Eat Well : Tips for staying healthy

1. Eat a variety of foods to provide you with energy and different combinations of nutrients for your overall good health.

The best way to meet your daily requirements is to eat a variety of foods that include grains, lean meats/beans, vegetables, fruit and dairy products.

2. It is important to maintain a healthy body to prevent health problems. Be mindful of eating the appropriate food portions for your activity level. Overeating and being less active will cause you to gain weight. Also, if you do not eat enough food, you risk being underweight.

3. Two ways to see if you have a healthy body weight is to know your Body Mass Index (BMI) and waist circumference. A high BMI or waist circumference measurement puts you at a higher risk for certain health conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure and Type-2 diabetes. The formula to calculate your Body Mass Index is:

BMI = weight (kg)


height (m) x height (m)

Your BMI reading will indicate if you are:

18.5 to 24.9 = healthy weight

25 – 29.9 = overweight

30 and above = obese

To calculate your waist circumference, measure your waistline using a measuring tape. If you have a measurement that is >80cm for women or >90cm for men, that means that you have an increased risk for diseases.

5. The Health Ministry’s My Healthy Plate is a guide to eating a balanced meal. Its hashtag #sukusukuseparuh reflects the proportions of a meal:

1/4 of the plate for rice and other grains

1/4 for protein foods such as meat, eggs, legumes

1/2 for vegetables and fruit

6. Dietary fat is important as it provides energy, essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. But excess fat in our daily diet can cause weight gain and affect heart health. So avoid eating too much deep-fried foods.

7. Salt, marinades, sauces and seasoning cubes, which we use as flavour enhancer, all contain sodium. However, too much sodium in your diet can affect high blood pressure. So be light handed and be mindful of adding too much salt to your cooking.

Avoid too much of soy sauce as it is high in sodium (Photo from

8. Aim to accumulate at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily. To avoid being sedentary, be sure to limit television or electronic media time to no more than two hours per day.

9. Exercising regularly and being active have many benefits. These include helping you to maintain a healthy body weight, strengthening muscles and bones and lowering your risk factor for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancers.

Other benefits include improving mental health and mood, improving joint health and flexibility and increasing longevity.

10. One of the easiest ways to increase your activity level is to walk! It is easy and does not require fancy equipment. It helps you to burn calories, builds stamina and strengthens your heart.

The Health Ministry recommends that you aim to walk 10,000 steps per day. Use smart phone apps or smart watches to keep track of the number of steps to take each day.

11. Here are some ways you can increase your number of steps daily:

* Park your car further away from your destination;

* Walk around your neighbourhood and use the staircase instead of the lift or escalators.

* Walk around the office when you need to communicate with your colleagues instead of sending emails or using the telephone; and

* Instead of meeting friends socially for coffee, why not meet them in the park for a walk?

12. The Malaysian Dietary Guidelines by the Health Ministry recommends that at least half of your grain intake should be in the form of wholegrains.

Wholegrains are grains that contain all their three natural parts still intact.

The three parts include bran (which contains fibre, B vitamins, iron, zinc and other important minerals), endosperm (mainly carbohydrates, a little protein, some vitamins and antioxidants) and germ (vitamin E, B vitamins, unsaturated fats and antioxidants).

13. Make sure to include lots of high fibre foods such as wholegrains (i.e. unpolished rice, oats and wholewheat), fruit and vegetables in your daily diet. There are two main types of fibre — soluble and insoluble.

Insoluble fibre helps to reduce constipation while soluble fibre is associated with lowering high cholesterol levels and also stabilising blood glucose.

14. There is no need to avoid carbohydrate such as rice and other grains if you want to lose weight. There is no single food that is solely responsible for making people fat. That is a myth.

You gain weight when you eat more calories than what your body requires. It is our sedentary lifestyle coupled with overeating that cause us to gain weight.

15. Make sure that you drink at least eight glasses of water per day. Water is required for important body functions such as digestion, regulation of body temperature, nutrient absorption and the excretion of waste matter from the body.

*Indra Balaratnam is a consultant dietitian who believes in simple, practical ways to eating well and living healthy. She can be reached at


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