healthy hawker food

Photo: limjenjen, makanwarrior / Instagram

It’s normally easy enough to plan to pack healthy meals and find clean-eating food joints for lunch. But then, things get busy at the office and work piles up at your desk. BOOM. Your healthy-diet plans are out the window because all you’ve got is 20 minutes for lunch, and the closest places for you to get to are the hawker centres.

Dang, you think. All they’ve got are fat-laden options like char kway teow or rojak. But take heart — not all local fare is full of sodium and calories. These yummy, affordable dishes are great for anyone trying to eat healthier.

Check out these 10 guilt-free local foods you can grab on a short lunch break.


1. Sliced fish soup


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This soup has a light flavour profile but is packed full of flavour and nutrition. Plus, you can have your pick of rice or noodles to go with it. To reduce the calorie count and fat content (by up to a whopping two-thirds!), select sliced fish over its fried counterpart.


2. Yong tau foo


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Health-conscious eaters love yong tau foo for several reasons. Firstly, you’re in the driver’s seat as you pick and choose vegetable and tofu items that’ll go into the dish. Secondly, you also pick how the dish is made. This is where you’ll have to exercise your smarts a little. Opt to have your ingredients boiled and served in soup (made, you’ll be glad to know, with ikan bilis and soy beans, and not from a fatty meat).

The trick here is not asking the hawker to fry the ingredients. Also, don’t pair them with the ever-popular, sinful hoisin sauce that’s laden with sugar.




3. Teochew porridge


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Despite the low-calorie nature of porridge, many of the side dishes on offer are high in sodium and fat. So, give the sweet and sour fried pork and preserved vegetables a pass. Instead, pick a steamed fish with some green leafy vegetables and you’ve got a winner on the health front!


4. Chinese herbal soup


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From old cucumber and pork ribs to lotus root with gingko berries soup, Chinese herbal soup stalls often offer a large selection of broths. Not only are they full of nutritious value and low in calories (each serving amounts to roughly 400 calories), they’re delicious and filling, helping to reduce the urge to snack at your desk later on in the day.


5. Ban mian


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What’s better than sitting down to a lunch of hearty noodles, minced meat, egg and vegetables? Look for ban mian served in a clear soup base. Thick, cloudy soups are often rich in sodium and fat content.


6. Braised duck porridge


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Who says that porridge is boring? While the generous amount of sauce often drizzled over this dish can make it seem like a huge no-go when trying to eat healthily, you can always ask for less gravy.

What’s left is a nutritious meal of lean duck meat with silky porridge. Yum.


7. Thunder tea rice

If you’re finding it hard to incorporate two servings of vegetables into your meals, try this delicious vegetable-topped rice dish. The finely chopped selection of vegetables is accompanied with tofu, peanuts and ikan bilis, and served with a thick, green soup made from healthy ingredients like green tea and coriander.


8. Mee soto


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For lovers of spicy and savoury flavours, mee soto is a simple dish that packs a punch with noodles made of flour, salt and egg. Ask for extra bean sprouts, so you get a good dose veggies, and don’t finish the soup as that’s where the sodium content is highest.


9. Popiah


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Stuffed full of delicious vegetables, peanuts, eggs and served with chili, each one of these popular spring roll snacks amounts to only 142 calories each! These filling little gems are great for takeaways, especially when you’re too busy to sit down for a proper plate of food.


10. Wanton mee


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A hawker centre favourite, ask for extra vegetables and a smaller portion of springy noodles to make your serving healthier. Definitely opt for the boiled wanton instead of fried ones, since this helps to cut back on extra fat.