Tips for eating healthier at CNY gatherings, reunion dinners
Goodies, snacks and sweet drinks are a common sight during Chinese New Year.
It is difficult to reject them, especially when they are offered by enthusiastic hosts and friends.
These festive treats are typically high in calories and sugar but low in nutritional value.
Still, it is possible to enjoy delicious yet healthy reunion dinners and more in the upcoming Year of the Pig, says Ms Ho Pey Ying, a dietitian at SingHealth Polyclinics.
How do you avoid sweet drinks and snacks during visits?
Never visit hungry. If you do, it may lead to overindulgence.
Portioning out your snacks on a smaller plate instead of grabbing directly from the container will also help to curb bingeing.
A good way to control your caloric intake is to opt for sugar-free beverages, which include no-sugar-added green tea or oolong tea, Chinese tea, lemon water or diet sodas. Sweetened beverages, such as soft drinks or fruit juices, should be consumed in moderation.
What are some healthier options for Chinese New Year snacks and goodies?
Traditional Chinese New Year goodies are generally caloric dense and poor in nutrients, which may lead to weight gain and a bigger waistline if taken in excessive amounts.
Take a healthier approach with fresh fruits during gatherings, like mandarin oranges, pomelos, pineapples, apricots, pomegranates and grapes.
Fruits are packed with dietary fibre and antioxidants which can keep you healthy yet satisfied. Natural dried fruits without added sugar can be healthier snacks, but dried fruits contain more calories than fresh fruits, so limit it to small portions.
Nuts and seeds are healthier snack options as well. They contain healthy fats, dietary fibre and protein.
However, over-consumption can lead to excessive calorie intake. Limit them to a handful a day. The healthier choice of nuts and seeds can be unsalted, roasted or baked, and avoid those coated with sugar.
What should I do if I'm the one preparing the food?
Opt for a healthier reunion dinner by including vegetables in your dishes. A healthier meal packed with vegetables increases one's intake of dietary fibre, as well as vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that are beneficial for health.
Add vegetables to meat dishes as this will introduce more nutrients and also make them more appetising.
Choose lean meat and skinless poultry over fatty meat, and trim off visible fat before cooking to further cut back on calories.
Include a fish dish in your reunion dinner as fish contains healthy fats that are beneficial for heart health.
Use healthier cooking methods such as steaming, grilling, oven-baking, stewing and stir-frying with less oil to reduce the amount of fat used.
Replace salt with herbs and spices to marinate and season your food, as this will help reduce the amount of sodium in your dishes.
End the reunion dinner with a fresh fruit platter for dessert.
How do we make yusheng healthier?
This is a dish that cannot be missed at any Chinese New Year gathering, but with some modification, it can be made healthier, with a reduced risks of food poisoning.
Add more fresh fruits and vegetables. Replace plum sauce with fresh lime juice, lemon juice or balsamic vinegar and choose thin rice crackers or whole wheat crackers over deep-fried ones.
To prevent food-borne illnesses, use cooked seafood, such as scallop, abalone and lobster instead of raw fish.
Raw food can be contaminated by parasites and bacteria. Potentially harmful bacteria, such as salmonella, listeria and vibrio can be found in raw fish and can cause food poisoning.
Symptoms of food poisoning include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhoea.
Those with a weak immune system, such as young children, the elderly and pregnant women, are more susceptible to infections, so they should avoid raw food.