Chinese New Year Snacks – How Much is Too Much?

Chinese New Year Snacks

Be it the buttery pineapple tarts or the spicy hae bee hiam rolls, there are bound to be that few Chinese New Year goodies that you cannot resist. However, some of these highly-addictive snacks can be high in calorie, fat and sugar. If you’re wondering what the recommended number of each snack per day is, we’ll let our expert Ms Bibi Chia, Principal Dietitian at Raffles Hospital, tell you more in this article!

Don’t despair at the numbers, as they are meant to act as a gauge for you to moderate your snack consumption. If you (like me) have wolfed down a few more than you should have, time to swap the lift for some stair-climbing to pay off that debt!

General Dietary Guidelines

CNY nuts and seeds

Before we get down to the numbers, here are a couple of general dietary guidelines to put our recommended daily sugar and fat consumption into context. Beyond Chinese New Year, these guidelines can also help to improve your eating habits!

Ms Bibi:

Sugar Intake

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends reducing daily intake of free sugars to less than 10% of your total energy intake. A further reduction to below 5% per day would provide additional health benefits. For an adult of normal BMI, 5% comes up to around 25 grams (6 teaspoons) of sugar.

Fat Intake

Shift your fat consumption away from saturated fats to unsaturated fats, and try to eliminate industrial trans fats. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends to reduce saturated fat to no more than 5% to 6% of your total calories. For an average adult, that’s about 11 to 13 grams of saturated fat per day.

1. Pineapple Tarts

Pineapple tarts

Recommended number per day: 2 

(186kcal, 7g fat, 12g sugar)

These buttery treats are a highlight during Chinese New Year! I would recommend limiting yourself to 2 pieces for snacking. If you can, choose tarts with lower sugar content. For those who bake, choose a lower sugar paste and make smaller tarts so that you can enjoy a few more pieces.

Ms Bibi:

2. Love Letters

Love letters

Recommended number per day: 4

(224kcal, 6g fat, 19g sugar)

Although love letters seem light and easy on the palate, they can add quite a bit to your diet! I would recommend keeping to 4 rolls a day.

Ms Bibi:

3. Bakkwa

Bakkwa

Recommended number per day: 1

(229kcal, 8g fat, 24g sugar)

Eat bakkwa sparingly! Having 1 piece of this salty sweet snack is enough to set you back by 24g of sugar alone.

Ms Bibi:

4. Kuih Bangkit

Kuih bangkit

Recommended number per day: 5

(115kcal, 5g fat, 20g sugar)

Kuih bangkit is all about that melt-in-your-mouth goodness. My recommendation is to stick to 5 pieces a day.

Ms Bibi:

5. Mini Dried Shrimp Rolls

Mini dried shrimp rolls

Recommended number per day: 5

(115kcal, 7g fat, 1g sugar)

Although hae bee hiam rolls might be lower in sugar, they are high in salt content. Try to stop at 5, or you’ll end up with too many hard-to-burn calories and artery-clogging saturated fat. To burn off a handful of 5 rolls, you can engage in skipping exercises for 15 minutes. Alternatively, vacuuming the house for 40 minutes does the trick as well.

Ms Bibi:

Q: Which Chinese New Year snacks tend to be lower in calories? Are these snacks also healthier?

Lower in calories generally means lower in sugar and fat. However, these snacks might be higher in sodium or salt content instead. Instead of looking for snacks that are lower in calories, I would recommend choosing healthier options such as nuts, seeds and dried fruits, or having smaller portions.

Ms Bibi:

Q: What happens short and long term if we have too many of these high calorie foods?

The short term effect of overeating sugary foods would be the spike of blood sugar levels, especially for diabetics and pre-diabetics. Other than that, the effects might still be low if we eat healthily immediately after the festive season. Long term over-consumption of high calorie, fatty foods might lead to obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol. This in term could cause heart problems and stroke.

Ms Bibi:

Q: What advice would you give everyone for the upcoming Chinese New Year season?

My suggestion is to prioritise your favourite Chinese New Year foods and eat those first. Also, prioritise the days you want to feast. Resume healthy eating and exercise as soon as you can!

Ms Bibi:

If you would like tips on how to eat healthier this Chinese New Year, read this article: Healthier Versions of your Top 3 Chinese New Year Food

 

This article was originally published on 31st January 2020. Last updated by Denyse Tang on 25th January 2022.

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