1. What is healthy eating?

Healthy eating is about variety, balance and moderation.

Eat a variety of foods using the Healthy Diet Pyramid as a guide to get all the nutrients you need. No one food supplies all the nutrients your body requires to stay healthy therefore it is important to enjoy a variety of foods from the food four groups, as well as within each food group.

Balance your food choices over the day to get enough of each type of foods. Also, moderate how much you eat. Eat appropriate amounts without excessive fat, added sugar and salt.

2. What happens if I ate a quantity of fruits and vegetables that is more than the recommended servings?

Individuals are encouraged to eat the recommended two servings of fruit and two servings of vegetables daily.

Eating more than the servings recommended in general will not have any adverse effect for most healthy individuals. However, by doing so, other food may be displaced from the diet as fruit and vegetables are high in fiber and provide bulk. Fruit and vegetables do not contain all the essential nutrients needed for health, so it is important to eat a variety of food using the Healthy Diet Pyramid as a guide.

3. Do the level of activity and the size of a person affect the required intake of nutrients?

Every individual needs the same nutrients but in different amounts. For healthy people, the reasons for the difference include age, gender and body size. For example, children and teenagers need more of certain nutrients for growth. Men, due to their larger body size, usually need more of most nutrients than women. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) has been set as goals for intake by individuals. The RDA refers to the recommended daily levels of nutrients to meet the needs of nearly all healthy individuals in a particular age and gender group.

4. When you have a meal that contains only rice and meat, can you make it up by having only vegetables in another meal to balance your overall diet for a day?

Nutrient-wise, you may not need to be concerned about consuming foods from all the food groups at one meal as ultimately, it is the overall diet consumed in a day which matters. You can make up for missed servings of food from the different food groups at the next meal. For healthy individuals, as long as you can achieve the recommended number of servings for each food group in your daily diet, you should be able to obtain all the necessary nutrients you need.

However, having all the food groups in one meal may help increase absorption of certain nutrients. For example, vitamin C from fruits and vegetables helps with the absorption of the form of iron available in green leafy vegetables and whole grain products, which is not easily absorbed by the body. On the other hand, fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E & K) are better absorbed in the presence of fats in the diet. Having meals which consist of foods from all the food groups is also more enjoyable as you get to enjoy more food

5. What is the difference between calories and Kcal?

A calorie is a unit by which energy is measured. These units of energy are so small that a single food item will have tens of thousands of them. Therefore, to ease calculations, they are expressed in 1000-calorie units known as kilocalories (kcalories / kcal / *Calorie / *Cal). 1 kilocalorie (kcal) is equivalent to 1000-calorie units (*a capitalised version is sometimes used depending on which country the product or information is from).

However, confusion may arise when you speak of energy from foods. You would say 'calories' although the actual measure is kilocalories. If an apple provides 150 kcal (150 000 calorie-units), it is commonly said that an apple provides 150 'calories'.

6. How are the calories of a particular food calculated?

The nutrients which contribute to the energy values in food are carbohydrates (1g= 4kcal), protein (1g= 4kcal), fat (1g= 9kcal) and alcohol (1g = 7kcal). Therefore, the calories from each of these components make up the total calories of the food.

The total energy available from a particular type of food can also be measured by a bomb calorimeter. This device consists of a closed container in which a weighed food sample is burned in an oxygen atmosphere. The container is immersed in a known volume of water, and the rise in temperature of the water after ignition of food is used to calculate the heat energy generated. However, not all the energy in foods is available to the body cells because the processes of digestion and absorption are not completely efficient. Therefore, the biologically available energy from foods is expressed in values rounded off slightly below those obtained in the calorimeter.

7. Does diet affect your energy level?

Foods from the rice and alternatives group, for example, rice, bread, noodles, biscuits and so on are rich in carbohydrates, which provide the main source of energy for our daily activities. Individuals are encouraged to include these foods as the bulk of the diet. Make sure that you have regular meals so as to provide your body with a constant source of energy.

Sometimes, constant fatigue and lethargy can also be a sign of iron deficiency anaemia. Iron is needed for the formation of haemoglobin, the substance in the blood that carries oxygen to our tissues. Meat, liver and egg yolk are good sources of dietary iron, with smaller amounts from wholegrain breads, fortified cereals and beverages, and green leafy vegetables, nuts and dried fruits. Vitamin C increases iron absorption, so it is recommended that foods rich in vitamin C is taken with main meals. Examples of such foods are fruits and vegetables.

8. What is the recommended energy intake for an average Singaporean woman?

According to the Recommended Daily Dietary Allowances for normal healthy persons in Singapore, an average woman aged between 18 to below 30 years old, with a height of 160 cm, weighs 54 kg and undertakes light activities, would require 2000 kcal a day. To view the complete table, you can go to "Nutrition for Adults". The energy needed of each individual actually differs, depending on several factors. Therefore, the 2000 kcal recommendation is only a guide, not a standard.