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Sunday, 27 February 2011 | MYT 12:00 AM

Malaysian calories

Counting calories in Malaysian food.

I LOVE to have nasi lemak for breakfast every morning. My work schedule has been very hectic recently, and I often leave the office after eight pm every night. So I end up having tea and dinner around the office. Eating out so much has to be bad for me. Are Malaysian foods especially high in calories?

A typical Malaysian breakfast doesn’t just consist of nasi lemak. You have plenty of other food on the side, am I right? You probably have a fried chicken on top of the nasi lemak, anchovies, and cucumbers, and you will also order a teh tarik.

So the nasi lemak itself is 644 calories (which is equivalent to three bowls of plain white rice). You added the piece of fried chicken, which is 290 calories. Your teh tarik is 83 calories, worse if you like it with plenty of sugar.

The grand total equals 1017 calories, and that is just for breakfast alone. And you wonder why Malaysians put on weight so easily.

Will it be better if I eat roti canai instead? Or a boiled egg and bread?

You don’t eat roti canai alone. You eat it with a generous helping of dhal or curry, right? And possibly with a generous cup of teh tarik to help you wash it down.

Roti canai and dhal is approximately 360 calories. If you make it a roti telur, it will be 414 calories. And that’s just one roti canai. You are very likely to have two.

You are better off eating two plain half-boiled eggs to go with plain bread (without butter or kaya). This will be 227 calories.

How many calories do I need a day?

As an adult, you roughly need to eat about: your weight in kg multiplied by 30 calories. So let’s say you weigh 60kg. You will need 60x30 = 1,800 calories a day.

You can imagine that if you take 1017 calories for breakfast alone, you will have to eat roughly 800 calories for the rest of the day just to maintain your weight if you don’t exercise or attempt to lose weight by other means.

Is exercise the only way to lose weight?

To lose weight, the simple objective is to ensure your output is more than your input. This means that the amount of calories you take per day will be less than what you require a day (around 1,800 calories for a 60kg person) plus any weight loss methods you employ.

So if you wish to lose about 0.5kg per week and you don’t wish to exercise, you will need to reduce your calorie intake by 550 calories per day to make your intake 1,250 calories per day from its requirement of 1,800 calories per day.

At the end of one month, you should have lost 2kg.

If you want to speed up the process, you should add exercise on top of that.

But maybe that’s just all the curries and coconuts and carbohydrates I eat. If I were to just take plain noodles, what would happen? I love noodles and I don’t think I can do without them.

When it comes to noodles, bear in mind these figures:

> plate of wantan mee is around 409 calories.

> plate of mee goreng mamak is 660 calories.

> bowl of mee (soup) is 381 calories.

So you can see it’s the preparation of the noodles that counts. The more oil that is used in its preparation (fried), the higher the calorie count.

Am I better off eating plain rice then?

Once again, you don’t just eat plain rice. You eat rice with a helping of at least two or three dishes on the side. This is our typical nasi campur.

One nasi campur with three dish helpings (e.g: vegetable, egg, chicken) is around 620 calories.

So how can I lose weight?

You can do so by practising self-discipline. In Malaysia, eating is a social event, and when you go to breakfast or lunch with your friends and you see them ordering plenty of delicious dishes, this is when you have to exercise self-control.

Here are some tips:

1. Exercise at least five times a week for 30 minutes every session. This will help increase your metabolism and burn fat. The more you exercise, the more weight you will lose. But if you haven’t exercised for a long time, you might want to start slow, otherwise you risk exhaustion.

2. Try eating less for each meal, but take more “mini” meals per day. Try halving your rice portions.

3. Drink plain water or green tea. Avoid sugary drinks. This will really cut down your “unseen” calorie intake.

4. Try to avoid eating and drinking more than 500 calories per meal, which means you really, really have to watch what you eat.

Dr YLM graduated as a medical doctor, and has been writing for many years on various subjects such as medicine, health advice, computers and entertainment. The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

Tags / Keywords: Health , Lifestyle

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