The gastronomic indulgence that comes with Lunar New Year can last up to 15 days! For many, it can be a festive master class in snacking, eating decadent festive dishes and catching up with your loved ones.
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to prevent the pounds from piling on during this festive period. Here are some tempting treats you will encounter, and suggestions for less fattening but equally tasty alternatives:
1. Pineapple Tarts
Small enough to pop into your mouth, one delectable piece of pineapple tart can encourage you to have two or three more, until you realise you have eaten half a box of them. While one piece weighs only about five grams and contains 23 calories, having eight of those bite-sized tarts means you are taking in 184 calories in total just for a pre-meal snack!
The alternative: it’s okay to have a bite or two before a meal. But if you are hungering for a titbit, try dried apricots, prunes and raisins instead.
2. Nian Gao
A glutinous rice cake popular during family gatherings, you are likely to have just a slice or two of nian gao. But one serving can add up to 565 calories, a staggering amount for a snack.
The alternative: if you still feel like having something sweet after a slice of nian gao, a mandarin orange is an appropriately festive alternative.
3. Bak kwa
One piece of bak kwa can total up to 228 calories, but this sweet, sticky, smoky barbecued meat certainly whets your appetite for more. Two pieces of bak kwa is equivalent to consuming two bowls of yong tau foo, a dish of stuffed tofu, served with a sauce or as a soup dish. That’s nearly two meals at one go!
The alternative: why bother joining the snaking queue for bak kwa during the CNY period when you can make your own? Healthier, homemade bak kwa recipes are freely available on the internet, and you can control the amount of salt, sugar and soy sauce that makes up the savoury marinade.
Many gatherings involve a steamboat meal, which is relatively easy to prepare and can cater to a large group of relatives. While the idea of a soup-based meal sounds nutritious, it also depends on what’s bubbling away in your hot pot. The sodium content in a steamboat meal is often far more than you should consume each day, thanks to processed ingredients such as fishballs, sausages and cheese tofu squares.
The alternative: Use vegetables to make the soup base instead of resorting to high-sodium and processed stock cubes. Cabbage, corn, carrots and honey dates add a natural sweetness to the soup and are great high-fibre additions to your meal. Throw in fresh ingredients such as lean meat and seafood, instead of processed foods like cuttlefish balls, crab sticks and sausages. And don’t forget to turn off the heat after 90 minutes; dinner conversations over steamboat can also last for hours while the soup boils merrily away and continuously, which may result in unhealthy and high nitrite levels.1,2
5. Soft Drinks
Sweetened beverages and sodas are staples at family gatherings. However, an average can of sugary drink contains between 15 and 18 teaspoons of sugar and upwards of 240 calories.
The alternative: skip the fruit punch and opt for Chinese tea instead. You are likely to get thirsty easily at such gatherings when you are catching up or having prolonged conversations with friends and relatives about your plans for the Year of the Monkey, so best to choose a healthier thirst quencher.