National nutrition programmes

by Thulaja, Naidu Ratnala

Awareness of good diet and nutrition has been an ongoing theme in the government's drive to impart a healthy lifestyle among Singaporeans. Various national nutrition programmes have been launched since the 1970s in the wake of increased illnesses that arise from overindulgence in fatty food coupled with a sedentary lifestyle.

The awareness for a need to educate Singaporeans in managing their nutrition came as early as the '70s with the launch of the Better Food for Better Health campaign by the Ministry of Health on 8 March 1975. By the '80s, it was found that Singaporeans had been increasing their intake of fats and that incidences of heart diseases and cancer had risen sharply over the past two decades. Nutrition Week was launched on 7 April 1989, while a more holistic drive, incorporating awareness on nutrition, exercise, smoking and stress, was launched under the National Healthy Lifestyle Programme in 1992. This p
rogramme organises nutrition campaigns such as the Ask For and Eat Healthy campaigns. These campaigns have largely targetted cooked-food vendors and restaurants that serve many Singaporeans as more and more are eating out. Also, as obesity among the young has been on the rise, national nutrition campaigns also reach out to school children and school canteen vendors.

In January 1992, the government launched the Trim and Fit (TAF) scheme for schoolchildren to help them lose weight by being more active and choosier about their food. School canteen vendors were asked to cooperate in preparing healthier food. The Ask For Healthier Food campaign aims to get Singaporeans to ask for less oil, less salt and more vegetables when ordering food from hawker centres or food courts. In 1999, about 5,800 hawker stalls and 86 restaurants participated in this campaign. In association with the insurance co-operative NTUC Income, a contest known as the Ask For Healthier Food contest was also thrown in to make healthier choices more enticing with a lucky draw. The Eat Healthy campaign encourages Singaporeans to choose foods that are within the expiry or sell-by date, and to check the nutrition information so as to opt for low-fat and high-fibre foods. Using a food pyramid, people are encouraged to choose wholesome products such as grains, vegetables and fruits more while controlling their meat intake and minimising on sweets and butter or other fat-laden products.

In recent years, the Health Promotion Board has stepped up efforts for a healthy lifestyle by promoting a balanced diet. 

Nutrition programme
The nutrition programme has three main components: nutrition standards, healthy food supply and nutrition labelling. The programme contains dietary recommendations and other information on food and nutrition. It has an advisory role in that it educates the public on healthy eating and trains experts and facilitators to help spread its healthy diet message. The nutrition programme also directly liaises with food vendors to ensure that they provide healthier food choices while periodically reviews food outlets' menu and recipes. To provide information to consumers at the point of purchase, the nutrition programme works with food manufacturers, distributors and retail outlets to ensure products come with food labels so that consumers can make informed choices. The programme also develops standards to brand healthier food products. The Healthier Choice symbol is stamped on products that meet these standards.

Naidu Ratnala Thulaja

Low, K. C. (1989, April 20). Better Food for Better Health Campaign. The Straits Times, p. 26.

Tan, H. Y., Sim, P., & Dorjee, C. G. (1996, June 23). Do shoppers read food labels? The Straits Times, p. 28.

Tan, W. L. (1992). Public health nutrition in Singapore. Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition, 1(1), 61-63.
(Call no.: R 613.2 APJCN)

'Bad' canteen food: 'Teach children what is healthy' . (1992, April 18). The Straits Times, p. 26.

Be a winner, choose to eat healthy. (1999, September 3). The Straits Times, p. 53.

Eat healthy without killing your appetite. (1993, October 20). The Straits Times, p. 6.

NTUC FairPrice to feature cheaper health food in Oct. (1993, September 18). The Straits Times, p. 29.

Tan, W., & Khalik, S. (1999, May 19). Home for healthier eating habits"; Celebrations "not a time for restraint' in food servings. The Straits Times, p. 37.

Wong, C. M. (1998, October 29). Active fun at health retreat. The Straits Times, p. 37.

Health Promotion Board. (2002-2004). Nutrition Programme. Retrieved February 3, 2004, from

Further readings
Fat, doesn't kill... carbohydrates do; If you think a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet wil help you lose weight, think again. This is because new research is suggesting otherwise. (2002, July 21). The Straits Times, Life!

Food campaign. (1975, February 20). The Straits Times.

Lee, H. C. (2003, September 2). Soon, healthier food at workplaces, restaurants; Health Promotion Board's latest efforts are an expansion of its earlier campaigns to promote healthier eating at hawker centres and schools. The Straits Times, Singapore.

Ling, A. (2002, September 7). How to make sense of nutrition labels. The Straits Times, Forum.

Menon, J. (1989, April 7). Call to set up body to coordinate health education. Business Times, p. 2.

Nirmala, M. (1992, January 12). Adults at 'Trim and Fit' launch fail role-model test at tea break; Fatty club fights flab. The Straits Times, p. 12.

Teo, G. (2002, September 2). Getting to the sauce of salt woes; Campaign to stop people from using too much salt in cooking will also focus on habit of using it at the table. The Straits Times, Singapore.

Veloo, R. (1995, August 20). Killer cuisine - it pays to have healthy canteen food. The Straits Times, p. 1.

The information in this article is valid as at 2004 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

National campaigns
Health promotion--Singapore
Public health

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