(File pix) Popular Raya dish, rendang in the making. Hard as it is to resist traditional Malay fare like lemang, rendang, ketupat and lontong, it is best not to overindulge. Pix by Razif Rosli

KUALA LUMPUR: Festivals like Hari Raya are synonymous with sumptuous spreads and feasting.

Hard as it is to resist traditional Malay fare like lemang, rendang, ketupat and lontong, it is best not to overindulge as “our body would not take kindly to it“, said Universiti Putra Malaysia“s Faculty of Science and Food Technology lecturer Dr Ahmad Faizal Abdull Razis.

“Although we celebrate Raya with an array of colourful delicacies that come in various flavours, it’s not the ticket to brush aside healthy eating habits.

“Indeed, it“s part of our tradition to prepare and serve a variety of food during Hari Raya but it is up to us to choose to eat wisely and practice healthy eating at all times to safeguard our health,” he told Bernama.

He said unrestrained food intake or binge eating could lead to sudden weight gain, which increases the risk of chronic diseases.

“In order to maintain good health, the need to observe healthy diets and eating habits has to be emphasised,” he added.

Making healthy food choices and eating smaller portions are good ways to keep overeating in check and reducing total calorific intake.

“Eat low-calorie food like fruits and foodstuffs with less oil, fat and coconut milk.

“Go for fibre-high food if you want to avoid constipation and limit your intake of sweet treats like dodol or salty snacks like chips,” he advised.

A healthier option for dessert would be fruits, he said, whilst urging Hari Raya open house visitors to refrain from drinking carbonated drinks or fruit cordials and instead, drink plenty of plain water.

Pointing out that the festive season was a test of sorts for those suffering from chronic illnesses like diabetes and hypertension, he said while it was a challenge for them to abstain from eating all those goodies, they have to discipline themselves for the sake of their health. Those who throw caution to the wind will have to pay dearly if their health problems get worse.

“The sufferers of chronic diseases are the ones who have to be really careful. People with diabetes and hypertension, in particular, must control their intake of food with high sugar, fat and salt content,” he said. Ahmad Faizal said the hosts of open houses were responsible for ensuring that their spreads included healthy offerings. Suggesting that guests be given smaller plates and bowls to eat from, he said the host should provide coffee and tea with the sugar served separately.

“Also, try to include more salads and vegetables for the main course and, if possible, serve fruits as dessert,” he said, adding that coconut milk-rich dishes should also be limited as they contained high levels of fat and cholesterol.

Ideally, according to Ahmad Faizal, the total calorie intake at every meal should be about 500, while the total sugar intake should not exceed five grams or one teaspoon per day. It is also good to exercise three times a week, alongside practising healthy eating habits.

According to the Malaysian Diet Guide 2010, male adults aged between 18 and 59 who lead sedentary lifestyles require 2,000 calories a day, while women need 1,500 calories. - Bernama

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