8 golden rules to eating well

CGH's dietitian, Dietetic & Catering, Patsy Soh, has eight rules to eating out well - they will make choosing healthy hawker centre meals a cinch

Rule 1 Have a variety of foods A balanced meal should have carbohydrates (rice and alternatives), fruits, vegetables, meat, and milk and milk items.

Rule 2 Eat more fruits and veggies Dark green leafy vegetables supply foiate, vitamins and minerals. Folate is needed to prevent spina bifida, a condition where baby's spine develops poorly. The vitamins in greens fortify both mother and child's immunity systems against illnesses. Orange or red fruits as well as broccoli, have lots of vitamin C that aids iron absorption.

Rule 3 Eat more high-calcium foods Some musts.. Fish with edible bones like sardines and ikan bilis, tofu (read label to see that calcium has been added), and milk and dairy foods, or calcium-fortified soy bean drink.

Rule 4 Ensure good iron intake Red meats like beef, lamb, pork and offal supply iron that's needed for your increased blood supply to baby. Liver is good, but take it once a week as it's a high-cholesterol food. Avoid tea as the tannin in it inhibits iron absorption. Have a fruit juice instead.

Rule 5 Choose foods that are low in sugar, salt and fats Too much sugary and oily foods will add to excess weight. They can also lead to diabetes and high blood pressure. Avoid oily and spicy foods too - these worsen morning sickness and may give heartburn (when stomach juices go back up the gullet giving that sour, burning sensation).

Rule 6 Eat small, frequent meals Usually breakfast, lunch and dinner, and two snacks in between. You will manage the nausea better this way.

Rule 7 Drink plenty of fluids You need eight to 10 glasses a day. Plain water, low-fat milk, or milk fortified with iron like Marigold 1Cal Milk, fruit or vegetable juices are good. The Health Ministry warns that too much alcohol in the first three months is bad. Alcohol crosses into baby's blood stream and studies show that it leads to mental and physical retardation.

Rule 8 Avoid uncooked food Be careful with raw egg and seafood as they can cause food poisoning. Pre-cooked and chilled meats like bacon, ham and salmon are also not a good idea unless warmed up to piping hot, says Patsy. "Shop-bought" salad is risky too, she says. These veggies have been exposed for a long time and may contain listeria. In non-pregnant women, this can give a bad tummy upset. The risk for pregnant women is miscarriage and still birth.

Fish to avoid in pregnancy
An advisory panel to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended in late July (2002) that pregnant women and women of childbearing age limit their intake of tuna while further tests are done. The problem was the presence of mercury in the fish. This includes tinned tuna. The FDA was already advising pregnant women to avoid shark, swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel , because of mercury levels, and to eat a variety of fish ensure against high mercury intake.

Source of omega-3
What makes fish so good? The most highly-publicised benefit is its omega-3 fatty acid or oil, thought to help blood clot less easily. This cuts the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Fish in the diet is also thought to help protect against diseases such as joint inflammation, prostate cancer and tumours. For example, while Greenland Eskimos and Danes eat almost the same amount of total fat, the former eat a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, and have a much lower incidence of breast cancer - it's thought that it is the n-3 acids that inhibit tumour growth.

So how much fish should you eat? At least two servings per week, say experts.

1) The Singapore Women's Weekly (May 2002). Pg 75

2) Today's Parents, Jul 2001.
3) Today's Parents, Sep 2002.



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