ZERRIN’s Shared Journeys series spotlights individuals from various walks of life. Their backgrounds and experiences may differ, but they have all developed one thing in common: a strong sense of connectedness to themselves, to others and to the world around them. This edition, we chat to Charlotte Mei, a nutritionist, TV and radio host based in Singapore who is passionate about green living.
Hey Charlotte! A qualified nutritionist, host and tv personality – you wear many hats! Tell us about your journey so far.
Well, it’s only been four years since I graduated with my degree in nutrition, but it feels way longer! My passion for food and health drove me to pursue a degree in nutrition in the UK – thoroughly enjoyed studying there! I worked for a year at Kellogg’s in Manchester, but the cold weather and I simply didn’t agree.
I came back to Singapore where I worked as a Nutritionist conducting public health talks, developing healthy recipes, conducting cooking classes – I even worked on a local farm for a while!
Ever since I was younger, I’ve always wanted to be in the media, but my mum said I had to get a degree first — a wise choice!) I never ended up pursuing it, but it self-materialised in my second year after moving back to Singapore. I was on screen for a cooking competition between home cooks and professional chefs throughout Southeast Asia, was discovered and then went on to host my very own food show CRAVE on national television. Since late 2017, I’ve been on the radio hosting Your Evening Escape on 938Now, where I also help my podcast covering anything and everything about food.
Tell us all about your new youtube channel Charlotte Mei.
The Charlotte Mei is where I introduce fuss-free, tasty and nutritious dishes to my community. Far too many (over 70%) of people in Singapore eat out on a daily basis, and my mission is to bring more people back into their kitchens to whip up simple and healthy dishes.
Who or what inspires you to do what you do?
My passion for food, people, and well-being keeps me going. On another note, its seeing the rising numbers of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity that inspire me to continue the work I do. Through my work I hope to bring about positive change.
What’s your take on the eco-movement?
I’m glad more people are talking about it now! That said, the concept of ‘living green’ has yet to be normalised, rather than being seen as an alternative lifestyle or something which only some people can be part of.
A few things I do at home for low-impact living: I use napkins (no tissue paper. My guests look at me funny!); instead of cling wrap and plastic ziplock bags, I use beeswax wraps and silicone ziplock bags; the water I use to wash vegetables would be collected to water my plants; letters which come in the mail that are printed only on one side are kept together with a binder clip and used for scrap paper (I have two massive piles now, and this has made me realise how much useless paper we receive!).
What are easy changes people can make to live a greener lifestyle?
It all begins with awareness and honesty. Look at your life from a third person’s perspective and spot the things that you tend to use a lot of. It could be plastic bottles, ziplock bags, straws, plastic bags — then try to find an alternative to replace it with. Buy a reusable bottle, get reusable silicone ziplock bags (I’m in love with them!), get a bunch of metal straws and put them in each bag you use (so you never have the excuse of forgetting to pack them), same thing with a reusable bag, etc! When it comes to living a greener lifestyle, it’s all about building habit.
Many of us find eating healthily in Singapore tough. What are your tips?
Make sure each meal you consume is balanced with good sources of carbohydrates, protein and vegetables. I would say half your plate should be filled with vegetables, a quarter with protein and a quarter with complex carbohydrates.
When eating out, I often request for less oil, half the rice, more vegetables, etc. Your meal is yours to customise!
I also find it hard to find healthy snacks in Singapore when I’m out and about. Most of them are either deep-fried or laden with sugar and salt. Your best bet is to pack your own! I always have a little tupperware of mixed nuts, a fruit in my bag, or some of my homemade energy balls!
Tell us one of your favourite meals to cook at home.
A warm comforting one-pot stew is my favourite thing to cook! I never have a recipe for this as I rely on whatever scraps I have in my fridge, and a bunch of spices I keep in my pantry. I love to bulk my stews up with beans/chickpeas and lots of hardy vegetables!
Restaurant recommendations in Singapore?
Oooh this is a tough one! For local food, I like Samy’s Curry, Jin Ji Braised Duck and Kway Chap. Casual food, Artichoke, Soup Restaurant and Caffe Fernet. For a high end treat, Esquina, Le Binchotan and Ganglamedo (they have amazing Tibetan vegetarian food!)
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Susannah believes better design can help create a brighter future. A former magazine editor, she now runs ZERRIN and works at the intersection of consumers, brands and sustainability advocacy.