One of the best things to look forward to every Chinese New Year – aside from getting ang pow – is the delectable festive food indulgences.
From all the cookie-munching during house-visiting to the all-time favourite dishes you just can’t miss at family and friends’ reunions, it is no surprise that most of us tend to gain a little, if not a lot, festive weight during this occasion.
This is especially if we really celebrate the entire 15 days of the New Year.
But the tight jeans and pretty dresses that we can no longer fit into are not the main issue of concern.
Most of these tasty festive treats can turn into health threats when over-indulged in, especially if they contain high amounts of salt, sugar and fats.
While going on a diet this, or any, Chinese New Year is probably not really something most of us can achieve, we can control the damage by making smart choices to save us from any post-overindulgent regrets.
This can be done by practicing moderation, making healthier food choices, and getting in some form of exercise and physical activity whenever you are able to.
Let’s take a look at a few popular Chinese New Year delicacies that are satisfying to the taste buds, but contain high amount of fats, sugar and salt.
Lap mei fan
This is a popular dish at Chinese New Year reunion dinners and is prized for its high fat content.
Also known as waxed meat claypot rice, this dish is made with different types of waxed meat, as well as Chinese pork sausage and Chinese duck or goose liver sausage.
As the main ingredients are processed meat, this dish contains high amounts of salt and saturated fats, which consist mainly of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol.
If you are making this dish at home, try opting for healthier alternatives, such as using fresh and lean meat instead, and eating it with a balanced serving of vegetables on the side.
If you’re eating this in a restaurant, then make sure to eat more vegetables as the soluble fibre in the greens may help to lower the bad cholesterol.
Similar to jerky, this Chinese-style sweet-savoury barbecued preserved meat is an all-time favourite snack amongst the Chinese.
It is often eaten either on its own or with bread as a sandwich filling.
Made out of processed meat and internal organs from animal sources, bak kwa contains high salt, sugar and saturated fats.
One piece (90g) of bak kwa gives you about 370kcal of energy.
Its high fat content comes from the minced meat, which is often the fatter part of the meat, rather than lean mince, to provide tenderness and flavour.
There is no healthy way to enjoy this snack aside from practicing moderation.
Always keep in mind that high consumption of saturated fats will lead to the increase of bad cholesterol in our body, which increases our risk for heart disease.
Duck meat is among the most flavourful poultry meats and roasted duck is a favourite dish among the Chinese.
Eating the skin by itself in the popular dish, peking duck roll, pretty much equals to consuming the part of the duck with the highest level of saturated fat.
Try going for the lean meat should you enjoy this tasty choice of poultry as it contains less saturated fat, and eat it together with more greens.
Also, for a healthier choice, do not pair eating this with a sweet or fizzy drink that is high in sugar content. Instead, take plain Chinese tea or water with it.
Do not underestimate the diminutive size of these fan-shaped snacks.
Kuih kapit, also known as love letters, gets its taste mainly from the high amount of coconut milk or santan used to make it. Coconut milk contains high levels of saturated fats that raise the bad cholesterol in our bodies.
As these treats are small in size and rather addictive, we tend to pop a little too many into our mouth without much control or knowing when exactly to stop munching.
Four pieces of this snack (50g) totals up to 210 calories.
So, next time, instead of snacking on them directly out of the tin and losing count of how many you’ve eaten, put them onto small serving dishes where you can control exactly how many you eat.
Health is wealth
Let’s face the facts, practising self-control and moderation in the face of a festivity with so much good food can be tough.
But there are ways to help balance out this short period of overindulgence.
Increasing your physical activity is one method.
Don’t just sit around chatting with your relatives all the time, get up and move from group to group to socialise more, remain standing up while you chat, walk around the house or garden you are visiting, help with the serving or cleaning up, and of course, keep up your regular exercise routine, whether it be going to the gym or walking around the park.
You can also try taking foods or drinks that are rich in plant sterols to help lower bad cholesterol. Research shows that consuming 1.2g of plant sterols daily can help to lower cholesterol levels by about seven percent.
By lowering bad cholesterol, one can reduce potential health risks and heart disease.
And do not disregard getting your regular medical check-ups as a precautionary step to ensure your good health and counter any unwanted health issues.
High cholesterol levels and heart disease do not discriminate between young or old and fit or unfit. Remember that at the end of the day, the greatest prosperity that one can ask for is good health.
And prevention is always better than a cure.