Once we sit down and help ourselves generously to some pen cai or pineapple tarts during Chinese New Year, the primal mind (in actuality, the orbitofrontal cortex — one of the pleasure centres in the brain) takes over, and we are gripped by the impulse to eat as much as possible.

Healthy Eating Tip 1: Practice Mindful Eating

Do not give in and always practice mindful eating. “Limit your ‘all-you-can-eat’ or ‘only-once-a-year’ mentality,” says Ms Teoh Soh Suan, a dietitian with the National Healthcare Group Polyclinics.

You can control your intake by taking simple steps. “Use smaller plates when dining so that you do not overload a bigger plate with excessive food,” Ms Teoh advises. 

In addition, remember to eat according to serving sizes recommended by the Health Promotion Board’s My Healthy Plate guidelines: a quarter plate of meat (and others), a quarter plate of brown rice and/ or wholemeal bread, and the remaining half plate should be fruit and vegetables. 

Drink plenty of water during the day and practice mindful eating. Pause during your meal to monitor your hunger. “Eat until you feel 80 per cent full, and do not force yourself to finish leftover foods,” Ms Teoh says.

Easier said than done? Maybe. But before you start feasting this festive season, stop and take a moment to remember that those calories gained are not as easily shed. Gong xi fa cai! 

Healthy Eating Tip 2: Avoid ‘Sinful’ Food

  • Avoid dishes high in fat, especially saturated fat. This can come from fatty meat or poultry skin or from deep frying or coconut milk in sauces.
  • Braised pork belly, or just about any dish made with meat that is high in fat, should be replaced with leaner cuts.

Healthy Eating Tip 3: Go for ‘Good’, Healthy Food

  • Boiled, grilled or steamed dishes such as fish are healthier options.
  • Vegetables are a must — chap chai is a good choice.
  • Traditional yu sheng can be a healthy dish, but only if you limit the oil, sugary sauces and fried crackers.​

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