Healthy eating in Chinese New Year
HK BioTek Intern
Chinese New Year is the most important traditional Chinese festivals and is celebrated by every Chinese family in the world. It is the time for people to prepare and purchase different kinds of treats and foods, for both their reunion meal and hold the specific symbolic meaning. However, many traditional new year foods are quite greasy and not nutritious. Let’s see how we can avoid those hidden health-harmful foods and eat healthily in the coming year of the Tiger.
New Year Puddings
No matter you are eating out or purchasing processed puddings, do not underestimate their energy content! The common puddings we eat in Chinese New Year include Nian Gao, Coconut Milk Chinese Pudding and Water Chestnut Cake . These items are often high in fat, sugar and salt. A 100g of coconut milk Chinese pudding already contains 300Kcal with 12g of total fat and 21g of sugar, whose sugar content is equivalent to 4 teaspoons! For turnip pudding and taro pudding, they are both high in sodium and rich in carbohydrates as they are made with high-fat ingredients such as Chinese preserved sausages and preserved meat. They will greatly increase the energy content of the above Chinese puddings. Therefore, during the Chinese New Year, we should not replace our main meals with these high-energy puddings whilst these puddings should only be consumed very occasionally. Indeed, there is another healthier pudding called Osmanthus flower sweet pudding which has a relatively lower energy, fat and sodium content.
You can also prepare the puddings yourself with healthy cooking methods such as steaming, microwave heating, baking or pan-frying on non-sticky pan with a splash of oil to reduce unnecessary fat intake. DO NOT use fatty meat and preserved items for your puddings. Lean pork, dried shrimps and mushrooms are all good ingredients together with the puddings.
Do remember – we should avoid using too much condiments such as soy sauce and oyster sauce as they are high in salt.
Other than Chinese puddings, many conventional items and traditional snacks are also popular in the assorted snack box. However, most of them are very high in sugar, fat, and energy. Common examples include candies, cookies, chocolate and sweetened coconut shreds. There are large amounts of added sugar which we do not suggest people to consume excessively.
In addition, melon seeds, nuts, cashews, walnuts and pistachios are also hot items in the assorted snack box. Please remember, these items are still relatively high in fat and/or contain lots of salt and sugar. Dry-roasted nuts and seeds without added salt and sugar are the healthier options, yet they should only be eaten in moderation. Dried fruits without added sugar such as raisins, dried apricots and red dates can also replace those high-sugar snacks.
Apart from those aforementioned conventional items, Japanese rice crackers and non-deep-fried vegetable chips with no added salt and sugar could also be healthier options – more importantly, they are all delicious and nutritious as well!
Poon Choi is often served for family reunion dinner and new year feast. Poon Choi often contains lots of meats with very little vegetables and grains. This traditional dish is generally high in fat and salt since there are many high-fat foods and large amounts of sauce and seasonings added during the preparation of Poon Choi -the takeaway one, is commonly higher in fat and sodium. We should pay attention to the nutrition quality of the Poon Choi and avoid taking excessive amounts of fat and salt and hence to maintain a balanced diet.
Most of the foods in Poon Choi are meats and seafoods. Generally speaking, the quantities of these foods can easily exceed our recommended daily intake amongst these food groups. Therefore, when we order Poon Choi, it is recommended to order the one which is in an appropriate portion size with thorough considerations of the number of people consuming. The meat contained in Poon Choi are often brisket, pork knuckles and goose feet which are high in fat. When making an order from a restaurant, remember to choose the one with less high-fat and deep-fried items. You may ask the restaurant to replace those high-fat items with lean meats or other alternatives.
Also, the condiments used in Poon Choi are generally high in salt and are usually added in a large amount. You may ask the restaurant to provide you the sauces separately thereby reducing your sodium intake.
If you would like to add other foods to the Poon Choi, you could consider vegetables which give you a good amount of fiber and nutrients that make your healthier (and less guilty). In addition, it is important to consume grains (e.g. white or brown rice) with your Poon Choi as we should grains and vegetables the most according to the Food Pyramid principles.
Other New Year Foods
Crispy triangles, fried sesame balls and sesame cookies are all fried treats which are popular in Chinese New Year which, are high in fat and energy. It is recommended to choose relatively low-fat items and crispy snacks such as rice cakes and popcorn for replacements.
Sweetened glutinous are famous items eaten during Chines new Year. As these items are filled mostly with lotus seed paste and sesame paste, you should be cautious of its sugar and fat content and better not consume excessively.