The Real Cost: Eating Healthy In Singapore

Geralyne Ong

Geralyne Ong

Last updated 03 August, 2021
The Real Cost Of Eating Healthy In Singapore: SingSaver Analysis

There may be hidden costs on every dollar you spend. The Real Cost, a SingSaver Series, uncovers all the unexpected expenses you’re incurring.

Before you embark on this lifestyle change, understand the math behind the monetary costs and benefits of eating healthy. 

When family or friends tell me they don’t eat healthy because it costs more, I get it. I really do.

A simple salad can easily cost S$10, or upwards of S$20 if you are at a restaurant. In comparison, hawker fare costs an average of S$5, a fast food set meal averages S$6 and a plate of overpriced scrambled eggs, avocado and toast at a hipster cafe goes for around S$18 after taxes. 

At a glance, it makes more financial sense to choose the latter over the former. However, I would argue that if you can afford it, spending a little more for healthy balanced meals goes a long way. 

For starters, eating healthy lowers the chances of being diagnosed with diet-related chronic diseases like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes — especially if you are genetically-inclined to contract them. In addition, numerous studies have shown that a balanced and healthy diet helps manage stress and mental health. 

So if you’re determined to take control of what you’re putting into your body and want to know if eating healthy is something you can afford in Singapore, here’s the math behind it.

Last updated on 3 August 2021. Prices are subject to change without prior notice. The calculations below are estimates, and prices of meals and groceries may vary depending on credit card discounts, sale, among others. As far as possible, mid-range items from mid-tier hawker stalls or eateries are selected for this guide. Author is not a certified nutritionist and the views expressed here are hers. Always seek the advice of a professional nutritionist if you intend to make a drastic change to your dietary habits.

How much eating regular meals (including fast-food) costs

When we speak of regular meals, we refer to home-cooked food, hawker fare, food from shopping centre basements, as well as the king (Burger King), the clown (McDonald’s) and the colonel (Kentucky Fried Chicken, KFC)

Below I calculate the average cost of an entire week’s worth of breakfasts, lunches, tea breaks (because how else are you going to power through a work day?) and dinners.

Type of mealQuantityCostTotal cost
Breakfast - home cooked*3S$5.18S$15.54
Breakfast - hawker fare2S$3S$6
Breakfast - bread, cake or pie2S$2S$4
Lunch - home cooked*3S$5.18S$15.54
Lunch - hawker fare2S$5S$10
Lunch - fast food2S$6S$12
Tea break - biscuits and/or coffee3S$2S$6
Tea break - hawker fare2S$2S$4
Tea break - bread, cake or pie2S$2S$4
Dinner - home cooked*3S$5.18S$15.54
Dinner - hawker fare2S$5S$10
Dinner - fast food2S$6S$12
Total for a week of regular meals


*Based on calculations from our Cost Comparison: Meal Prep Versus Buying Food guide.

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How much eating semi-healthy meals cost

These are the kind of meals that try their best to balance cravings, nutritional intake and flavour. For example, going to the economic rice store and requesting for less rice or switching it to mixed-rice, ordering two servings of vegetables and two servings of meat, tofu or egg, and skipping the calorific curry gravy. 

To keep taste buds excited, I’ll be calculating the price of food from easily accessible eateries and hawkers. Since most of us are working-from-home, I’ll include a few home-cooked meals as well. 

Type of mealQuantityCostTotal cost
Breakfast - home cooked*3S$5.18$15.54
Breakfast - hawker fare2S$3S$6
Breakfast - bakery (bread, cake or pie)2S$2S$4
Lunch - home cooked*3S$5.18S$15.54
Lunch - hawker fare2S$5S$10
Lunch - fast food2S$6S$12
Tea break - biscuits and/or coffee5S$3S$15
Tea break - bread, cake or pie2S$2S$4.00
Dinner - healthy home cooked*3S$5.69S$17.07
Dinner - hawker fare2S$5S$10
Dinner - salad/grain bowl*2S$10.25S$20.50
Total for a week of semi-healthy meals


*Based on calculations from our Cost Comparison: Meal Prep Versus Buying Food guide.

How much eating healthy meals cost

Contrary to popular belief, eating healthy is not a synonym for boiled chicken breasts, broccoli and eggs for the rest of your life. All it means is little to no processed foods, empty-calorie meals and sugar-laden treats, unless it is a cheat meal. 

Below we calculate the cost of ready-made and home-cooked grain bowls, salads and nutritious snacks for a week. 

Type of mealQuantityCost Total cost
Breakfast - healthy home cooked*4S$5.69S$22.76
Breakfast - Nutrify Meals3S$5.90S$17.70
Lunch - healthy home cooked*3S$5.69S$17.07
Lunch - Subway sandwiches2S$7S$14.00
Lunch - salad or grain bowls2S$10.25S$20.50
Tea break - yogurt, roasted nuts, granola or protein bar7S$3S$21.00
Dinner - healthy home cooked*3S$5.69S$17.07
Dinner - salad or grain bowls*4S$10.25S$41.00
Total for a week of healthy meals


*Based on calculations from our Cost Comparison: Meal Prep Versus Buying Food guide.

Is eating healthy in Singapore really that expensive?

Type of mealCost for a week
Regular mealsS$114.62
Semi-healthy mealsS$129.65
Healthy mealsS$171.10

Were you expecting a heftier price tag or a larger price difference? 

Based on our calculations, healthy meals cost S$56.48 (S$2.02 more per meal) more than regular meals and S$41.45 (S$1.48 more per meal) more than semi-healthy meals. To put things into perspective, that’s around four to five pints of beer or seven to nine cups of latte at your favourite cafe

The health benefits outweigh the difference in price

We dug deep and found this handy benchmark calculator on the Ministry of Health’s website. Think of it as a price guide for common conditions and diseases in Singapore. 

Here’s what we found: 

Condition and level of severityBenchmark inpatient treatment cost (public hospitals, with subsidy)Benchmark inpatient  treatment cost (private hospitals, unsubsidised)
Diabetes, without severe complicationsS$854S$6,766
Diabetes, with severe complicationsS$1,590NA
High blood pressure, without severe complicationsS$574S$4,764
Heart disease, blockage of heart vessels without severe complicationsS$684S$6,809
Heart disease, bypass NASurgeon fee: S$16,050 to S$25,000
Anaesthetist fee: S$3,470 to S$5,050
Stoke, blood clot or bleeding in brain without severe complicationsS$1,648S$9,275
Stoke, blood clot or bleeding in brain with severe complicationsS$2,224S$23,335
Kidney failure, without severe complicationsS$1,040S$5,394

Prices above only include the standard doctor's attendance fee, ward charges, medication and tests. While they might look affordable, do note that they do not include any medication or medical care pre- or post-treatment, which can add up to thousands of dollars over the years. 

Apart from that, there are also priceless intangibles like the hassle you’ll have to go through to plan your appointments and the mindless time spent waiting for your turn at the doctor’s office.

Eating healthy may not be a cure-all, but studies have shown that it can significantly reduce the chance of diet-related illnesses. So if you ask us, that additional S$41.45 or S$56.48 a week for healthy balanced meals definitely sounds like the better deal. 

Just keep going, consistency is key

Eating healthy is a lifestyle and not something you try for two weeks and expect its positive effects to last a lifetime — it doesn’t work this way. In fact, if you make dramatic dietary changes frequently you will be putting your body through unnecessary stress via the yo-yo diet.

To truly enjoy the health benefits of eating well, you need to make consistent and conscious choices that are sustainable. For example, if you want to cut down on your daily chocolate bar intake, my advice is not to go cold turkey because you would end up having an insatiable craving for it. Make gradual changes like consuming less chocolate (alternate days instead of every day) or going for higher quality chocolate made with less sugar.

At the end of the day, we are only human and it is normal to fall off the healthy eating bandwagon and go on a bender once in a while. What matters is that you do not give up and plan for your next meal to be a balanced one. 

Tips to manage your healthy eating budget

Places to get cheaper healthy food

Healthier doesn’t mean more expensive; you just have to know where to look. 

There are tonnes of salads or grain bowls that cost less than S$8 per serving. This is especially so if you happen to be staying or working near the Central Business District or a large business park.

Better yet, sign up for a subscription meal plan with Nutrify Meals, Yummy Bros or Lean Bento so you don’t have to worry about planning for your next meal. 

Having said that, since we are all working from home, the cheapest way to eat healthy is to prepare them yourself. Based on our calculations, preparing your own costs half of what you would pay over the counter. 

Promo codes for healthier meals

It pays to make better dietary choices that, in this case, save you a couple of dollars. Here are a few promo codes that you can enjoy when you choose healthier meal alternatives: 

Platform: WHYQ
Promo code: WG4OFF
What it does: Get S$4 off on selected items marked ‘Wholegrains’.
Additional remarks: Limited to the first 1,500 redemptions only. No minimum spend required. 
Expiry date: 31 December 2021

Platform: foodpanda
Promo code: MFMONDAY
What it does: Get free delivery when you order from selected vegetarian restaurants on Mondays.
Additional remarks: Minimum spend of S$18 required. 
Expiry date: 31 August 2021

You could save even more on your food delivery, takeouts and groceries when you spend on the right card. Apply for one today with us and you stand to receive cash or attractive gifts! 

*Rewards may change at any time. Terms and conditions apply. 

Read these next: 
The Real Cost Of Fitness In Singapore
The Real Cost: Does Making Your Own Lunch Save You Money?
7 Affordable Home Gym Essentials For Small Spaces
Cost Comparison: Meal Prep Versus Buying Food
Cost Comparison: Juice Machines Versus Buying

A lover of gin and all things Nigella Lawson, Geralyne’s constantly trying to adult like a pro. She spends most of her leisure time serving fur-babies and doing as many mountain climbers as she possibly can.


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