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Keeping to a balanced diet during Chinese New Year can be a challenge. Here's how you can fully enjoy the Lunar New Year celebrations while keeping to healthy lifestyle choices.
Most traditional Lunar New Year goodies are packed with sugar and fat, with little nutritional value.
To have a healthy start to the new year, here are some tips when shopping:
Choose Foods with the Healthier Choice Symbol or the Healthier Snack Symbol as these foods indicate healthier options which are lower in sugar, salt or fat.
Choose sugar-free sweets or auspicious dried fruit without added salt or sugar such as dried apricots or dried apple rings over highly sugared treats (e.g. chocolate and candies).
Buy beverages which have reduced sugar, or are sugar-free.
The reunion dinner signifies the end of the lunar calendar where family members gather to usher in the New Year with a variety of must have food. So why not end the year on a good note by making the reunion dinner a healthier one.
Include Vegetable Dishes
Use a variety of colourful vegetables (e.g. carrots, leek, green leafy vegetables, cabbage and capsicums) in your cooking to add nutrients and beneficial phytochemicals for the health of the family.
Include a Fish Dish
Include a fish dish for heart health. It also symbolises abundance.
Choose Lean Meat and Skinless Poultry
Lean meat and skinless poultry are healthier choices over fatty meat.
Instead of white rice or beehoon, serve unpolished rice or brown rice beehoon. These whole-grain foods are abundant in nutrients and fibre.
Use Sauces / Marinades with the Healthier Choice Symbol
These sauces/marinades are lower in salt hence will help to reduce the sodium content of your dishes.
Choose Healthier Cooking Methods
When cooking, choose healthier cooking methods such as boiling, steaming, grilling, or stir-frying with less oil to reduce the amount of fat used.
Make Healthier Desserts
Serve fresh fruit for desserts. Create an auspicious Asian fruit salad with fresh mandarin oranges, pineapples, pomelo and/or dragon fruit.
Related: Choosing Healthier Festive Foods: Christmas and Chinese New Year
Many of the festive treats are high in sugar and fat. Some of these snacks can even contain calories similar to a small meal. Hence, you should consume them in moderation and/or increase your physical activity level to prevent unwanted weight gain.
You can use the following tips to help moderate your intake of festive treats:
Limit your intake by portioning out the festive treats on a small plate.
Choose to consume more fresh fruit such as mandarin oranges and less of festive treats.
Share your festive treats with your friends and relatives.
The table below shows the calories of various New Year goodies, and the equivalent amount of physical activity needed to expend them:
Food (per serving)
Jogging Duration (minutes)
Bak Kwa, Pork (1 slice, 94g)
Love Letters (3 rolls, 39g)
Peanut Crackers (1 small plate, 88g)
Pineapple Tarts (3 pieces, 20g)
Twisted Cookies (3 pieces, 12g)
Calories are taken from HPB Online. *Values are based on a 60kg man.
Do you know that Yu Sheng is eaten during the Lunar New Year to signify an increase in abundance? This is indeed true in terms of calories as a typical serving of yu sheng may contain similar calories to a main meal.
This is mainly due to the amount of oil and plum sauce added, as vegetables and raw fish are relatively low in calories. Do also take note of the food safety issues of consuming raw fish as some individuals should avoid consuming them.
Yu Sheng can be made healthier by making some simple modifications. You can use the following tips to make your Yu Sheng healthier when eating out.
Ask for less oil to significantly reduce the calories.
Less Sauce and Pickles
Plum sauce and pickles are highly sweetened. Hence ask for less plum sauce and fewer pickles.
Less Flour Crisps (Golden Pillows)
As flour crisps are deep-fried, ask for less flour crisp to reduce the amount of fat.
More Fresh Vegetables
This will not only increase the amount of nutrients but also add a burst of freshness.
100g fresh salmon, thinly sliced
2 cups white radish, thinly shredded
2 cups carrot, thinly sliced
1 cup cucumber, thinly shredded
1 red capsicum, thinly sliced
1 tsp pickled ginger, thinly shredded
4 sprigs of fresh Chinese parsley
¼ cup of chopped peanuts, roasted and unsalted
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish
1 tbsp five spice powder
¼ cup whole-wheat crackers, crushed
½ cup of plum sauce
1 tbsp lemon juice
¼ cup of water
1 tsp peanut/ corn oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1/8 tsp five spice powder
To make the dressing, combine all dressing ingredients and set aside.
Arrange the fish slices in the centre of a large platter.
Place each type of vegetable in sections around the platter.
Sprinkle the pickled ginger, peanut, sesame seeds, parsley and whole-wheat crackers over the vegetables.
Pour the dressing evenly.
You are ready to toss for good health!
Members of the public should note that there are always risks involved in consuming raw food as harmful bacteria may be present. Those who wish to purchase ready-to-eat (RTE) raw fish dishes are advised to do so from retail food establishments that have separate processes to handle RTE raw fish from other raw food meant for cooking.
For more information please refer to NEA’s advisory on the consumption of raw fish.
Go for Healthier Options
Look out for foods and snacks with the Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS) for healthier options.
Use Healthier Cooking Methods
Prepare a healthy reunion dinner by incorporating healthier and/or fresh ingredients, as well as using healthier methods of cooking.
Have festive treats in moderation.
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This article was last reviewed on
Monday, January 5, 2015
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