Malaysians urged Global Citizen Change what you eat during the pandemic.
HOW difficult is it to have five servings of fruits and vegetables a day?
According to the experts, it is doable as long as you are willing to make a few changes.“It isn’t very tough, but you will need a change of mindset and a bit of effort, ” says consultant dietitian Mary Easaw.One serving of vegetables is equivalent to one cup of raw veggies or half a cup of cooked vegetables, she explains.
For fruits, one serving varies according to the type. Examples of one serving of fruit are one medium-sized fruit like an apple, orange, pear, or banana.“Six grapes, longan or langsat is considered one serving of fruit. Half a mango is considered one serving, ” Easaw illustrates.
To meet the total five servings of fruits and greens, she offers a rough guideline for the average Malaysian to follow:
“In the morning, you can have fruit instead of Pisang Goreng.“For lunch, when you eat rice, try to have two servings of vegetables and buy fruit which can be eaten for tea time later. “For dinner, you can have one serving of vegetables, bringing the total to five servings in one day, ” she explains.
However, for those with diabetes, consuming too much fruit is not advisable and Easaw urges them to consult their dietitian about their intake. “It is achievable. But we must take a hard look at our current diet and make a change, ” she says. Nutrition Society of Malaysia president Dr. Tee E. Siong admits it might not be easy but it isn’t impossible to check off five servings a day.
“The recommended amount is the bare minimum of what we must have. Anything less than that can expose us to health problems, ” he says.
Dr.Tee says one reason for the low consumption of fruits is the perception that it is a dessert and not a necessity. “For most, it doesn’t matter to them if they eat it or not because it isn’t part of the main meal.
“But we have to impress upon people that it is an essential part of our diet. We have been trying to do this for years but it requires more effort to change people’s mindset, ” he says. But while some like fruits for their sweetness, many people do not enjoy eating vegetables despite the fact that they are a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
For working Malaysians, it is sometimes tough to get enough vegetables in their meals.
Financial controller Jamie Teoh, 33, admits that he only has about one serving of fruits and vegetables a day. “I normally eat hawker food like chicken rice for lunch and a burger for dinner. I do eat fruits but it probably amounts to one and a half servings. “Maybe if I had eaten more (fruits and vegetables), I wouldn’t feel so tired or lethargic easily, ” he says.
However, Teoh points out that it is challenging to get vegetables in his diet because healthy food options are not always available.
“Fast food outlets still outnumber salad shops.“Not to mention, healthy food is normally so much more expensive. “For example, one plate of chicken rice is RM5. But a salad is RM15, ” he says.
Teoh notices that other countries like Singapore have ample healthy food options and competitive prices.
“If Malaysia was like that, it would definitely be easier to eat healthier, ” he says. However, Teoh feels it is already ingrained in Malaysians to choose something tasty over what is good for their body.
A working mother, who wishes to be known only as Natasha, 31, says she tries to eat more greens, but only manages about three servings per day.
“I enjoy eating vegetables but the recommended daily amount is rather high. “It is a challenge to meet it every day, especially when I don’t have time to cook every meal, ” she says.
Moreover, Natasha says her family gets bored if there are too many greens on the dining table. “Most Malaysians, however, have no problem polishing off meat like fried chicken and satay, though, ” she points out.
It will take a lot to change people’s eating habits but she says everybody should take baby steps to introduce more vegetables in their meals.
“Some improvements are better than none, ” she says.