Where’s my veggies?

It is a rather curious question that I find asking here in Singapore after eating at the local hawker centres.

Where did the vegetables go?

Where the “Fishball Noodles” used to come with a few pieces of Chinese cabbage, there is now not a strand of green in the soup. Not are there any more cucumber slices with my “Nasi Lemak”. Did my memory get rusty over the years I am away from Singapore? Or is it an odd trend that just started in Singapore?

Skipping a meal or two of vegetables doesn’t mean much. But consider that most people no longer eat home due to work. In a nutshell, everyone’s diet is dependent on the closest food center. If there is no conscious decision to get vegetables from the mixed food stall, there would be no intake of vegetables at all. Now I am not anywhere close to being a vegetarian but I do understand the necessity of eating them.

The question is now…why?

Perhaps it is a chicken and egg problem. Did vendors give less vegetables first or did customers eat less (and hence waste) vegetables first? Regardless, the two appears to be reinforcing one another, causing vegetables to disappear from the more well-known local dishes.

I think this trend can partially be attributed to be the common perception that meat is worth more than vegetables. Getting value for money means going for the dish with the most of it, at the lowest cost. To compete, vendors have to give more meat at the cost of the greens. This is a perception that needs to change. The lower value of vegetables is compensated by the simple fact that it keeps one healthy. It leads to lower medical bills. Although that can be hard to see through the dollar bills, it should be something on everyone’s mind. Food supplements can help but why go for expensive, hard to absorb pills when the much cheaper vegetables are better in almost all ways?

This in turn leads me to think that the Singapore education system has failed in something as fundamental as encouraging the young (and their parents) to eat more greens. Encouraging exercise is great but without a good diet to go along, obesity and other health problems are still going to be an issue. It is hardly universal but one look at my 10 year old cousin with his “beer belly” is enough to illustrate this issue for me.

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