks about how modern food technology has reduced us to practically eating out of the hands of industries.
Stop the soft ultra processed foods (UPF)
You might find this weird, but stick with me. It’s because UPF is soft.
Soft?! You must be kidding!
What does this have to do with softness?
van Tulleken argues that because UPF is today softer than before, our bodies are unable to register these as easily as before, and therefore we are more inclined to eat more of it.
Think about your cereal. When you put it together with your milk today, it becomes slosh. And you can slurp it up.
Think about something else you might have eaten a long time ago. An apple. When you eat that, the fiber fills you up. Compared to your cereal with milk, it’s far more filling. It makes you eat less.
But the other reason UPF leaves you still hungry, is because of how little time it takes to eat. You can simply chew it, and it’s gone.
If you find something UPF, stop eating it. It will help your body to readjust with the foods that make you chew, and take more time to digest.
Finding healthy food in Singapore isn’t just about what you eat. It’s what you don’t eat.
With that out of the way, let’s look at what you can actually eat, when you go to the hawker centre.
Stop eating as fast
Food takes time to fill you. And the hormone that makes you fill full, takes time to kick in.
Shovelling spoonful after spoonful of rice into your mouth isn’t going to help. Nor does catching up on that Netflix serial over lunch help.
Instead, it might help if you slowed down. Really, really, slowed down.
If you’re alone (as I always am), you can
- put a book in front of you,
- Or jot down your thoughts in a journal as a way to unwind over lunch.
Here’s our favourite options.
|If you are at
|What to get
|Chicken rice (more chicken, less rice)
|Fish soup, without the milk
|Grilled chicken chop
|Mall with Cold Storage
|$11, but at reduced to clear prices, this can drop to about $6
|Mall with Cold Storage/Giant/FairPrice
|Roast chicken whole
Or you can get it reduced to clear at $3.95
|Mall with Cold Storage
|Roast char siew pork belly (don’t eat the belly)
Pro tip: Go for the reduced to clear meats and sushi at Cold Storage
We love the reduced to clear at Cold Storage.
And I confess.
I haven’t cooked for the entire year because I’ve cheated with Cold Storage foods.
You have the best meats, at the cheapest prices. Just go at 8pm, to some of the biggest outlets like Nex’s Cold Storage, which surprisingly has lesser demand for the reduced to clear, compared to the heartland places like Heartland Mall in Kovan, where the food is practically snatched up by a waiting crowd.
Perhaps its because near the heartlands, there’s a bigger budget conscious crowd.
Some of the better meats include:
- Roast char siew pork belly
- Roast chicken (whole)
We recommend the char siew because of how great it tastes. Just don’t eat the fattier meat on the belly.
The roast chicken is also huge value for money, because you can get the whole thing for $3.95, on a reduced to clear price.
Even when you get it at the full price of $7, you can still eat it for 3 meals – at least.
It’s great value.
We love chicken rice because of how deceptively simple this dish is. There are some superfoods on the dish though.
Firstly, there is the cucumber that gives you fibre, and allows you to be filled.
Then comes the grilled or steamed chicken. This gives you a good proportion of protein that will fill you.
Just don’t eat it too fast.
You can even top it up with the soup, which can easily fill you up.
Another clean food to get cheaply is the fish soup, which has all the white, lean proteins, at a good price.
Sushi is one of the cleanest foods around.
With nothing but steamed rice and good protein on top, this might just be the right blend of macros for you to continue being healthy.
What we also love about it is how good it leaves us feeling. Unlike the carbs that leave you with that famed, post-lunch coma, this has the ability to help you to feel filled, and yet not overtly so.
Cheap healthy foods don’t take that much effort
Cheaper and healthier foods can come if you just know where to look. Stop bursting your budget on that fancy salad green from Subway, or even Haakon.
You don’t have to.
All you need to do is bag that reduced to clear chicken, pop it in the microwave, and you’re done.