Let’s face it — the Malaysian diet is usually carb-rich and high in fats. And while it is no doubt delicious, age and a slowing metabolism call for healthy meals more often.
No time to meal prep? You’ll be happy to know that even among common Malaysian food options, there are healthy choices for those who want to eat in moderation. Read on to find out more!
But First, What Is Healthy Eating?
The most universally accepted idea is that a healthy meal has a balanced ratio of carbs, protein, and fats; however, it’s important to note that what that ratio should be is also still debatable. A simple rule of thumb to remember is that protein is the macronutrient that should be eaten more than carbs and fat.
Research shows that protein helps keep you full for longer, and your body uses more energy to digest protein (read: hello higher calorie burn!). It’s also arguably more difficult to binge on protein due to how satiating it is. Here, we check out healthy Malaysian food options that offer higher protein with moderate amounts of carbs and fats.
Healthy Malaysian Food That Also Tastes Good
1. Mixed Rice
There’s nothing like good ol’ chap fan to save money, and get a variety of choices at the same time. While mixed rice may seem like an obvious healthy Malaysian food choice, choosing the wrong dishes can make it unhealthy. Unhealthy options include deep-fried and greasy options, as well as those with too much gravy.
Make your chap fan or nasi campur a more balanced meal by halving the rice, doubling up on steamed or non-greasy vegetables, and adding a protein source that is steamed, boiled, or in a mild curry. Lessening the sauce or kuah on your plate will cut out unnecessary fat and calories, and if you bring the same moderately-sized food container every day, you can be sure that the volume you eat stays moderate on most days.
2. Soup Noodles
Soup noodles are absolutely in the category of healthy Malaysian food, as long as you bulk up on the protein. If the restaurant offers add-ons of meat like chicken, seafood, beef, or pork, opt for it. Don’t be shy to add on more vegetables, too! You should have a soup noodle dish that is meaty and full of vegetables, with just a handful of noodles. Eating a large serving of noodles will wreak havoc on your blood sugar, making you sleepy later in the day.
When we say “soup noodles”, we also mean options that don’t include coconut milk. Opt for a clear, non-oily broth where possible; this means to steer clear of things like laksa, curry mee, and the like. Have these fattier options as a once-in-a-blue-moon treat. Also, where possible, try to only drink half the soup broth instead of all of it, since they tend to contain a lot of salt.
3. Poke Bowls
If you have the budget and want a change from local cuisine, try poke bowls for a healthy Malaysian food option. Restaurants like Agrain, The Fish Bowl, Eatomo, and paperfish offer good selections to suit your palate. Go easy on the sauces, and swop the white rice for brown rice, salad greens, or quinoa to boost fibre content. Top up your protein, and opt for nuts and seeds in your poke bowl instead of dried fruit or other sugary toppings. The simpler you keep your bowl, the fewer calories it will be — and friendlier on your wallet, too!
4. Naan and Tandoori Chicken
There’s no need to skip the mamak sessions with your friends after work, or even during lunch with your colleagues! While admittedly there are less traditionally healthy food options when you go to the very Malaysian place called a mamak restaurant, there are still a few things you can opt for. One of them is the protein-heavy tandoori chicken, combined with half a serving of naan.
Tandoori chicken is cooked in a clay oven with minimal oil and is typically not breaded, so it’s low on the carbs and fat. Naan bread is also cooked without oil in the same oven but can be rather high in carbs, so try to eat just half the naan and pack away the rest to be eaten at your next meal. For a perfectly balanced meal, don’t forget to order a side of vegetables to eat with your naan and chicken!
5. Nasi Kerabu
If you’re sad that nasi lemak is not on this list of healthy Malaysian food, don’t fret because you can always still have nasi kerabu! This delicious dish that comes from our country’s east coast is healthier than our national dish simply because it is not made with coconut milk, and has plenty of greens as its side dishes. Pair a plate of nasi kerabu with a grilled chicken for a complete meal, and go easy on the kerisik (toasted grated coconut) since it contains sugar.
Keep Your Body Nourished And Well With Healthy Malaysian Food From Restaurants And Home
Having healthy Malaysian food options is good when you’re on the go! However, do keep in mind that it is good to meal prep once in a while so that you can control what goes into your food! Buy fresh groceries during weeks when work isn’t too hectic, and keep healthy breakfast options like granola, muesli, or Greek yoghurt on hand for snacks. Conscious efforts can go a long way to building good habits!