A LITTLE NOTE BEFORE WE GET INTO THE DETAILS!
I think it’s really important to understand how to make healthy choices when it comes to what you put on your plate! However, it’s so important that we don’t villainize certain types of foods just because they should be consumed in moderation. We want to maintain a healthy relationship with food and to enjoy it too! We just have to be aware on what’s good for us so that we’re empowered to make decisions that have the most benefit to our bodies, but doing so intuitively. Learning more about nutritional guidelines can help us form a habit; we don’t want to spend so much time thinking about food and panicking over it too!
LET’S GET STARTED!
With the information overload we have in our internet age, it can be pretty overwhelming when it comes to making food choices on a daily basis. It can be pretty difficult to wrap your head around portion sizes, how much to eat of each food group, etc. Also, do vegans and plant-based individuals get enough protein? (spoiler: yes they can) I’ve collated this guide so you can hopefully make more informed nutrition choices.
In Singapore, the government has come up with this visual diagram to empower citizens to make healthier food choices.
This visualization tool makes it easier to understand portion sizes and components to make a nutritionally balanced meal.
As you can see, half of our plate should be made up of vegetables and fruits. (Contrary to popular diet culture, protein should not be our main preoccupation, rather fibre should be paid more attention to because majority of our populations’ diets are lacking in fibre) One quarter of the plate should be protein sources (for vegan protein sources, read on!) and the other quarter should be our whole grains, brown rice, other carbohydrate sources. Having these foods in the recommended proportions means that you’ll be having a nutritionally balanced meal!
Most government guidelines are generally similar, focusing on vegetables, fruits, grains, protein and sufficient micronutrients, especially calcium.
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
The benefits to consuming your fruits and veggies are endless! They’re rich in dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and are naturally low in saturated fat and trans fat (you want to avoid consuming trans fat!). Having a high proportion of your diet comprising of veggies and fruits can reduce your risk of developing chronic illnesses – such as heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer.
Head to your local market (or grocery store) and pick up fruits and veggies of the season. It’s best to have green leafy vegetables and a red or orange vegetable every day! Have fun too and eat the rainbow – each colour of fruits and vegetables boasts different benefits to your body through the different phytonutrients. Also, don’t be afraid to stock up on frozen fruits and vegetables too!
Note: It’s recommended that our vegetable intake generally be higher than our fruit intake. Also, opt for a whole fruit instead of fruit juices – the whole fruit has a lot more benefits such as dietary fibre, as juicing naturally strips the fruits of their dietary fibre.
Your carbohydrates are not the enemy! They’re vital as a source of energy for your body (especially your brain). Our unrefined and whole grains also contain a host of essential vitamins, minerals (such as iron, zinc and magnesium), beneficial phytochemicals and dietary fibre.
The consumption of white rice and white bread is very popular here in Singapore. However, these refined grains lack valuable nutrients due to their processing.
Some of my favourite sources include oats, brown rice, whole grain bread and pasta, quinoa, barley, spelt, millet and buckwheat. Most grains also are a source of protein like quinoa and buckwheat!
Protein is the favourite buzzword of the fitness industry. Indeed, it’s such an important macronutrient! However, if we consistently consume whole foods, we naturally are able to get our daily requirement of protein. Protein is vital for many of our bodily functions, and it also keeps us satiated.
Everyone knows meats as a source of protein, and they contain a complete amino acid profile. However, it’d be great to be more aware of the lovely plants that provide us with the protein we need to – they provide greater health benefits and are a more ethical choice.
I love my plant-based protein sources – soy in the form of tofu and edamame, red lentils, peas all the types of beans (kidney, black, cannellini, butter) and chickpeas! Many people also enjoy tempeh and seitan, and there are also meat-replacements such as the ever-so-popular Impossible patties (eat in moderation – nutritional benefits of meat-replacements are rather low, and they do have saturated fat in them. Be mindful to check out what sort of ingredients are used in these!).
Nuts and seeds are also a great source of protein and fats. I love to make my own nut butters during the weekends (or store-bought varieties work too!).
Note: Many plant-based protein sources are incomplete sources of protein – this means they don’t have all the essential amino acids your body needs from just one source. Hence, it’s so important to get your protein from a variety of sources to ensure that you’re getting all the essential amino acids your body needs! More information to come soon.
Still in progress –