• Jared Ng

Choosing A Healthier Diet (What to put in your body)

When I was younger, I used to be the guy who drinks a can of coke a day, and not eat my vegetables. My diet consisted of mainly meat and unhealthy junk food that taste delicious. It was bad for my health and I recalled falling sick and consuming medicines very frequently.

You are what you eat. Everyone knows the importance of eating healthily. The type of food you put in your body can either affect your health positively or negatively, both mentally and physically. After all, your gut is your second brain.

Just looking at the shelves of our supermarkets, you can find a wide variety of food items. But you want to choose wisely. Even for something like snacks, there is always a healthier option.

You don’t have to be perfect or extreme with it, but you want to follow the 80-20 rule of a balanced diet. The bulk of your diet should be made of nutrient dense foods preferably in their natural state. You can fill the other calories with foods that you enjoy that may not be as healthy.

Nutrient dense foods provide higher levels of nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, with similar or lower calories compared to other foods. For example, an apple contains the same number of calories as 10 potato chips, but it has more fibre, vitamin C, and several other vitamins, with no added fat, salt and other chemicals or preservatives.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), “all vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seafood, eggs, beans and peas, unsalted nuts and seeds, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and lean meats and poultry – when prepared with little or no added solid fats, sugars, refined starches, and sodium – are nutrient-dense foods.”

Unfortunately, there is an abundance of inexpensive foods that are calorie dense instead of nutrient dense. Calorie-dense foods include pastries, candies, chips, most fast foods and processed foods, to which salt, sugar, oils and fats, and other chemicals, such as flavourings, colourings, sweeteners, and thickeners, are added to enhance the taste.

Overconsumption of calorie-dense foods lead to people who become simultaneously overfed, but yet undernourished. It increases the risk for obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, and some cancers.

Yes, I know they taste delicious and are convenient, but tasty does not mean that it is good for you. In most cases, your taste buds have been so used to food with lots of chemicals and salt. Hence, it takes some time of eating healthier foods with less chemicals to adjust your taste buds and get used to it.

Dietary Guidelines For Eating Healthier

I’m sure most of you are aware that your eating pattern is not as healthy as it could be, and you would probably want to be making healthier choices. However, the plethora of claims and counterclaims about what consumers should eat are as likely to confuse as enlighten. Most of the advice given by nutrition scientist and doctors are too technical for the general public to comprehend. Hence, you may be feeling overwhelmed.

To help consumers like you develop strategies for eating healthfully, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the U.S. and Canadian governments, and health organisations, such as the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society, put forth specific guidelines for healthful nutrition.

These guidelines are based on the latest scientific evidence for good nutrition, created by examining the biological effects of specific dietary components and by comparing eating patterns and disease frequencies in different populations.

Example: Compared to the standard western diet in America (meat-based, refined-flour products, and industrial products such as fast food and packaged fatty or sugary snacks and sweets), the traditional Asian and Mediterranean diets (whole unprocessed grains, beans, fresh vegetables and fruits, and fish) is associated with less heart disease and several kinds of cancer because they maintain healthy body weight, lessen inflammation and insulin resistance, and improve blood vessel functioning.

The average person consumes 2000 to 2500 calories per day. You may need more if you are living an active lifestyle, or less if you are living a sedentary lifestyle. A serving size is based on the amount of food that is customarily eaten at one time.

To achieve a well-balanced diet that provides the right amount of nutrients per day, make sure to consume:

Grains (5 – 7 servings)

Focus on whole grains or refined grains that are enriched

Example of 1 Serving :

  • 2 slices bread (60g)

  • ½ bowl rice (100g)

  • ½ bowl noodles or beehoon (100g)

  • 4 plain biscuits (40g)

  • 1 thosai (60g)

  • 2 small chapatis (60g)

  • 1 large potato (180g)

  • 1 ½ cup plain cornflakes (40g)

Vegetables (2 Servings a Day)

Consume vegetables of different colours on the spectrum

Example of 1 Serving :

  • ¾ mug** cooked leafy or non-leafy vegetables (100g)

  • ¼ round plate+ cooked vegetables

  • 150g raw leafy vegetables

  • 100g raw non-leafy vegetables

Fruits (2 Servings a Day)

Example of 1 Serving :

  • 1 small apple, orange, pear or mango (130g)

  • 1 wedge pineapple, papaya or watermelon (130g)

  • 10 grapes or longans (50g)

  • 1 medium banana

  • ¼ cup dried fruit (40g)

  • 1 glass pure fruit juice (250ml)

Protein Foods (2-3 Servings a Day)

Example of 1 Serving :

  • 1 palm-sized piece fish, lean meat or skinless poultry (90g)

  • 2 small blocks soft beancurd (170g)

  • ¾ cup cooked pulses (e.g. lentils, peas, beans) (120g)

  • 5 medium prawns (90g)

  • 3 eggs (150g)++

Dairy / Calcium alternative drink (If vegan or lactose-intolerant)

  • 2 glasses milk (500 ml)

  • 2 slices of cheese (40g)

  • 2 glasses almond/soy/rice/coconut milk fortified with calcium (500ml)


To stop hypertension for people with high blood pressure, keep your sodium intake to a teaspoon of salt (5g) / 2300mg per day.

Always try to fill up your calories with such nutrient-dense foods first, before filling up with less healthy food options to enjoy or treat yourself. Remember to EAT YOUR VEGGIES. I know I hated and avoided them like the plague when I was younger, until I realise the importance of eating vegetables for fibre, minerals and vitamins to prevent diseases.

However, you do not want to go overboard and consume a raw vegan diet like I did, as you also require the macronutrients and micronutrients from other food groups for your body to function optimally. Just like anything in life, balance is key.

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