The Great Malaysian Comfort Food Makeover

Malaysian Comfort Food Makeover

Discover healthier alternatives to your favourite foods

Comfort foods are simply heavenly. Just take a bite of it during a stressful day and it’s magical effect of boosting your mood is immediate. It’s easy to indulge in one comfort food after another, especially when you feel blue and need a pick-me-up.

However, if the comfort food you’re indulging in is high in sugar and fat, you’ll soon realise that it’s expanding your waistline too! If this is the case, you’ll then have to worry about shedding those excess kilos to get back into shape. Don’t forget that foods high in sugar and fat can also cause serious health problems such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

So, before you reach for that delicious, comforting treat, why not opt for healthier alternatives that are just as tasty? Nutritionist Alexandra Prabaharan shares useful tips on how you can give your favourite Malaysian comfort food a healthy ‘makeover’.

Nasi Lemak

Nasi Lemak is an irresistible Malaysian delicacy. Made from creamy coconut milk rice, spicy sambal, crispy fried anchovies and egg, this comfort food is available all day and all year round. Got a midnight craving? Just drive around the corner and you’ll probably be able to get a plate of Nasi Lemak at your neighbourhood mamak restautrant.

Why is it unhealthy?

Alexandra says the reason Nasi Lemak is so unhealthy is because it is made out of white rice that’s cooked in coconut milk. “This greatly increases the amount of calories,” she says. “A standard ‘Nasi Lemak’ does not have much protein or vegetables to balance it out. So essentially, you’re eating white rice with sambal (chilli paste) that usually has sugar in it.” This combination makes it unhealthy overall.

The Nasi Lemak makeover: Cook up a healthier alternative by replacing the white rice with brown rice. You should also eat it with a larger portion of vegetables and lean protein.

Roti Tissue

A crispier version of the classic roti canai, roti tissue is another local comfort food which many Malaysians love. You’ve probably felt satisfied, savouring every crispy bite of the roti tissue only to regret your indulgence later!

Why is it unhealthy?

Roti tissue is a type of bread which has been made with white flour and mixed with lots of ghee to make it crispy,” says Alexandra. “This combination makes it high in saturated fat.

The roti tissue makeover: A healthier alternative would be chapati which is made out of atta flour — a much healthier option for your body. Atta is an Indian wheat flour which is high in protein and does not contain much gluten. It is also less greasy.

Curry Mee

Curry mee is a bowl of noodles submerged in a broth that is cooked with coconut milk. The best curry noodles, the type Malaysians consider  to be top notch, are not the noodles that are diluted or watered down but which have the rich taste of coconut milk.

Why is it unhealthy?

Alexandra explains that, “The egg noodles in curry mee are high in calories and it is served with thick coconut milk broth with hardly any vegetables or lean meat.”

The curry mee makeover: For a healthier alternative, opt for bihun noodles instead. If you’re cooking the dish at home, make it with low fat milk and and add a splash of low fat coconut milk for flavour. You should also ensure that you add in more vegetables as well, so that it’s a more balanced meal.

Nasi Kandar

If you’re heading to Penang, surely this comfort food is on your list!  Nasi Kandar is a popular local comfort food with a variety of dishes from vegetables, curries to fried food. These dishes are usually enjoyed with white rice.

Why is it unhealthy?

“Nasi kandar is only unhealthy if a person has a large portion of white rice and a fried chicken with no vegetables,” says Alexandra. Hence, the good news is, you can still enjoy nasi kandar if it is your choice of comfort food. All you’ll have to do is to be wise with the choices you make when it comes to the dishes.

The nasi kandar makeover: A healthier alternative would be to have brown rice instead of white in your nasi kandar. Make sure you also pack a lot of vegetables on the side and opt for a curry fish or chicken, instead of a fried one.

There is no denying that Malaysian comfort food can be good for your soul. However, if you would like to ensure that it’s good for your health too, be sure to give it a makeover using these suggestions, the next time you indulge.

Is coconut milk healthy?

Good news for Malaysians! According to Alexandra, “Coconut milk is a nutritious healthy fat to consume, if it is from fresh coconuts. The boxed or powdered variety contain lots of preservatives.” Coconut milk is rich in vitamin C,E,B, calcium and magnesium. Alexandra also says that it makes a great milk substitute for those with lactose intolerance. “However, the amount of fresh coconut milk you consume daily should not exceed 250 ml as it is still a form of fat and should be consumed in moderation.”

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