Health

Things to avoid for a healthier steamboat

Stay away from processed foods and head for fresh meat and produce

No matter your favourite steamboat stop, it is likely that you are committing at least one of these seven food crimes at your meal.

We asked Ms Jaclyn Reutens, clinical dietitian at Aptima Nutrition and Sports Consultants, for tips on keeping the hotpot experience healthy.

Don't dip into too much soya or chilli sauce

Just one tablespoon could up your sodium intake by about 1,000mg and 500mg respectively, so think before you dip. Most foods are already naturally salty - if the meat tastes bland, it could just be over-boiled.

Avoid going for the balls

We are talking meatballs and processed foods like sausages, crabsticks and fishcakes. Go for fresh meat and produce in your steamboat instead as they contain less fat and sodium.

According Ms Reutens, the best meats are thinly sliced lean pork, striploin, skinless chicken breast and fish fillets.

Besides offering little in terms of nutrition, processed foods are also high in nitrites.

Excessive levels of these compounds in the body may result in methaemoglobinaemia, a blood disorder that occurs when haemoglobin is unable to effectively release oxygen to body tissues, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Don't add prawn heads to the broth

While these juicy bits impart sweetness to the soup, they also add cholesterol.

Ms Reutens advises consuming just the body and tail as these parts contain protein and iron.

Avoid slurping very hot soup

Besides scalding your tongue, having food while it is steaming hot could also harm your health down the road. A 2010 study published in the International Journal of Cancer showed that there was an increased risk of oesophageal cancer associated with higher-temperature beverage consumption.

Don't gobble everything really quickly

Give your brain some time to receive signals from your tummy - you could be full but eating out of greed. It is not uncommon to eat the equivalent of three meals in one steamboat sitting, so take it slow and let the conversation flow.

Avoid drinking too much soup - or scum

If you think that leaving the soup to boil continuously is just like healthy double-boiled soup, you are wrong.

Double-boiled soup actually refers to the use of two bowls, where ingredients are put in a deep porcelain bowl then placed in another pot of boiling water.

Continuously boiling your steamboat soup also increases its nitrite content.

As for soup scum - scoop it up and throw it away. According to Ms Reutens, this unsavoury frothing is made up of fat and coagulated protein, so always skim this off.

Don't just concentrate on getting your money's worth

By skipping the cheaper ingredients like vegetables, rice and noodles, as well as overloading on meat and seafood, you might feel like you have got a good deal at the steamboat buffet.

But you probably chalked up way more calories than if you had gone for a more balanced selection.

Also, if you suffer from hypertension and kidney problems, avoid steamboat as it contains high amounts of sodium that will overload kidneys, causing excessive water retention and swollen extremities, said Ms Reutens.

Diabetics and those with high cholesterol levels should also watch their saturated fat intake, especially when it comes to eating a lot of seafood.

This article was first published in Shape (www.shape.com.sg).

Food & Drink