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Enjoy Your Rice Dumplings Without the Guilt in Dragon Boat Festival

Michelle Lee, HK BioTek Intern

Near the Dragon Boat Festival, we always want to enjoy some Dragon Boat dumplings and watch the dragon boat race. Many people realize that the rice dumplings are high in calories and fat, which can easily lead to obesity and health problems. Doctors and dietitians recommend that adults eat up to one rice dumpling per day, and children should set the limit to half rice dumpling per day. If you inadvertently eat one or two more, the calories will far exceed the standard. You will need to exercise for certain hours to burn out the calories!

The main ingredients of traditional rice dumplings are glutinous rice, pork, egg yolks, peanuts, mushrooms, etc. Among the ingredients, glutinous rice is particularly indigestible and has a high glycemic index (GI), which is generally not recommended for diabetic patients. Some savory rice dumplings are also added with high-sodium processed foods such as Jinhua ham, salted egg yolk and bacon. Eating rice dumplings unlimitedly will definitely increase your blood pressure.

In addition to the common traditional rice dumplings, now there are more available special rice dumpling options in the market, such as crystal rice dumplings and vegetarian rice dumplings. Facing too many rice dumpling choices, how should we choose the low-calorie rice dumplings?

The "Five Principles" of Eating Rice Dumplings Healthily

  1. Reduce calories: Different rice dumplings have different calories depending on its size and ingredients inside. Citizens can choose rice dumplings with smaller sizes and relatively lower calories. You can also refer to various online calorie tables or check the nutrition label on the packages of rice dumplings (i.e. for rice dumplings purchased from chain stores).

  2. Choose the ingredients carefully: For example, a medium-sized savory rice dumpling (weighs 253 grams) has calories that equal to the calories of a main meal (about 455 kcal). If we make rice dumplings at home, it is suggested to choose lean meat or reduce the amount of savory food ingredients to reduce fat intake.

  3. Rice dumpling as an alternative meal: Many people eat savory dumplings during the meal. It is recommended to reduce the amount of grains in meals, such as rice and noodles, to avoid excessive intake of calories. Or we can directly replace meals with dumplings. Noted that if we eat rice dumplings to replace our regular meals, one piece of rice dumpling would be the upper limit for one day.

  4. Consume rice dumplings with fruits and vegetables: Although rice dumplings can be used to replace meal food, the dietary fiber content in rice dumplings is low. It is recommended to eat rice dumplings with vegetables and fruits to replenish the lack of dietary fiber and help with digestion.

  5. Dip with less sauce: Many people like dipping rice dumplings in sauces when eating savory rice dumplings, whereas dipping sugars when eating sweet rice dumplings. However, these practices will increase the intake of sodium and sugar, and raise the risks of obesity and chronic diseases, such as diabetes. The glutinous rice in savory rice dumplings has been slightly fried, and the oil of the fatty pork has already been incorporated into the ingredients with enhanced taste. It is suggested to reduce dipping rice dumplings in seasonings and prefer the original flavor.

Tips for making homemade Dragon Boat Festival rice dumplings with healthy and tasty ingredients

We can cook rice dumplings by steaming instead of frying. Fatty pork and pork belly in fillings are the most fattening. Why don’t we replace it with lean meat, skinless chicken or konjac? Moreover, flavourful ingredients, e.g. mushrooms and scallops, can be added instead of Jinhua ham for seasoning. In addition, the salted egg yolk in rice dumplings contains high amounts of bad cholesterol and saturated fat. You may try to replace the egg yolk with chestnut, pumpkin or sweet potato, to reduce the intake of unhealthy fats. Glutinous rice in savory rice dumplings has strong stickiness and it is not easy to digest. We can replace glutinous rice with grains, peas and legumes, to increase dietary fiber intake and reduce greasy feeling simultaneously.

Sharing your rice dumplings with others, or making rice dumplings in smaller proportions, also can be one of the ways to reduce calorie intake. After enjoying the delicious rice dumplings, pair it with a cup of tea to rinse away the greasiness in your mouth, and to promote food digestion. Parents may wish to make rice dumplings with their children. Parents can introduce the healthy ingredients of rice dumplings that are suitable for children. Enjoying the family time of making their own rice dumplings, parents can create stronger parent-child relationships. In this process, parents can teach their children the nutrients and nutrition content in rice dumplings.

"New" rice dumplings providing healthier choices in the market

In recent years, some healthy and creative rice dumplings have emerged. Chinese herbs and healthy ingredients are newly added to rice dumplings to reduce the oil and sugar, and increase dietary fiber content. “Purple rice dumplings" are currently popular, actually it refers to black glutinous rice. The protein, vitamin, dietary fiber and some mineral contents are higher than ordinary glutinous rice. Many shops and hotel groups have introduced plant-based meat rice dumplings, instead of traditional pork rice dumplings, to cater the needs of vegetarians. People may consider these healthy alternatives during the Dragon Boat Festival.


Both adults and childs should not consume too much rice dumplings under the festive vibe. And we should do more exercise to burn out the excess calories. The salt and fat of rice dumplings can be controlled if you make your own rice dumplings at home. If you purchase rice dumplings from stores, you should control your appetite and just taste a bit for the sake of health. When we are eating rice dumplings, some vegetables and fruits would be helpful to achieve the goal of balanced nutrition and promote intestinal digestion.


  1. Glutinous Rice Dumplings

  2. Eat Rice Dumplings the Healthy Way

  3. Nutritionist’s Health Tips for Enjoying Rice Dumplings the Healthy Way

  4. Homemade - Rice Dumplings for Dragon Boat Festival

  5. A bak zhang has more calories than 3 goreng pisang. How do you make sure you can indulge in it guilt-free?

  6. How to eat rice dumplings that are high in calories and difficult to digest so that they don't lose weight?

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