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Planning your food choices and portion control at open houses help in weight management, writes Kasmiah Mustapha
IT’S Hari Raya Aidilfitri, and you have received many invites to open houses
Unfortunately, overindulging will result in increased calorie intake and weight gain.
Columbia Asia dietitian Kong Woan Fei says that “You may reason to yourself that Hari Raya delicacies are only available once a year so you must not miss the chance to eat them. Our culture also deems it impolite if guests do not eat at an open house.”
While exercising restraint in eating is difficult, Kong says it will be more effective if people plan what they want to eat and control their portions. It is even better if they have an idea of the food pyramid so they know what to put on their plates.
“People should plan their meals before going to open houses. An unplanned menu will result in unplanned calorie intake. If you don’t plan your meal, you will lose control of the food you want to eat or those you have already eaten. In the end, you will overeat,” she says.
“Have an idea of what to put on the plate. It should have a quarter of grain, quarter of protein, and half of fruit and vegetables. Know your calorie intake per day so that you won’t eat more than that.”
Kong says portion control is the best way to avoid eating more than the body needs. It is also the key to success in weight management because reducing the portion of food also means reducing calorie intake. As Malaysia has the highest obesity rate in Southeast Asia and is ranked number six in Asia, something needs to be done to tackle this tendency to overeat, she says.
“People think a good diet is monotonous. They have the wrong idea because, in reality, they can still enjoy their favourite food but in moderation.”
Exercise portion control by eating one piece of chicken rendang instead of two and avoid the gravy. Have only one small scoop of rice or one piece of lemang or one piece of ketupat. Eat fruit and vegetables.
“Make sure your plate has grain, protein, fruit and vegetables. If, for example, the first house did not serve vegetables, have more fruit. You can eat the vegetables at the other houses.
“If you have had more than one piece of chicken at the first house, don’t go for protein again at the next house. Try not to eat anymore grain if you already had rice or noodles. That is why knowing what should be on the plate is important. You will know what you have eaten and will not eat it again.”
FILL IT UP
To avoid eating the same food, Kong says you can start with vegetables and fruit and drink plain water. This will keep you slightly full and you won’t have the urge to eat more.
When going for second or third helping, people have the tendency to add even more to the plate, which defeats portion control.
“Eat slowly and chew well, it will help you avoid adding food. If you still feel like having something else, share it with someone. Another good idea is to socialise more. When you talk to people, your mind will not be focused on eating.”
The host should also make healthy choices such as use cooking oil with less saturated fat, replace santan with skim or low fat milk and avoid deep-frying food.
“Hosts can serve rendang or lodeh but change the ingredients to healthy choices.”
Surprisingly, Kong says, it is easier to practise portion control during festive seasons because there are a variety of foods from each group such as rice, noodles, chicken, beef, fish, fruit and vegetables.
A BIT OF EVERYTHING
“You need all the food groups on your plate. Of course, if you eat too much carbohydrates, it will result in high sugar intake. But we still need it for our energy source. So it is best to eat in moderation. If you like to eat rice, go for it, but eat brown rice. If you like to eat bread, eat wholemeal.
“It’s not a balanced diet if you don’t eat food from the four food groups. If you don’t get protein from fish, chicken or beef, you can replace it with plant-based protein such as tofu or legume. You will still have a balanced diet.”
Kong says another key success to weight management is to engage in physical activities. “Calculate the physical exercise you need to burn off the excess calorie intake. If you have eaten a bowl of curry noodles, you need to run for one hour to burn the calories. If you don’t exercise, the calories will turn into fat and eventually, weight gain.
“But even if you are within the calorie intake that your body needs, you still have to exercise to keep healthy. Those with normal body weight need to exercise three times a week for 45 minutes each. Do intensive exercise every day for 45 minutes if you want to lose weight.”