Gong Xi Gong Xi...
Enjoy the Lunar New Year festivities without compromising your health. By Nutritionist Kohila Govindaraju.
It’s that time of the year again, the most significant few days in the Chinese calendar – the Lunar New Year. It’s a time to get together with friends and family and eat, drink and be merry... in a health-conscious way.
First up, the Reunion Dinner on New Year’s Eve, when families gather around a sumptuous meal. A part of the meal is Lo Hei, when everyone gathers around a plate of raw fish salad (Yu Sheng) with shredded ingredients, which are tossed into the air with chopsticks while chanting auspicious wishes. The main ingredients are fresh fish (salmon or mackerel), shredded radish, carrot, cucumber, green yam, red bell pepper, red yam, ginger, pok chui crackers (deep fried flour crackers), lime leaves, Chinese parsley, chopped peanuts, toasted sesame seeds, and 5-spice powder with plum sauce dressing.
You can plan your Yu Sheng with healthy ingredients like grated vegetables, rich in vitamins and minerals, fibre and phytochemicals, and salmon or mackerel, high in omega fatty acids!
Here’s a healthy Yu Sheng recipe (6-8 servings)
100g of fish
2 cups each of grated carrots, radish, cucumber
half cup of sliced bell pepper
half cup of chopped Chinese parsley
1-2 tsp pickled ginger
1 cup of pok chui crackers (or whole wheat crackers)
1 teaspoon of five spice powder.
Limit the amount of plum sauce, oil and pok chui crackers to reduce the amount of fat and calories. You can dress your salad with 1/4 cup of plum sauce, 2 tbsp of lemon juice, 1 tsp corn oil, 1 tsp sesame oil and a pinch of five spice powder.
What else is on the menu?
The most common foods eaten during this festival are fish (steamed/boiled/ braised), dumplings (cabbage and radish), spring rolls (with vegetables, meats), and Nian gao (glutinous rice cake), Tang yuan (sweet rice balls whose round shape is associated with reunion and being together) and Chung-show myen (long noodles symbolising longevity).
Tangerines,mandarin-oranges and pomelo are the fruits commonly enjoyed during Chinese New year.
There’s a continuous flow of snacks during these festive days - pineapple tarts, Nian gao, prawn rolls, bak kwa, peanuts, cashew nuts, Tang yuan ... and these are are also rich in calories. Try to limit your snacking to just 2 pieces per snack.
Do you know that 5 pineapple tarts are almost 400 calories and a slice of pork bak kwa is 180 calories? Bak kwa is high in calories, sugar and sodium, too. So, make bak kwa into bite-sized pieces, and limit yourself to 3-4 pieces. Three tiny, cute Tang yuan rice balls are packed with 210 calories.
To enjoy the festivities while staying healthy, keep the following tips in mind:
- Enjoy the celebration by starting with vegetables and fruits.
- Limit your intake by serving yourself on a small plate.
- Limit your intake of deep fried rolls and choose the steamed dumplings with vegetables instead.
- Grab unsalted peanuts or go for a handful of mixed nuts (baked almonds, cashews and peanuts).
- Those with hypertension should refrain from eating high sodium bak kwa.
- Those with diabetes, no worries, you can still enjoy a slice of Nian gao (20g) or a Tang yuan with your family!
Being mindful about what you are eating will help you enjoy the food during the festival without having to compromise on your health. Eat at regular intervals, enjoy the New Year goodies in smaller portions and drink plain water instead of canned drinks, which are loaded with sugar.
Do exercise everyday to burn off the extra calories!