Monday 3 June 2024

What do I eat on a restrictive diet?

So, what do I eat...can eat.....or should eat....while on a restrictive diet?  Let's start with the most obvious...the best and most suitable food if one has health conditions or wants to eat's one that's homecooked coz that would put you in control of what you eat and, more importantly, what you put into the cooking of your food.  Outside food, as we all know, is heavy on sauces and seasonings which usually contains too much salt, sugar and/or MSG! >.<

In the hope of bringing down my carb and sugar levels quickly, I turned to homecooked meals for the majority of my daily food hoping for fast results.  I've always championed a balanced diet but some of these food pyramids (in the past) or what a typical healthy plate should look like are just too detailed to follow let alone remember.

So my doctor drew me a simple healthy plate which is easy to follow (which incidentally I've been following for years but obviously not hard enough).  This ultimate healthy eating plate is simply made up of one quarter protein, one quarter carbs and one half vegetables and fruits (the QQH concept), so I use this sample healthy plate as a guide (but with small deviations).

Simply adhering to the QQH concept is not enough...the size of the plate matters too!  It's no point following the QQH principle when you use a
big ass plate, is it? ;D  Well, I got myself the perfect plate (more like a Zebra food container) for the purpose.  I actually bought this container (which measures about 10 inches) earlier to tapau food (chap fan specifically) only to realise it was too shallow (made worse when the cover closes inwards), so it turned into the perfect plate to use at home for portion control instead.

There are many diet plans online which one can follow but they mainly cater to western palates, so it isn't something I can follow based on my Chinese way of eating.  A typical Asian meal consists of rice with dishes which makes up the bulk of our daily meals, so I took it on to cook two meals on most days but one on some days.  So, here's a look at some of the healthy plates I've cooked in the past few months.

Minced Pork Patty, Omelette & Stir-Fried Lettuce
.  The key to all my homecooked meals is that it has to be simple cooking since I've to do it on a daily basis.

Silken Tofu
with Garlic & Soy, Minced Meat Omelette & Stir-Fried Lettuce
.  I must have a bit of carbs (rice) at every meal.  My rice portion is about half a bowl (or around 4 - 5 tbsps) which is less than a quarter cup of uncooked rice (which I steam in individual bowls).

As for the type of rice, I was advised by my doctor to eat long grain rice like basmathi (he said not to take Siam or fragrant rice/beras wangi/hiong mai).  Of course you can also eat brown rice (if you can take it...I can't, I tried before).  I was also recommended to eat Indian rice (this is a direct translation from Cantonese, don't know what it's actually called).  I tried that too but couldn't eat it on a long term basis.

Basmathi rice, on the other hand, I liked immediately as it's so easy to take coz it tastes good.  I've been eating Bird of Paradise brand for a long time (it was fragrant and then Siam rice before), so I stuck with the same brand.  It's more costly (at double the price) but since I eat less, the higher price is acceptable.  Even when I don't cook and
tapau from the chap fan stall, I'd still boil my own rice whenever possible.  When I rince the rice, I find that the water runs clear and is not as cloudy indicating lesser starch probably.

Prawns in Dark Soy, Omelette & Stir-Fried Dragon Chives (
Ching Loong Choy)
.  To limit sugar, I had to stay away from proteins cooked with sauces like sweet and sour, marmite, lemon, salted egg, assam, Thai sweet chilli, etc. as these would definitely contain sugar to balance out the salty or sour flavours.  The only sauce I do take (since most proteins are cooked in some kind of sauce) is soy and curry (at least these sauces are savoury-based but, of course, there's still a bit of sugar in them but not as much as the other sauces).

Kau Yue (Tenggiri), Fried Egg & Stir-Fried Po Choy
.  If the portion of protein is small, I'd usually add on an egg as extra protein to bulk up the meal.  I prefer that since it gives me a bit more variety.

Braised Chicken + Mushrooms, Salted Fish & Stir-Fried Spinach (
Po Choy)
.  When it comes to vegetables, stir-fried or ching chow is now my best friend.  Fried simply with garlic, it's the healthiest option.  At home, I choose to cook and eat just a few types of vegetables, those that are the easiest and fastest to cook (with as little plucking and prep as like po choy, dragon chives, lettuce and cucumber.

Stir-Fried Prawns with Dragon Chives & Stir-Fried Cucumber with Egg
.  Sometimes, just two dishes would be enough if they're in bigger portions.

Steamed Minced Pork + Egg & Stir-Fried
Po Choy
.  Besides stir-fried dishes (usually vegetables), steamed dishes is my other best friend.  I eat a lot of these two types of dishes nowadays at home...and even at chap fan stalls.

Fried Fish Paste with Cabbage
.  Some days, even one dish is enough.  I'd cook just a one-dish meal if the portion is substantial.  I like to use pre-bought fish paste (from the wet market) and just shallow fry them into small patties, apportion them and leave it in the freezer for use later (as the required protein) to fry with any vegetable of choice.  Super convenient not to mention delicious.

Pork Slices Soup with Hairy Gourd, Dried Prawns & Goji Berries
.  This one has meat, vegetables and soup all-in-one! ;)  Super easy to prepare too and especially good on cold rainy evenings.

Minced Meat Omelette
.  This is a meal with no carbs (and by that I mean no rice or bread).  Of course, there's still a little carbs in everything.  I ate just this once but since learned my lesson...must include a little carbs at every meal (I'll tell you the story some other time).

Poached Chicken & Stir-Fried 
Po Choy
.  On some days, I simplify my cooking even further by just buying the protein (like poached chicken) and add on a veggie.

Pork Innards Pepper Soup.  And on days when I don't feel like cooking at all, I can get this for convenience.  I'm eating like a carnivore these days....except I eat it with some rice (and add on more spring onions).

Yong Tau Foo
in Soup
.  Another ideal buy for a low-carb diet is Yong Tau Foo which I can simply reheat for later (and add on lots of yin sai).  Eat it on its own (like the pork innards soup) or with some rice.  I cracked some black pepper over it but realised the coarse black pepper is not fine enough so most of it tend to sink to the bottom of the bowl (and you end up not tasting the pepper, so it's back to white pepper, now I know why it works only in thick western soups)! ;D

Roasted Chicken Leg, Honey Sweet Potatoes & Green Beans
.  Of course, instead of mixed rice, you can also include some western-type meals into your daily meal plans...and the easiest (and cheapest) to do at home is chicken.  Like rice with dishes, it's also a balanced meal of protein, carbs and veggies.

Roasted Chicken Wings, Potatoes, Broccoli & Buttered Bun
.  Without rice, potatoes and bread became my carb component.  Some of you might be wondering....isn't potato and bread considered high GI/GL food.  It is if you eat a portion more than you should.  I took tests after these meals and my sugar levels were not only within range but good, so I was reassured that eating a small portion of carbs isn't all that threatening.  I did not have bread for the first 4 months of my restrictive diet but have since introduced it back in small portions occasionally.

Roasted Chicken Wings, (Orange) Sweet Potatoes & Rose Apple Slices
.  The same with fruits which I omitted totally from my diet (of my own choosing) since fruits contain natural sugar (this rose apple was my first in 4 months).  I've tested my blood sugar after these meals and find the readings within range even with potatoes and fruits (the key is portion control).

In addition to strategically pairing food (such as pairing carbs with fibre, fat and proteins to help lower blood sugar spikes), it seems strategically sequencing food (such as eating veggies first, followed by proteins and carbs last) also helps to minimise blood sugar peaks.  Not sure if it actually works but doing this with an Asian-type meal is almost impossible.  How to eat your rice last lah (with no more!)? :O  It's more feasible with a western-type meal certainly but still I'd rather enjoy my meal eating a bit of this and a bit of that (I'm someone who appreciates variety).

In my restrictive diet, I've to be very selective of the dishes I choose to cook and the dishes I get from chap fan stalls by refraining from food with sugar-laden sauces.  Eating this way can be difficult unless you cook your own meals as almost everything we get outside is either coated or cooked in some kind of sauce (which is usually sweetish in nature)...but I've been extremely encouraged by how much my sugar readings have improved since going on this (partial) homecooked diet.  There's no denying that homecooked meals give me the best blood glucose readings (based on readings taken 2 hours after eating which are always in the lower end of the desired range).

But (I can hear some of you 'saying' already) eating just homecooked food is so boring...and it is, I agree 100%.  Although I've to be very careful with what I eat, that doesn't mean I can't eat outside food altogether. I just have to make the right choices.  I'll show you what outside food I could still enjoy (and how I went about it) in my next post.


  1. Ah! I like your moderate and well balanced approach of consuming some carbs, veggies and protein. Most people I think prefer to retain some form of carbs like rice with their meals. I agree that rice is small(er) portions is all right. That Zebra container is so cute! Shallow with cover that closes inwards has a purpose lah - to make you eat less wahahaha... I always prefer containers with cover that curves upwards to accommodate more food.

    I like all your homecooked meals, they look very nutritious and well balanced. Good for you that you are achieving good results with your blood sugar readings. I always start my meal (if eating carbs) with protein the first 2 or 3 bites and then I proceed with the carbs/carbs+protein. I recently came upon Jessie Inchauspe (Glucose Goddess/Glucose Revolution) on Youtube where she talks about her hacks to reduce glucose spike. But her method of veggies first, then protein/fats and carbs last, as you said is not possible in our Asian meals. Very funny lah to eat rice last. But I think if we eat carbs+protein together, it will work just as well.

    I look forward to you next post on eating out!

    1. Yeah, the food sequencing of eating veggies first, then proteins and carbs last is only doable in western meals, not so ideal for our Chinese meals, the best we can do is eat the carbs+proteins together. Thanks for your heads-up on the hacks to reduce glucose spikes. I've since googled it and will try some of the hacks to see if it has any impact. She mentioned you know what type of vinegar she's referring to? I think our Chinese vinegar is too harsh.

      That Zebra cover that closes inwards (I think) is not to make us eat less but to ensure there's no! Small as it may be, it's now put to good use at home. Great to store all my cooked dishes (to bring in front of the TV) like chap fan but without each dish intermingling with one another.

    2. Any kind of vinegar works eg apple cider vinegar. My mum likes to make a condiment of apple cider vinegar + light soy sauce and then add chopped garlic and slices chilies. She adds sugar to it but of course that's optional.

  2. I like the QQH well balanced approach of carbs, veggies and protein. I like seeing greens in my dishes. And the home-cooked dishes are definitely better, despite the bland and boring taste.

    1. Accepting food taste that's more bland is a sacrifice we have to make if we want to eat something healthy. I like this QQH concept of a balanced meal as I also must have some greens in each meal.

  3. I am drooling at all your healthy looking and delicious looking greens. As for me, even if I go out to eat chap fan, I would order one meat (protein), one egg and one greens with white rice (carbs). Loving all your homecooked food shown here. Your Zebra container looks so cute.

    1. Yeah, one meat, one egg or tofu and one veggie is the standard that I'd get too at chap fan stalls...only difference is now I'm more selective at how the dish is cooked.

  4. Bravo to your effort for preparing all those homecooked food! Sugar is something that I can't give up, so I try to workout regularly (I do skipping 4 days a week + 1 day outdoor jog) to compensate it, haha!

    1. Well, if you have no problems with high blood sugar, then you're certainly entitled to enjoy your sugar. ^_~


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