- Rachel Genevieve Chia/Business Insider
If you own a health food chain, you’d better be in good shape.
Luckily, that’s exactly what Cedele CEO and founder Yeap Cheng Guat is – full of vigor and glowing with good health, even at at the age of 56.
The brand is known for its healthy dishes, and targets mainly working adults in their twenties and above.
Yeap, who single-handedly launched the brand two decades ago and grew it into a 36-outlet chain in Singapore, shared with Business Insider her top tips for staying healthy and eating well.
Here’s what she recommended:
#1: Lots of fibre – and fish is allowed only on weekends
Singaporeans don’t eat enough vegetables and fruits, Yeap said, adding that the cucumbers that typically come with chicken rice or the greens that come with wanton mee are “hardly enough”.
Vegetables and fruits give the body the fibre it needs to function properly, including providing regular bowel movements. A lack of fibre could result in health problems, especially among older people, Yeap said.
She herself goes vegan from Monday to Friday, but eats fish on Saturdays and Sundays.
Yeap recounted how customers once complained about the overly large portions of greens served at Cedele outlets, saying they felt like “cows” eating grass.
She added that Singaporeans often don’t order vegetables when eating out because they see it as a waste of money. “When people go to restaurants, they only order meat and carbohydrates – things they don’t know how to cook,” Yeap said. “It’s a mindset we need to change.”
#2: Avoid hawker food where possible, especially for breakfast
- The Straits Times
A typical hawker dish in Singapore contains a tremendous amount of sugar, and should be avoided, Yeap said.
She named fried bee hoon and carrot cake as two of the most unhealthy options.
“Sometimes, when I see people eating (those dishes) for breakfast, I feel that they may as well take a bowl of sugar and eat it,” she said. “Carrot cake contains no fibre and fried bee hoon is nothing but empty calories… I’m very concerned that we’re starting our day with so much oil and sugar.”
Yeap also cautioned diners against fried vegetable dishes from hawker centres and restaurants, saying that the method of cooking renders these foods unhealthy.
For people who can’t give up sugar, Yeap recommended having smoothies sweetened with whole dates, or cakes sweetened with unrefined sugar or fruit.
“People think eating healthy means the food has to taste like cardboard – horrible – but that’s not true,” she said. “There are many alternatives you can still indulge in.”
#3: Weekly fasting, plus meals no larger than two palms put together
According to Yeap, hawker food is unhealthy and contains high amounts of fat as well. Eating too much fat can lead to the body becoming resistant to insulin, the hormone that converts the fat in the body into sugar for energy, she added.
To combat this, Yeap fasts one or two days a week, during which she just drinks water and herbal tea. She also does intermittent fasting on a daily basis, where she refrains from eating for a continuous period of 16 hours. “It has served me very well,” she says.
Dairy products – including milk in coffee, for example – should also be limited to three times a week.
For those who find fasting a bit too extreme, Yeap recommends getting a handle on portion sizes. “We eat too much food,” she says, adding that she measures her portion sizes before cooking.
According to her, the total amount of food a person should eat per meal must not exceed the size of both palms placed together.
#4: Daily meditation and exercise
Yeap wakes up at 5am every morning to do half an hour of meditation and breathing exercises, followed by 20 minutes of stretching, and an hour of running.
She finds these mental and physical exercises “as valuable and important and necessary” as brushing her teeth every day.
“Make time for exercise and quiet time. It doesn’t have to be in the morning – it can be at night – but it is a must,” Yeap said. “Meditation calms your mind so you can be at peace, relate better to others, and think clearer. And anyone can do it, because it is free.”
Yeap added that meditating helps her to be more empathetic and understanding when facing challenges at work, while exercise (which she used to hate) helps her start the day feeling like she can conquer the world.
#5: Choosing to be happy
According to Yeap, one major thing that affects her health is her mental state. She tries to spread “goodness and positivity” at work no matter how difficult or frustrating the situation – and this is also where the power of meditation in giving her a calm head comes in.
“Someone once said that to be happy is a choice. I couldn’t quite understand that in my twenties, but today I have fully understood – choosing to be happy is also choosing to be healthy,” she said.
“Spreading goodness and positivity is nice – and also, it’s free,” she added.