How a holiday changed my definition of “fast food”


During the Christmas break I enjoyed a wonderful few days in Singapore with my family. Apart from having an amazing time (Singapore completely blew away my expectations) I was intrigued with the eating culture and everyday cuisine.

It seemed that Singaporeans eat out a lot and there was an incredible variety of establishments to choose from. What really struck me though was the high quality of inexpensive food available at their hawker stalls. For those that haven’t been to Singapore, imagine a food court outside with each stall offering all different types of Asian and some western cuisine… all for about SGD$5 a plate (approx AUD or USD about $4.00)

These hawker stalls are everywhere and it appeared that the majority of the population eat at them regularly. Initially being a cautious mum I was a little concerned about hygiene standards but then I noticed that each vendor proudly displays their government health rating ….and most of the ones we went too either had an A or an A+ rating.

This photo shows one of the meals that I had for less than five sing dollars and it really got me thinking. The point of this post is not to promote Singapore (although it is a very special place)….what I really want to highlight is how readily available healthy, inexpensive and nutritious food was there.

When you compare this form of low cost eating to Australia or many other Western countries there is a huge difference. The only places we can buy a meal for less than $5 sell their food in a combo that usually comes with either a coke or fries and has zero nutritional value!

Singapore presented such a different situation to what I was used to in terms of “takeaway or fast food” I decided to Google obesity rates around the world out of curiosity. My findings were exactly what I thought might be the case. I came across the 2008 Forbes list of 200 “Fattest Countries on Earth”… here are the rankings for some key countries (Beside the rank and name is the % of overweight people in the country. This is based on people having a BMI of over 25, which is probably asking a bit much as I know plenty of people that have a BMI around this and would never be considered overweight, but at least the measurement was consistent. FYI first 8 countries on the list were mostly small islands in the South Pacific).

9th – USA – 74%
14th – Egypt – 69%
17th – NZ – 68.5%
19th – Mexico – 68%
21st – Australia – 67%
88th – Brazil – 50%
102nd – Singapore – 22%

It makes you think seriously about the way we eat, the food we choose to buy (especially takeaways) and more importantly the eating habits that we teach our kids… Well done to Singapore… the rest of us still have a great deal of work to do!