Healthier Hawker Dishes? Here’s How!

You can still enjoy your local delights minus the guilt.

By Sasha Gonzales      29 March 2021

Local food is delicious and affordable but not always healthy. Dietician Jaclyn Reutens tells us how to improve the nutritional standing of five popular hawker meals, from how to get more fibre in to what you can substitute to slash their fat and sodium content.

Chicken Rice

The dish: White rice cooked in chicken broth and chicken fat, served with roasted chicken, cucumber slices and a bowl of clear chicken broth

Tips to make it healthier: Choose steamed chicken instead to reduce the amount of fat and sodium in the dish. Get brown rice if available instead of white rice to give the dish more fibre, and eat 25% less rice to cut down on carbohydrates and fat. For extra vitamins and minerals, include a side of stir-fried green leafy veggies, like kai lan, or bean sprouts. To further cut down on calories, drink just half the bowl of broth.

Nutritional profile, before and after:

Calories: 668 to 535
Carbohydrates: 78.8g to 69.9g
Fat: 20.8g to 16.3g
Sugar: 11g to 10.2g
Sodium: 1723mg to 982mg
Fibre: 2.8g to 4.4g

Nasi Lemak

The dish: Coconut rice served with ikan bilis and peanuts, sambal, fried egg, battered and fried chicken wing, and cucumber slices

Tips to make it healthier: Consume 25% less rice to lessen your fat and carbohydrate intake. Substitute the fried egg with a hard-boiled egg, and substitute the fried chicken wing with a grilled chicken wing.

Nutritional profile, before and after:

Calories: 659 to 383
Carbohydrates: 81.5g to 64.5g
Fat: 24.9g to 7.4g
Sugar: 1.4g to 1.2g
Sodium: 877mg to 525mg
Fibre: 6.6g to 6.4g


Indian Mee Goreng

The dish: Yellow noodles fried with mutton, egg, veggies and spices

Tips to make it healthier: Instead of the yellow noodles, ask for bee hoon, which will improve the fat and carbohydrate content of the dish. To lower the sodium content, ask for less salt, and to lower the fat content further, request less oil when cooking. Add more vegetables to make the noodles a little more nutritious.

Nutritional profile, before and after:

Calories: 614 to 546
Cholesterol: 67.1g to 59.2g
Sodium: 2607mg to 1318mg
Fibre: 3.5g to 9.1g

Fried Hokkien Noodles

The dish: Yellow noodles and bee hoon, fried in lard, pork and prawn stock, served with bean sprouts, squid, prawns and pork belly strips, and topped with crispy lard bits

Tips to make it healthier: Ask for 70% bee hoon and 30% noodles to lower the fat and carbohydrate content. To bring down the cholesterol content of the dish, omit the pork lard, and to add more bulk, include more bean sprouts.

Nutritional profile, before and after:

Calories: 522 to 404
Fat: 19g to 8g
Sodium: 1423mg to 1149mg
Fibre: 4.4g to 6g


Egg Prata With Curry

The dish: Pan-fried layered bread made with wheat flour, filled with egg and cooked in ghee, and served with mutton curry

Tips to make it healthier: Substitute the prata with thosai, a thin South Indian pancake made from a fermented batter consisting mainly of lentils and rice. The fermented nature of the batter is believed to make thosai healthier for the gut. Thosai is also lower in fat than prata. Instead of mutton curry, enjoy thosai with fish curry for a less fatty meal, and include one or two vegetable side dishes, like stir-fried cabbage or brinjal, to add more fibre and nutrients to the dish.

Nutritional profile, before and after:

Calories: 578 to 481
Fat: 29.7g to 26g
Sodium: 899mg to 838mg
Fibre: 3.6g to 5.2g

Do you have your own healthy hawker food hacks? Share them with us at magnsman@sph.com.sg!