Gastro-healthy pleasures

  • Fitness
  • Sunday, 27 Jan 2008

Dining out for both pleasure and health. 

WOULD you believe it? I have three3 weddings to attend this week.” 

“Me too, I have four open house lunches to attend and I can’t make up my mind which one to go to.” 

These are some common conversations we hear especially during the festive season and school holidays. However, eating out can pose a challenge to the older population, what with the limitations in their digestive systems and other acquired diseases that they have. 

Eating at buffets are portion killers as youdo not have a clue to the right servings.

Whether it is a rushed meal or lunch in the company, a casual family dinner or a royal banquet, eating out has been a part of everyday life of most Malaysians. In fact, eating out can be one of life’s pleasures. 

Here are some changes we can make to enjoy eating out without feeling guilty. 

Portion control 

Eating out, be it at a function or social outing, means the portions are too big. There is no doubt about it. Eating at buffets are portion killers as you do not have a clue to the right servings. This is due to the variety of food displayed and most of us want our money’s worth. 

However, with some smart and wise thinking, you can control and handle what comes on your plate. 

First think how hungry you are. Don’t be influenced by your peers to order most of the dishes. 

Choose the portion size suitable for you. Share if possible or ask for small servings. 

Try as much as possible to order a la carte. In this way you will not be tempted to eat more. The portions are fairly controlled. Why pay more for your pocket and waistline? 

If the portion is too big, request the waiter to put half the amount in a take-away container. 

If buffet-style dining is your choice, first scan the food displayed on the line. Start off with vegetable and fruit salads or rojak to appease your appetite. Make it a habit to make two trips to the buffet line: one for vegetables, fruits and salads, one for anything else. It is good to use small plates. 

Desserts are the biggest tempters in a buffet, so go easy on them. Do not justify your eating habit by thinking “It is seldom I eat these desserts and overindulge in them”. 

Know your digestive problems 

If certain foods cause flatulence and bloating, do be sensible and avoid them. 

Go easy on flavoured or carbonated drinks as the nutritional content of these drinks are limited to calories and sugar only. A 12 oz regular cola drink supplies 150 calories and almost eight to 10 teaspoons of sugar. 

It is advisable to reduce or avoid oily and spicy foods as these foods may cause stomach discomfort in some older adults. 

Heartburn is the main symptom of gastric reflux. Gastric reflux is due to the fact that some foods irritate the oesophagus or cause reflux of stomach acids. 

Some older adults may be sensitive to foods such as chocolates, carbonated drinks, alcoholic drinks, citrus fruits, tomato products, coffee, mint and high fat foods. 

If you have any ulcers, be smart and limit foods that stimulate the flow of gastric juices such as black pepper, chilli powder, caffeinated drinks, alcoholic drinks and certain spices. You should know what foods cause you discomfort and avoid them. 

You have probably given it little thought, but throughout your life, smell and taste have affected the quality of your life, your overall health. Think about the simple pleasures: the variety of flavours in a meal, the aroma of cooked foods and the sizzle of foods on the grill. 

Food’s wonderful flavours encourage a healthy appetite and help stimulate digestion. As you grow older you need fewer calories to maintain your weight. So choose wisely when eating out and balance your input to your output in terms of calories. 


  • This article is contributed by The Star Health & Ageing Panel, which comprises a group of panellists who are not just opinion leaders in their respective fields of medical expertise, but have wide experience in medical health education for the public. 

    The members of the panel include: Datuk Prof Dr Tan Hui Meng, consultant urologist; Dr Yap Piang Kian, consultant endocrinologist; Datuk Dr Azhari Rosman, consultant cardiologist; A/Prof Dr Philip Poi, consultant geriatrician; Dr Hew Fen Lee, consultant endocrinologist; Prof Dr Low Wah Yun, psychologist; Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist; Dr Lee Moon Keen, consultant neurologist; Dr Ting Hoon Chin, consultant dermatologist; Assoc Prof Khoo Ee Ming, primary care physician; Dr Ng Soo Chin, consultant haematologist. For more information, e-mail 

    The Star Health & Ageing Advisory Panel provides this information for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. 

    The Star Health & Ageing Advisory Panel disclaims any and all liability for injury or other damages that could result from use of the information obtained from this article. 

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