Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bao Hao Sao (Full, Well, Little)

My daughter posted on recent calls by several food experts to change the way we eat. I watched the first video clip of Mark Bittman urging a healthier diet and didn't watch Jamie Oliver's message because it took too long to download. Someone commented on it though so I watched it and am very inspired by his call to change our eating style. Jamie is enjoyable to watch because he's always natural and passionate about what he believes in. His tipping a whole wheelbarrow of sugar onto the center of the stage to show the amount of sugar in the milk a child would have eaten in 5 years of primary school was dramatic and shocking. And that's only the sugar from milk, not the milky bars or chocolates or ice creams or juices or cakes or doughnuts or Coke.

The message is the same whether it's Jamie O or Mark Bittman : obesity is killing people, we need to change the way we eat and one of the most effective ways is to teach the young before it's too late. We need to go back to simple, local produce, non-processed food, less meat more veggies and home cooking. Besides the health considerations, we need to help lighten the burden to the earth of feeding 6 billion + people. I know that I can do my part by influencing my family on how to eat healthy by starting immediately. I'd like to share with you the changes I've made:

1) Cook more, eat out less. Now that we're down to 4 (Hub, my youngest child, my mom and I), it's cheaper to eat out. It's so easy to eat out here. For simple meals, we don't have to eat at fancy restaurants. Our equivalent of Denny's would be the Beaufort and Man Tai restaurants where a cheap meal for a family of four would cost less than RM50/US$14, half of that if you keep to a plate of noodles each. Eating out at such restaurants is cheaper than cooking at home. And you don't have to set the table, wash the dishes and holler for the kid to come to the table.

Eating out has far more cons than pros for me. I was just talking to a restaurant cook last night (I went for a late night snack of ginger and spring onions clams. I watched him cook and will share the recipe). Cook said he'd rather eat at home. The reasons were "a cook's revulsion" at the unhygenic conditions in the kitchens he'd worked in. That was a shocking statement from a cook but he was honest. And it was ironic because I had watched his worker prepare my clams and I was revulsed. He said there are three things he'll never order from a restaurant: 1) Quick soups. He started out as a waiter in the 70s and he'd seen a cook's assistant fish out a rat that fell into the stock pot, which is usually brewed all day and night. Better to fish the rat out than tell the cook who'll kill him for not watching the soup. Stewed soups are safer bets because they are stewed fresh daily 2) Veggies. The most they do is give the veggies a hose down. Think pesticides, manure, spit, bugs. 3) Claypots and iron hot plates. If you are unlucky and you get the pot at the bottom, which hasn't been used for weeks, don't think the roachy stink is your imagination. Rust on iron plates are never washed, they just burn it off. Just three? I can give him 300 reasons.

The oil used in restaurants is cheap oil and 'recycled' oil from deep fryers of KFC and other fast food joints. Unless they are hotel and higher-end restaurants, most restaurants will use cheap ingredients loaded with preservatives, artificial flavorings and colors. So don't think that msg is the worst thing you get in restaurant food. You are slowly and surely poisoned by all those inferior substitutes and additives.

Bottomline: restaurants are there to make money, not to fed you with healthy food. Also, SE Asia is generaly filthy, except for Singapore. Look at our restaurant workers. All are from neighboring countries like Myanmar, Indonesia and Thailand and they are lowly educated which means they very likely don't know that they must wash their hands after they pooped. That's how E.coli is transmitted.

On a food program recently, it was estimated that 8 to 9 out of 10 (something like that) families in Hong Kong do not cook at home, their kitchens being too small, shopping and cooking take up to much precious time, restaurants being 'downstairs' and everywhere and their food, well, it is Hong Kong we are talking about. My last word on eating out is "Your body is what you feed it".

2) Cut out carbs at dinner. In the last 3 months, I've changed my dinners by nearly cutting out all starch. We eat carbs in the day, when we are active. My mom, who's diabetic, woke up one morning with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). The night before I had made wholemeal chapattis (Indian flatbread) and allowed her one only and withheld her usual serving of 3 to 4 tablespoons brown n white mixed rice. Cutting back on a small amount of refined carbs made such a big difference to her sugar level that I now cut down her starch intake to 2 tablespoons of rice at dinner time and make up for it with more veggies and meat. I've lost 1.5 kgs in three months by cutting out carbs at dinner time and eating less through the day. Slow, but the mountain is moving.

Initially it was hard not to eat carbs at dinner, especially when we eat Chinese dishes, but we soon got used to it. Like any habit, it can be broken. You just need to believe it and not give up.

3) Cut back on snacks, in particular sweet things. And that means I never eat a piece of cake unless it's a birthday cake. I reduce the sugar in any recipe that calls for it. I don't take sugar with coffee or tea. And I never have candies or sweets in my house. What are they for anyway? I do, however, struggle with chocolates.

My mom, who dislikes sweet things, became diabetic in her 60s despite seldom eating anything sweet. She was, however, big as a barrel in her 40s. The diet of the new generation is far more sweeter than the old. When I was little, the only time I could have a Coke was during CNY. Cakes were only available in my teens. But look at our kids and how young they start eating sugar and how much sugar they are eating. And salt and oil and carbs. And additives, hormones, pesticides and antibiotics-laden food.

4) Eat lots of colorful veggies. I have two reluctant veggie-eaters at home. I have to apportion and threaten until my face is black before they eat their veg. Slowly, they are eating more veggies than before. Genetics aside, I always tell young people that if they don't want to be midgets, they must eat their veggies and their protein. Sadly, I see a lot of girls as young as 12 going on a diet. That's exactly when they should eat to grow tall and shapely.

Children in Malaysia especially are getting a lousy deal in school canteens. When Wey was in primary school, he was addicted to fried chicken wings. I visited Chung Hwa Primary School in Likas one lunch and was shocked to find that nearly every item they served in the canteen stalls were processed and deep-fried: deep-fried wontons, deep-fried fish balls, deep-fried wings, deep-fried sausages, deep-fried bananas, deep-fried potatoes. Add to that fizzy drinks of all flavors and colors and iced water, also flavored and colored. I bet they are still serving the same things now. I am so impressed with Jamie Oliver's success at changing the meals in British schools, especially his introduction of a salad bar.

There are mothers, especially those who make bentos, who understand nutrition and make an effort to raise healthy kids. I applaud them. However, I think bentos only work with daughters. My daughter once said, when she saw a photo of a beautiful colorful bento box of slices of heart-shaped apples and other dainty finger food, that she knows her brothers will starve rather than take bentos to school. And she's right because she was the only one who would eat the tiffin lunches I made. My boys pretended not to know me when I walked into their school with tiffin boxes and I gave up bringing lunches for them. And maybe that's why men are usually less healthy than women. They are too busy working and behaving macho and know little about health and nutrition.

5) Eat less but well, if you are not very active and if you have reached adulthood. Most people eat a heavy breakfast, a sizable lunch and a big dinner. I think that when you are no longer growing (meaning anyone over 20), you should change eating habits by eating a decent breakfast or lunch, or brunch, and a light dinner with no carbs. I fully support eating like 'a king for breakfast, a prince for lunch and a pauper for dinner', or in China, eating 'bao (full) for breakfast, hao (well) for lunch and sao (little) for dinner'. Because dinner is the main meal where the whole family comes together to eat a good home-cooked meal after a day of eating commercial rubbish, it is hard not to cook a big dinner. I suppose it works for us because there's only one growing child in the family. Now we eat smaller and simpler meals everyday but on Saturdays, when we eat at my in-laws, it's always a feast. There are so many festivals and special dinners through the year that we get enough feasts in between the smaller meals.

Just look at the Biggest Losers. It's not nice, but really, do you find fat people in Africa?

6) Educate your family about nutrition, teach your kids to cook. I don't think giant food companies will make any changes with our health in mind. We have to educate ourselves and our family on what, how, why, if, because, regarding our choices of food and eating habits.

In secondary school, one subject I took was home science. Home science was where we learnt nutrition and simple baking and cooking. Now students have 10 subjects and home science has been dropped. If I were the Education Minister, I'd cut out history and include home skills. History can be learnt in the lower secondary years. I'd do that because my motive is to bring up a healthier generation, not brainwash kids about our historic heroes.

Change now, not when you are diabetic, hypertensive, old, obese or half-blind. If you still haven't watched Jamie's clip, please do so and after you do, please make the changes, starting with yourself and your family.

Update: I do not mean to de-mean any nationality or limit their potential. In point 1 above, I should have included Malaysians too among the unhygenic kitchen workers, or more tactfully, leave out nationalities because my point is not the nationality but the standard of hygiene, which is dependent on not so much as nationality but the level of education, awareness, culture etc. Meaning to say any country can have clean and dirty people, but in general poorer countries are lacking in many hygenic practices. Am I opening up another Pandora Box? What I'm complaining about is the general unhygenic conditions of restaurants in most SE Asian countries and the situation can change as people become more educated. Customers should speak up against such conditions and act against them by not eating at dirty places. Sad to say, it is common to see workers spitting, wiping leftovers onto floors, bring your bowl of noodles with their thumbs half-soaked in the soup and cooks touching food directly without using tongs or gloves . My major peeve: nearly all coffee shops do not even have a sink next to their stall for washing hands. The cook'll be sitting down in between breaks and when needed, he'll get up and start cooking with those hands which were touching his toes, his nose, his teeth, his crotch, the chairs, just before you walked in.


Zurin said...

very inspiring post Terri. And believe me, Ive gone on the "never(almost never) eat out" for donkeys years. thats why I slave in teh kichen n never know when its going to end.

I guess we all know how dirty outside food is....teh stories of rats in soup or curry (my son saw this himself), reused oil...unwashed veg even tho theyve been scattered on the floor (A relative restaurant oenwer told me this) but i guess we just close our eyes sometimes. 'Sometimes'...i thnk thats the key word in this case.

I too never stock on soft drinks or cordials or snacks or maggi mee ever since teh kids were little. its alwasy water. so much so I got rahter embarrased when I had nothing else to serve but water whn we had a guest and he wanted something cold! LOL

I pity my kids when they live out during college years and soon whenthey start work. they have to eat out for lunch at least. what to do. but I always tell them to order cooked on the spot not those sitting on shelves.

lets hope they get married quickly so their wivews can cook for them (hopefully)n I can hang up my apron/pots/pans/cook life...LOLOL

Winston said...


I've been following your blog for quite a while now but never actually commented here before.

But this time, I feel like I really need to thank you personally for such an inspiring and deeply convicted post. I am sure a lot of people are touched by it just as much as I have, so thank you again.

And here's to encouraging each other to start anew with good eating habits!

Warmest blessings,

Anonymous said...

Kudos to you Terri, for the food for thought. Modernisation sure comes with many temptations. Eating out is one such convenience. Thanks for the reminder.

Chocolate Cookies & Candies said...

Well said, Terri. Love reading your blog because you never mince words and always speak your mind. I completely agree with the nonsensical so called "history" that they teach in schools.

I'm a huge fan of Jamie Oliver (including my 4 year old who thinks he's the bees' knees).

Ah King and Moon said...

I always tease my hubby for being such a carnivore, i wonder, are men generally hate veg?

Absolutely agreed with you, cut down dining out will definitely make us healthier. I make an effort to cook nowadays even after work since I realise "eating out" is the culprit for my tremendous weight gain.

Bee said...

Thank you so much for this post, Terri. My husband and I work on a daily basis at being healthy, but still give into temptation too often. Your post was great in reminding me that there are more areas to work on. I am Chinese and grew up eating white rice with almost every meal and I loved it. It's also an easy way to make a meal go farther. That's also the hardest thing to give up for me - rice and all the delicious things that are made with rice! You have inspired me though. My husband also has a big sweet tooth - he thinks he has to have dessert every night, but these days "dessert" is a piece of fruit. : )

Unknown said...

agrees w most of wat u haf posted except for diabetis n sugar intake. Ppl suffered diabetis due to the failure of their pancreas to generate the required insulin n not because they took too much sugar Ü
keep up the interesting posts.

LilyAnette said...

I am a bento mom all the way! :) cheers to this post & yes I am a believer in homecook food and healthy eating & still I like to steal a slice of cake once in a while.

Bee said...

Just a comment back to Johnathan. Terri is right about eating too much sugar causing diabetes. What you say is true about the pancreas. But indulging in sugar too often causes the pancreas to have to work overtime. Especially if simple sugars, like candy, are eaten often. Sugar-levels can spike quickly, which causes the pancreas to have to produce more insulin quickly to deal with the spike in sugar. If this happens too often, the pancreas starts to work more inefficiently and eventually can shut down entirely.

NEE said...

heay thanks A Terri, for your advice here. really appreciate the heartfelt honesty on today's current eating habits and lifestyle.

Greg and I only eat out about ave once a week for dinner which is usually taking dad and mum out. other than that, unless i have a very late work evening or during the heavy baking times.

when we first got married because things are not very ready w the house, we eat out until poor greg very politely say he would eat even the simplest thing if it is home like fried egg with rice. he was prob very desperate at the time. yeap from then on, Nee becomes a cook/baker, ie the slave. nowadays, we usually have to crack out our head and brain juice just to think about what to take away until i normally give in and say i will cook. much easier.

I find that a lot of people say this " how to cook for 2 or 3". that is plain excuse i find. nothing is too difficult with a bit of advanced planning. i had been doing that for at least 5years but of course i have a not so fussy husband la and sometimes he even likes to pack the leftover for lunch because he hates going out in the hot weather to eat the greasy food which our hawkers provided.

but guilty as can be when it comes to snacks n carb. am a absolute fan tung (rice barrel). N you are inspiring me! since i head my 3, the fat grew stubborn. TQVM. will start the new style right away.

Big Boys Oven said...

I am staring at your post now . . . . . I think I can get rid off my craving tho! :) please forgive me Terri! :)

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

you pay for wat u food means cheap ingredients and a cheap way of serving it.

cutting carbs at nite can b quite a challenge, did it for a couple of years but im slowly drifting back, the temptation of white rice can sometime b overwhelming.

gerrie said...

A good read is Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma".

I just got the "Young Reader's Edition" for my 16 yr old son, and I might have to bribe him to read it.

Anne said...

Hi Terri, I've been following your blog for the past year and always love your post. But I don't quite feel the same way this time.

While I love the topic in this post, I'm appalled by your statement of having restaurants workers from the neighboring countries (Thailand, Indonesia, and Myanmar). I don't think it's a fair statement. Unhygienic people are everywhere, even in industrialized countries. I hope you'd consider that as well.

Other than that, Great post :)


terri@adailyobsession said...

zurin: tt's good, n your family is in good hands i'm sure. i totally am with you about not storing soft drinks n cordials (but i do love instant noodles) n i too hav had many embarassing moments when visitors come n there's nothing but plain water! my kids, thankfully, are weaned off fizzy drinks and they always drink iced tea in restaurants altho i do hav reservations about the quality of tea restaurants serve. we are sugar-free enough to enjoy cold water with a few slices of lemon or lime, very refreshing.

hmm, i doubt if you'll ever stop cooking. you may end up cooking for your children n grandchildren. nothing wrong with tt, it's a blessing to have them enjoy your cooking :))

winston: it's good to know tt you r convicted to eat healthier n you've encouraged me too, thanx!

creatingobj: yes, ppl eat out so often these days. if we sit down n do the math, it's shocking how much is spent eating out. n there's no way outside food is better quality than home, bc of the profit factor.

btw, i found ur posts on tibet very interesting n u take beautiful photos! it's late n i'm rushing to finish up here so i'm def going back to check out ur blog.

marlene: high 5:) i think if i don't speak my mind, there's no point writing a blog. i think most bloggers r opinionated, probably attention-seeking too :D. lately i've begun to find michael smith appealing...*sigh* a man who cooks...

ah king & moon; i think they think it's more macho? how many vegetarians are men? then again, my mid child loves veg n i really like tt about him.

belinda: from what friends tell me, it's hard to give up rice if your're a 'fan tung'. i'm a 'mien tung'so it's painless for me to give up rice. but do try it n you'll find tt after a few weeks, you'll feel better. n giving ur hub fruits rather than cakes or rich sweet desserts is life-saving, tell him.

terri@adailyobsession said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
terri@adailyobsession said...

johnathan:u r right about diabetes being a result of the pancreas not making enough insulin (type 1 diabetes)n tt sugar does not directly cause diabetes. but in people who are pre-diabetic or have type 11 diabetes (like my parents), they have either a combination of impaired insulin production or the body cannot make use of the insulin tt IS produced.usually the 2nd type is due to obesity and inactive lifestyle. one analogy i always remember from a diabetes handbook is tt of a door having door knobs (the insulin) but the knob is too greasy resulting in the door being impossible to open.being overweght will cause your 'door knob' to become greasy. high intake of sugar WILL lead to diabetes if you eat too much sugar n become fat. i know of a kid who ate a lot of sweet stuff incl fizzy drinks n he became diabetic at 12. there r ppl who r at higher risk if they eat a high sugar and/or carbs diet. i def have to watch my sugar intake bc my father died of ketoacidosis about 14 years ago. he complained tt milo, which he drank a few cups a day, was becoming too sweet. i never cooked in those days (ate at my MIL's) n didn't know about 3 in 1 which just got on the market. he slowly killed himself by drinking milo n all those 3 in 1 drinks. i wish they would label these 3 in 1 things for diabetics. also, we didn't bother to learn about diabetes n dad wasn't properly monitored.

so, again, diabetes is not directly caused by sugar but it can lead to it eventually. diabetes is a lifestyle disease n the way people eat n live these days, if you eat too much sugar, it's like playing with a time bomb.

lilyann: we still need some sugar thrills once in a while:)

belinda:n you are right. one thing i learnt was tt even tho they r on meds, diabetics fare better if they take frequent small meals to prevent the sugar spike you were talking about.just because a person is on meds doesn't mean tt the level of sugar cannot shoot up. there are new 'smart' meds to counter tt but still, if i were diabetic, i'd stay clear of sugar.

terri@adailyobsession said...

nee: i really hope you make the change. hun n i went running this morning n then he wanted a bowl of noodles (we usually don't). we shared a bowl while the younger couple (in their mid to late 30s) who shared our table had a full bowl each. i could see myself at tt age, tucking in a whole bowl of carbs. crazy. start now.

bbo: no, i'm not offended. i think you've been eating too much:))

joe: n you too, been eating too much outside.ah, don't be so sure tt your expensive restaurants are so hygenic. unless it's a 4/5 star hotel, i'll bet tt kitchen conditions aren't what you think. i once went into a popular (still very popular), big, air cond'ned restaurant here n there were roaches everywhere n the workers were spraying insecticide, n the chopsticks n plates were all laid out on the table...

gerrie: oh, i must get tt. thanx!

anne: thnx, i hear you n what you feel. i was aware when i wrote tt tt it would be offensive but i do believe tt the level of education n background of restaurant workers do affect their hygiene habits.yes, even indutrialized countries hav dirty kitchen helpers. i rmber reading about a study done on kitchen workers (maybe 20 years ago)in america, and they found tt 8 out of 10 kitchen workers DO NOT wash their hands after using the toilet!! what are the chances of poor, illiterate kampung folks who come here due to desperate economies (or they won't be here?) washing their hands or being hygenic and conscientious when working? in these politically sensitive days, it does seem bad to point out certain groups of ppl but it can't be denied tt some of the workers come from the deep country where facilities r lacking (a friend hired an indo maid who didn't know how to flush bc she'd never used a flush toilet b4..). i stand to be corrected by you: i should include malaysians kitchen workers who are also ignorant and doesn't matter what country they come from: i mean workers who aren't knowledgable about hygiene n it so happens tt kitchen help now is mostly foreign workers.i'm not picking on the nationality but rather the hygiene standards of kitchen workers (who happen to be mostly from poor foreign countries) in this country.if we get kitchen helpers from, say, japan, i think the standard is different.what do you think?

crookert said...

permission to share this,please.very thoughtful and informative.

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of what u've said. My parents, who are in their 50s and 60s respectively would whole-heartedly agree as well.

But being a chinese, I'm having a hard time cutting out rice from dinner meals. Somehow having oyster sauce kailan, steamed fish and sweet and sour pork on its own without rice is weird. I also prefer noodles over rice but I cant seem to just have dishes without the carbs. How do u overcome that?

Anonymous said...

Even in France , I have seen a doctor who didn't wash his hands after going to the toilets . I think it also depends on people .....

Ah King and Moon said...

Cutting down white rice intake for dinner could be extremely difficult for certain Chinese families especially with the elder ppl around, my family is one of those. One effort I make is to mix white rice with brown rice or whole grain rice, first, they complained about the taste and texture, but gradually, they get used to it and I'm happy to see the transformation. ;-)


Anonymous said...

Terri, you are right.30years ago when I was working in the health dept.We used to do stool tests for the hawkers. 98% tested ++++ for parasites eggs.(A+).Now they goes to the private lab. They do magic.It take 30 min. to cook up a healthy meal for your family. Modern family are too lazy as they prefer to watch tv and computer. They are not willing to drip their fingers in water-chinese saying.

ArtiSands said...

Hey Terri! Awesome article! I always hang out to read your pearl of wisdom! I like that you have a weakness for chocolates (I am NOT alone, hehehe) and that you eat ONLY birthday cakes. I love to bake but am sooo discouraged now cos my waistline!! Now with CG, I am looking forward to baking again. How do YOU handle baking and eating your cakes?

I do cook for my kids and they like their broccoli. They like drink water but also like 'diluted' cordials (I've taught them a few drops of cordial and lotsa water) from time to time. They don't like the milk here too much, which is fine with me cos I find it's sweeter than the milk Down Under. I am also getting them to eat more protein and less carbs. Sweets and junk food never make it into my shopping trolley unless its for parties or for road trips (naughty, naugthy I know). Yet still more to learn about kids diets, huh? :-P

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