The culprits causing unhealthy lifestyles are hidden in plain sight. We list them out on our weight management plans, our diet-friendly recipes, and we still wonder: why am I not losing weight?

This is a tricky topic because many of the foods listed here are much better than the conventional and media-proliferated concepts of an “unhealthy diet”. The pizzas and fast foods and micro-wave ready-meals have already been rigorously removed from our lives.

Here are some of the sneaky ways that our really hard diets are making us work even harder to lose weight and gain the healthy lifestyles we want. The key thing to note is sometimes not about the amount of food that you are taking, but the type that has become part of your new or regular diet.


Health Promotion Board Healthier Choice Symbol


1. Healthier Option Labels

Our health promotion board has placed “healthier choice” labels on coke zero and just-add-water sachets. Unfortunately, we often have to do the heavy-lifting when it comes to reading nutrition labels and evaluating whether something is truly healthy or healthier than the other options within a food genre.

Deciding what is healthy and not is sometimes not as simple as choosing wholemeal over white bread or brown rice over white. Even trading in organic honey for refined cane sugar can be overdone when large helpings.

Everything in moderation is a better judgment of what should be part of regular meals and planned treats for ourselves.


Fruit Juice

2. Fruit Juice

Juice is great, but the pulp and fibre removal system of juicers means that it may be better to make a fresh fruit smoothie that includes all of the fruit. When drinking juice, you are only taking a part of the vitamins and minerals of the whole fruit. Moreover, it is a huge sugar boost rather than a slow release snack that aids digestion.

If a fruity drink is what you thirst for, blend freshly cut fruits with ice and slurp that up instead. If that juicer needs to be used, vegetable juice is only better because it will encourage you to take that celery and carrot. Eating them as handy raw snack sticks would always be better.


Sugary Breakfasts

3. Sugary Breakfasts

In recent years, the West has turned to the East for breakfast inspiration. Eating savoury rather than sweet meals, as is the case for most Asian and local diets, drastically reduces sugar intake. Many healthier-option breakfasts are actually desserts disguised as health foods.

Cereal and muesli recipes including anything but organic and unsweetened yogurts are one of the major reasons for unknowing sugar and fat consumption. They taste great, and are healthier than your average brownie because of the inclusion of fresh and dried fruit. However, this may be the food that is holding back your weight loss goals.

More so than our other meals, waking up earlier to cook a good protein and fibre rich breakfast may be radical change to the way we eat. Since you are already at the stove whipping up servings of spinach and pine nuts, you are also more likely to pack your own healthy lunches (and prepare the ingredients for dinner when you come home too exhausted to cook).


Hidden Starches

4. Hidden Starches and Bloating in Legumes and Tubers

One of the best entrepreneurial endeavours is the launch of healthy lunch delivery services. Services like the numerous salad bars, poke bowls, Grain ( and YOLO Food ( are amazing for our busy days and to ensure that we are eating something we love. However our choices to have the protein-rich black beans over the grilled chicken breast do not take into consideration how much starch there is in legumes and root vegetables.

Sweet potatoes are better than potatoes, and definitely better than white bread. Many fad diets and articles are driven towards different types of readers. If someone is making the transition between fast food to fresh food, then these changes can be life-changing. They work less effectively for people already eating healthily.

It hurts less when you do the full calculation to your meals – before you sacrifice your favourites for options which are only just a bit better.


Food Portion Sizes

5. Portion Sizes: Under and Over-Reporting

Honesty is the best policy. Under-reporting of food intake gives you the illusion that you are eating less. Over-reporting of eating healthy foods makes you live under the assumption that your diet is great and that your weight-gain or nutrition-levels at health tests are underserved.

Calorie counting apps are sometimes insufficient or problematic when we type in “one plate of brown rice with vegetables” and the app assumes a broiled or steamed option when it is a portion of fried sambal kangkong which drips of low-quality oil. Some apps may help by offering photo-upload options which can identify foods from a large database, but it may take some time until an app can understand laksa and satay.

What may be better is just listing out what you have eaten each day as you consume it. This log will allow you to track back meals, particularly on days when you are not cooking for yourself or are very busy. By writing out exactly what you eat instead of substituting or making leeway for that bar of chocolate because of the painful addition of calories, you are in control of your diet. Instead of eating on the sly, it helps to know that it was only a spoonful of chendol shared among three people.

Do you have other hawker food hacks to share with us? Leave them in the comments below!