Thinking of what to serve your guests this Chinese New Year?
We look at 5 popular but often calorie-laden CNY goodies, and suggest ways to enjoy them or substitute them with interesting and healthier options.
Doing so can keep your health goals on track, and also inspire your family and friends to adopt a healthier lifestyle this festive season!
1. Pineapple tarts
What would Chinese New Year be without your fair share of pineapple tarts? They are a firm festive favourite. However, these sweet, chewy treats are laden with fat, salt and sugar. Knowing that one pineapple tart is around 82 calories should stop you from eating too many in one sitting!
Alternative: Grilled pineapple kebabs with honey and lime
Surprise your guests by serving up these tasty and chewy kebabs. It is a fruity alternative and is almost fat-free. You still get the pineapple flavour but in a much healthier way along with the sweetness of the honey and tanginess of the lime.
2. Bak kwa
Probably one of the most popular treats on the festive calendar, this yummy favourite packs around 300 calories a square. With the tendency to grab ‘just one more’, calories can really add up. It also packs a whopping 32g of sugar per square too, so finding a healthier option makes sense.
Alternative: Honey chicken slices
Need something savoury and healthy to replace the bak kwa without missing out on the candied taste? This healthy alternative is just the ticket. Thinly slice some fresh raw chicken, coat with thin layer of honey and place under the grill, turning to grill both sides. Or skewer for added ease and splendid presentation. It is home-cooked healthy goodness without so much of the salt, sugar or fat.
3. Kueh bangkit
Remember eating and loving these goodies as a child? High in sugar and saturated fats, they aren’t something you want to be eating too many of over the festive period. However, if you simply cannot resist these delicious goodies, keep portions small and limit yourself to 2 pieces in each sitting.
Alternative: Oatmeal cookies
Cut out the processed sugar and ‘unhealthy’ fats with healthy yet yummy home-cooked cookies. The sweetness comes from the fruit preserves rather than processed sugar, and they are lower in calories. With a little research on healthy recipe sites, you’ll find an easy recipe to cook in no time – proof that you can have your ‘cake’ and eat it too!
4. Fried pork dumplings
We all know that fried is not the best choice when following a healthy food plan, especially when you are trying to keep off the pounds. So this Chinese New Year, opt for a steamed dumpling instead. This health tip applies to any fried treat.
Alternative: Steamed dumplings
The steamed dumpling is just as tasty, and knowing you have made a healthier choice will make each bite all the more enjoyable. If you opt for a vegetarian version, you can cut down the calories consumed by as much as 75%!
5. Processed peanuts snacks
Peanuts provide protein and vitamins, along with healthy monounsaturated fat. So in small servings, they provide a healthy snack. However, even a small serving contains a high level of calories, and when you combine that with salted and roasted processed varieties, too much is not a good thing. Because we all know these little bullets are difficult to pop once and stop, what can you serve instead?
Alternative: Almonds and edamame
Seek an alternative snack that will be equally satisfying but without the added calorie punch. Almonds contain healthy fats, fibre, protein, magnesium and vitamin E. They are low in carbs and high in both protein and fibre, and help to reduce your hunger so you eat less over the festive period overall. But like anything, moderation is key.
Another snack just as irresistible as peanuts is edamame. Serve these young soy beans in their pods so they are fun to eat. Edamame is rich in calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin C and E, riboflavin and many more.
Additional tips to celebrate CNY guilt-free when visiting
- Eat healthy before you go visiting so you are less likely to overeat those tempting goodies.
- Bring some healthy food choices with you when visiting. The tradition of giving mandarin oranges at Chinese New Year is a good one!
- Pace yourself. With multi-course meals, the tendency is to overeat.
- Eat slowly so you eat less. Give your brain a chance to register you are full.
- Limit the carbs and go for more vegetables where you can.
- Treat yourself to a few of those CNY favourites, but control portion sizes.
- Alcoholic, sweet and fizzy drinks aren’t your friends. Opt for Chinese tea or water, and drink more liquid so you eat less.
- Maintain your exercise regimen throughout the Chinese New Year period.
Article reviewed by Jennifer Sim, dietitian at Parkway East Hospital
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