The Big Read: In the face of rising health consciousness, can a nation of foodies live on less sugar, salt and all the beautiful things?


HPB also highlighted its Healthier Ingredient Development Scheme, which offers grants to encourage food manufacturers to develop healthier ingredient products.

“As of March 2022, 95 suppliers across nine ingredient categories were onboard the program, offering over 300 healthier ingredient products,” it said.

Still, TODAY’s checks at major retail outlets revealed there’s still a staggering price differential between healthier and regular ingredients.

For example, the cheapest 5 liter bottle of cooking vegetable oil sold for S$12.95 in a supermarket. The cheapest bottle with an HCS label was 30 percent more expensive at S$17.

A 5kg bag of house brand white rice cost S$6.20, while the cheapest bag of mixed brown and white rice cost half its weight at S$7.20 – or 2.3 times as much compared per grams.

Regular salt costs around S$0.40 for a 500g pack or S$1.40 for a 3kg bag. The cheapest sodium salt is just under S$4 for 215g.

Despite the higher prices, a spokesman for FairPrice said TODAY that sales for healthier choices increased more than 10 percent from 2019 to 2022.

She added that the company increased the number of healthier choices in stores by about 10 percent over the past year.

Experts interviewed acknowledged that socioeconomic status influences dietary choices and that dietary disparities are particularly amplified by rising food prices.

“While overall spending on food has increased in all households, the share of food costs in household income is grossly disproportionate for wealthy households compared to underprivileged households,” said Dr. Kalpana, adding that such a trend is common around the world.

dr NUS’ Chong said low-income families sometimes do their marketing regularly to buy in bulk and cut costs, and may forego healthy foods like fruits and vegetables when supplies run out in between.

Both she and NYP’s Ms Loong also said less affluent families may have fewer healthier food options due to higher prices compared to high-income people.

Ms Loong said lower-income groups tend to prefer cheaper, processed and less healthy foods.

She said: “Fresh food shortages are also more common in this group because of the cost. Grocery budget is often the least prioritized compared to other (necessities).”

Still, the experts noted that there are government-led and grassroots initiatives to make healthier food more accessible to those on low incomes. These include HPB programs and community kitchens that provide free basic necessities to those in need.

On an individual level, said Dr. Kalpana, you can also make cost-effective optimizations, e.g. B. Reduce unhealthy foods and replace sugary drinks with plain water to improve nutrition.

“I think it’s about more than socioeconomic status. What needs to be addressed is determining the best ways to change eating behaviors, including helping people make informed food choices,” she said.


Singapore’s aging population is one of the factors driving the government’s “long-term and deep reform efforts” to introduce preventive measures, Health Minister Ong told parliament on Tuesday.

Preventive health care includes measures – including a healthy diet – to prevent disease and the development of disease.

“Our society is aging rapidly, to reduce the burden of disease and maintain the quality of life of our population in the years to come, we need to become healthier,” he said.

About one in four Singaporeans will be over 65 by 2030, up from one in six today.

Mr Ong added that the increase in healthcare spending due to an aging population cannot be reversed.

“But what we can hope for is to slow the rate of increase in healthcare spending,” he said.

Of the many components of preventative health care, Dr. Kalpana that a healthy diet is “of paramount importance” as small changes can help prevent chronic diseases.

“For example, eating fewer calories leads to weight loss and lowering of certain fats and cholesterol levels, and adding whole grains to a diet can help prevent atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries), which can lead to heart disease or stroke. Reducing sodium levels in your diet also reduces the risk of high blood pressure,” she said.

HPB also said that healthy eating is one of the focal points of preventive health efforts to address the key lifestyle risk factors that can lead to ill health and chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

according to dr Kalpana are among the other components of health care:

  • Regular screening for chronic diseases
  • Taking the right steps to quit smoking or stop abusing alcohol
  • Lead a healthy lifestyle
  • weight management
  • Regular vaccination
  • Communicating with healthcare provider to discuss medications/supplements to be taken


While healthier diet options are still more expensive, the experts said that good and proper nutrition doesn’t require breaking the bank or putting in a lot of effort.

dr Kalpana said, “People have this misconception that in order to eat healthy, they have to buy organic food and expensive specialty products.”

And despite the popular belief that organic foods are healthier, that’s not necessarily the case.

“Although organic foods contain fewer synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and are free of hormones and antibiotics, they have no nutritional advantage compared to non-organic types,” said Dr. Kalpana.

Instead, a cost-effective way to eat healthier could involve small changes, such as: B. the renunciation of sodium-rich foods or the avoidance of sugary drinks and drinking water.


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