How to enjoy your nasi padang without feeling too guilty about those calories

CNA Lifestyle’s new Calculate Your Calories series continues. This time, we look at how you can reduce your yummy serving to a manageable 500 calories. Try out our new calorie calculator below.

In this new CNA Lifestyle series on how to better manage your calorie intake when eating at the hawker centre, we ask the experts on what you can do when ordering your favourite local dish.

(Photo: Chern Ling)

After previously tackling yong tau foo, we look at nasi padang this week – that mouth-watering spread of aromatic, spicy, coconut-based dishes paired with fragrant, warm rice.

Unfortunately, all that deliciousness points to one thing: A sky-high calorie count of 700 to 900 calories per typical nasi padang dish, according to the Health Promotion Board. 

Nasi padang
(Photo: Chern Ling)

To find out how many calories you’ve consumed, give the calorie calculator below a try. As a gauge, the amount of calories you’ll need a day ranges from 1,800 (for women) to 2,200 (for men).

A “healthier nasi padang” reads like an oxymoron because there’s a good reason why every bite tastes so good: Fat and lots of it. It isn’t something to indulge in daily; at the most, once or twice a week, said Melanie Anthonysamy, the nutrition team lead at HealthifyMe.

Nasi padang (1)
(File photo)

But there are still ways to enjoy a good plate without so much of the guilt – and even keep it to fewer than 500 calories, she said, citing some examples below. Note that some of the suggested dishes are not full portions, so you won’t get these calorie tallies using the calorie calculator below, which shows full portions.

  1. 490 calories: Plain rice (small bowl; 120 calories), beef rendang (3 pieces; 190 calories), sayur lodeh (half bowl; 180 calories)
  2. 450 calories: Plain rice (small bowl; 120 calories), fried chicken balado (1 medium drumstick; 196 calories), terung goreng balado (1 small bowl; 134 calories)
  3. 464 calories: Plain rice (small bowl; 120 calories), ikan kecap manis (161 calories), sambal goreng (half cup; 183 calories)

The trick is to go for smaller portions, including the rice. Other tips, said  Anthonysamy, include opting for grilled or roasted dishes instead of deep-fried ones. For example, choose ikan bakar over ikan goreng. “And complete your meal with just one or two tablespoons of sambal,” she said.

Nasi padang (1)
(File photo)

It is also a good idea to skip dishes with sauce, gravy or curry as they tend to have high fat content, said Jaclyn Reutens, dietitian and founder of Aptima Nutrition & Sports Consultants. “Or ask for less gravy.”

For protein dishes, Reutens suggested picking just one dish such as ayam masak merah. If you have to have more protein, limit it to two: One animal protein and one plant protein (for instance, tahu telur or tempeh), she said.


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