The Role of a Dietitian
We get up close and personal with WHHC's dietitian, Liong Suet Mei, on the role of a dietitian and her role in helping you prevent and manage heart disease.
In general, a dietitian promotes a healthy way of living by providing guidance on healthy eating habits. Dietitians are trained to evaluate your diet and suggest changes in your eating habits to help you reduce your cholesterol level, lower blood pressure and manage your blood sugars. In addition, they help you prevent malnutrition by ensuring your diet is adequate. They can also show you how healthy eating can be practical, fun, enjoyable and delicious!
There are two aspects to a dietitian's work: prevention and rehabilitation. They help individuals to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and other chronic conditions. These include - among other things - helping those with conditions like obesity and diabetes. Part of rehabilitative work is about helping patients cope with adopting new habits and to eat well after illness or surgery.
At WHHC, the dietitian's role is to help patients understand how the foods one eats can affect the heart. Apart from providing up-to-date information and helping patients distinguish facts from fads on how nutrition can influence heart disease and wellness, the dietitian also gives practical advice on preparing cardio-protective recipes that are tasty. Patients will be advised on how to select food wisely when eating out and in other social settings. The dietitian helps to design a personalised meal plan that meets your specific nutritional needs according to your lifestyle and nutritional requirements.
Weight management plays a vital role when it comes to maintaining a healthy heart. For those who need help to lose extra kilos, a dietitian will help establish realistic weight goals and create a guide on how to achieve those goals. The dietitian also motivates all patients to keep on track especially when the going gets tough: like when the patient's weight starts to plateau or when festive eating derails the patient from his or her prescribed eating and exercise plan.
Eight Treasures Dessert
This dish is low in sugar and high in soluble fibre, says WHHC dietitian Liong Suet Mei.
Eight Treasures Dessert (Serves 4)
¼ cup red beans
¼ cup green beans
¼ cup barley
¼ cup dried ‘longan’
¼ cup lotus seed
¼ cup red dates
2 pieces dried bean curd sheets
1 cup reduced sugar soya bean milk
5 ‘pandan’ leaves, knotted
1. Wash and soak red beans and green beans overnight. Drain.
2. Wash red dates and remove stones.
3. Wash and split lotus seeds into half, removing the sprouts from the centre.
4. Crush dried bean curd sheet into small pieces, wash with hot water to remove surface oil.
5. Put all ingredients, except soya bean milk into a stainless steel pot or rice cooker or slow cooker. Bring to boil for 10 minutes.
6. Remove ‘pandan’ leaves and turn to cook over low heat for 1 ½ hours or till soup thickens and beans are soft.
Know Your Labels
Knowing how to interpret food labels helps you make the right choices for your heart.
Knowing the type and proportion of ingredients indicated food packaging helps you make more informed choices on your diet. However, while reading nutritional labels is easy, the interpretation might not always be so straightforward.
Firstly, the ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. In the case of a packet of multigrain biscuits which indicates wholemeal flour, vegetable oil, oats, sugars, sesame seeds, barley flakes and raising agent (sodium bicarbonate), one can deduce that wholemeal flour makes up the largest percentage of the product, followed by vegetable oil, oats and so on.
The Singapore Food Regulations mandate that all products have to meet guidelines before their manufacturers can make claims such as ‘reduced sugar’ or ‘reduced fat’ on the food packaging. Manufacturers refer to a standard product when making a ‘reduced sugar’ or ‘reduced fat’ version, which should have 25 percent less sugar and 25 percent less fat respectively, compared to the standard products.
Labels like ‘low in sugar’ imply that the product contains sugar that is equal to or less than 2.5g per 100ml, or that the sugar content is equal to or less than 2g per serving. However, the label ‘no added sugars’ does not mean that it is sugar-free, as such a claim indicates no sugar is added though the product can natural sugars. This is common in juices, for example.
Likewise ‘reduced fat’ products should contain 25 percent less fat than the reference products on which they are based.
However, fat is a more complicated matter. Reduced ‘fat’ does not mean that it is low fat: some ‘reduced fat’ products still contain high amounts of fat, while some other products make up for the reduced fat with increased levels of sugar to maintain its taste. When a label claims it has no cholesterol it does not mean that it has no fat. Some foods such as coconut milk claim to have ‘no cholesterol’ but contain high amounts of saturated fat that increases LDL cholesterol. ‘Low fat’ products should contain fat amounts that are equal to or less than 3g of fat per 100g. ‘Low in saturated fat’ products mean the product has saturated fats in amounts equal to or less than 1.5g per 100g product.
A ‘high in fibre’ label indicates that the product contains at least 6g dietary fibre per 100g, while ‘no added salt’ means no ingredient containing sodium is added to food.
Consult a dietitian for more information on how to interpret food labels to choose foods for your specific nutritional requirements.