A month ago, Herbalife released their findings from their Asia Pacific Healthy Breakfast Survey. In the survey, it contained insights into our eating habits and attitudes about breakfast in the region.
To find out more, we talked to Dr. Chen Zen-Yu, Chair Professor of the Food and Nutritional Sciences Programme and Head of the Graduate Division of School of Life Sciences at The Chinese University of Hong Kong; member of the Herbalife Nutrition Advisory Board (NAB), to find out more about how to eat healthy and the importance of a good balanced breakfast. As well as some tips on how to get through Ramadan (at the end of the article).
Many people will argue that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, how true is this statement from physiological and psychological aspect?
It is very true that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, provided that one consumes a balanced and nutritious breakfast. Physiologically, it will provide one with the energy needed to last throughout the day. Having breakfast continuously on a daily basis will have long-term benefit which can reduce the chances of having cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. It will also help support the body’s metabolism, improve brain health and digestion, as well as helping in maintaining one’s muscle mass. Continuous breakfast consumption will also help reduce the chances of getting wrinkles as you age and in general will help you live longer. Psychologically, it will help you think better and keep you more alert throughout the day.
What would be some good quick foods, that those in a hurry should eat for breakfast?
It’s still best to prepare a balanced, nutritious meal for breakfast. My advice it to wake up early and find the time to prepare it. However, if time is really the issue, one should consider drinking Herbalife Nutrition Formula 1 Shake as it contains the essential amount of nutrients that our body needs and will help in providing the energy needed.
How are Malaysian’s eating habits compared to other APAC countries? Where do we rank?
In terms of eating habits, 69% of Malaysian respondents eat breakfast every day of the week compared to 63% of the other APAC countries. On top of that, 71% of Malaysians strive to eat breakfast more regularly compared to 66% of the other APAC countries. This ranks Malaysia at a good place since majority are aware about the importance of consuming breakfast.
What do Malaysians do correctly and what do we do wrong when it comes to eating habits and cooking?
81% of Malaysians believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day – which is good. However, many Malaysians consume a lot of carbohydrate-heavy foods and hot beverages such as a cup of coffee, tea, Milo or hot chocolate for breakfast which are sugary and high in fats. When preparing their breakfast, there should be a balance of protein, carbohydrates, fats and fibre in their meal. According to the Herbalife Nutrition Philosophy, every meal should have a calorie intake breakdown of 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 30% fats.
Are they any misconceptions about breakfast you would like to debunk?
One of the biggest misconceptions about consuming breakfast is that skipping breakfast leads to weight loss. Regular breakfast eaters are less likely to be overweight or obese compared to those who skip breakfast.
Any insight into what are the main causes for our unhealthy eating habits (culture, work, government policies, food industry, restaurants, public perception, advertisements)?
Culture wise, the love for food combined with Malaysia’s 24-hour eateries such as ‘mamak’, fast foods, hawkers and food stalls allow people to eat at any time of the day, as frequently as they want – it is easy, accessible and convenient. The danger is that many do not know the hidden ingredients, like the sugar content, in the food that they are consuming. It is important to be educated in how our food choices and the nutritional values contained in the food we consume affect our body.
What could we do to improve ourselves? What should we be typically eating and how much throughout the week?
The key is to have a balanced and proportional diet in your meals as your body needs the essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals for healthily body function to support your metabolism. Start your day right by eating a healthy breakfast. Consider snacking on fruits, vegetables and small servings of proteins mid-morning and mid-afternoon to prevent overeating at lunch or dinner time and always keep yourself regularly hydrated throughout the day. Try following the principle of eating breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper, daily.
Malaysia has a very obese population compared to the other APAC countries, what would be your tips on how as a country (government policies or cultural changes) we should change?
It starts with education. It is important to know the type of food to eat, the nutrients that our body need in order to function properly and effectively. Once you are aware, then one can start adopting balanced nutrition habits in his or her daily living. At Herbalife Nutrition, we believe that balanced and personalized nutrition supports a healthy, active lifestyle. Eating the right foods combined with scientifically-proven supplements and exercising regularly are key to healthy living in the long run. But first, people must be empowered with the knowledge.
What is Herbalife doing to help us eat healthier and be healthy?
In the efforts of making the world a healthier and happy place, Herbalife Nutrition is changing people’s lives with great nutrition products and programs. We offer high-quality science-backed products most of which are produced in Company-operated facilities, one-on-one coaching with our independent members and a supportive community approach that inspires many to embrace a healthier, more active lifestyle. Just like the recent Wellness Tour, the Company often promotes and advocates leading a healthy, active lifestyle through conducting similar activities, educating participants to exercise and eat nutritiously. Herbalife Nutrition also often shares health and fitness-related news and tips with consumers as well.
For Ramadan, do you have any healthy tips and suggestions for those fasting?
During the fasting month, it is common for people to feel tired, less active and sleepy.
Pre-Dawn Meal (Sahur)
Since breakfast is the most important meal of the day and to prepare your body for fasting, for your pre-dawn meal consider the following:
- choose foods that contain complex carbohydrates as they take longer to digest thus providing a more stable and sustainable source of energy;
- have high-fiber fruits and vegetables – they will help you stay full for a longer period of time and at the same time, support your digestive health;
- get protein-rich foods to help in building and repairing body tissues as well as supporting the immune system;
- limit excessive consumption of salty food and caffeine;
- drink at least 4 glasses of water to keep your body hydrated throughout the day.
If preparing a meal in the morning is a challenge, consider consuming Herbalife Nutrition Herbal Aloe Concentrate Mix, Tea Mix, Formula 1 Nutritious Mixed Soy Protein Drink, Formula 3 Blended Soy and Whey Protein Powder, paired with some dates and a sufficient amount of water.
Break Fast (Berbuka)
When breaking your fast, avoid eating heavy foods and sweetened beverages. Have a few pieces of dates, a glass of fruit juice or a bowl of vegetable soup plus a sufficient amount of water to prepare your stomach and kick-start your digestive and metabolism systems after a long day of fasting.
For your main meal, consume less-oily foods like grilled chicken, fried fish, etc. Ensure that your meal platter is nutritiously balanced with the right amount of carbohydrate, protein and fats. Food portion should be according to your body’s needs and refrain from over-eating. Have more vegetables and fruits, and at least 3 glasses of water.
During the fasting month, continue to be active and keep yourself fit by going for walks, jogging, yoga and light exercises either after your pre-dawn meal or around 20 to 30 minutes before breaking fast.