AS Malaysians, most of our activities revolve around food. It may be meeting up with friends for dinner, catching up in the weekend over tea, or chilling out at the mamaks till the wee hours of the morning with a good plate of nasi lemak and a bong of shisha next to you.

The problem with this lifestyle is that most of the food and drinks we consume are unhealthy. Combine that with a sedentary lifestyle, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for heart problems by 35.

With the long Merdeka weekend coming up, we’re expecting lots of snacking and food-related activities to take place. And so, we’ve compiled a list of realistic things you could do to keep your dining-out lifestyle a fraction less sinful.

Kurang manis, bang

Make this your mamak mantra. You may be wondering: How much difference will a little less sugar really make? The answer is a lot more than you think, if you keep up the effort. A little sugar here and a little sugar there, adds up to plenty of calories and fat in your body.

Alternatively, opt for fruit juices with no added sugar. You won’t notice much of a difference when you have a fruity flavour to occupy your tastebuds.

Take away unfinished food

One of the dilemmas of dining out is the serving portion.  Many Malaysians feel horrible wasting unfinished food, especially if we’ve forked out a pretty penny for it. Instead of forcing yourself to eat the remaining food, opt to take it away instead, and eat it later when you feel hungry again. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself with a bit more cash at the end of the month.

Know your calories

It’s helpful to know which foods are the lesser of two evils. Avoid fried noodles at all costs along with anything that may have preservatives in it. Opt for grilled instead of fried. A roti naan and tandoori chicken is healthier than a nasi goreng ayam. Chapatis are also a healthy and tasty option.

Tambah sayur

I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to think that the cucumbers that accompany my nasi lemak are nothing more than a myth. Vegetables are an important part of your diet as it provides you with a myriad of nutrients, and is high in fibre. When ordering a meal, remind the waiter to add more vegetables to your meal. Most of the time, it won’t cost you anything extra.

In the end, the key is to be mindful of what you order and keep track of your eating habits. For some of us, the weekend may be the time for cheat days (when you eat what you want without counting calories) and that is completely okay – as long as we apply moderation and make up for it the rest of the days.

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