Chinese New Year (CNY) celebrations might be a little different this year with smaller gatherings, fewer house visits and silent Lo Hei. However, some things will always remain the same, like bonding with your family over auspicious foods and sending CNY greetings to your friends and loved ones. With scaled-down celebrations this year, why not make some conscious effort to indulge in your CNY dishes a little healthier during the festive period?
In this article, we will be sharing with you some tips on how to “healthify” three commonly eaten CNY dishes (some even deceptively high in calories including your CNY must-have – Yu Sheng).
1. Yu Sheng
What is Chinese New Year without Yu Sheng? Tossing Yu Sheng and shouting auspicious greetings are something to look forward to every CNY gathering. Although silent Lo Hei will be a thing this year, this traditional CNY dish is still not to be missed. Do not be deceived by this “vegetable dish”. One serving of Yu Sheng loads you with about 561 calories (which is what you may get from a bowl of your local favourites of Laksa or Mee Rebus!) Not to forget, Yu Sheng is usually just the appetiser to your main feast.
Although filled with vegetables, some of these vegetables are often pickled. This makes them high in preservatives and sugar. The oil and plum sauce drizzled on top as well as the heap of deep-fried crackers further contribute to the sugar and fat content of this dish.
Here are some tips for a healthier Yu Sheng:
- Replace the pickled vegetables with fresh ones such as purple cabbage and salad greens
- Add refreshing citrus fruits such as pomelo, grapefruit or orange instead of the usual candied citrus peel and melon
- Cut down on the oil and plum sauce. Adding naturally sweet fruits like mango, pear or berries can reduce the need for plum sauce to sweeten the dish. Alternatively, you can create your own sauce using some lime juice and a little honey.
- Use unsalted, baked nuts or multigrain crackers for the crunch in place of deep-fried crackers
Steamboat is a go-to meal for a fuss-free get-together with your family or friends. Some might feel that steamboats are healthy as the ingredients are just boiled in the broth. While steamboats can be healthy, it very much depends on the soup base, type of ingredients and dipping sauces that you choose. More often than not, the popular steamboat ingredients are processed food items like fish balls, meat balls and crab sticks which are high in salt content. To make things worse, consumers are now spoilt for choice with the wide variety of soup bases readily available on the market. These broths, especially so for the spicy ones, are usually packed with salt and fats.
Tips for a healthier and nutritious steamboat:
- Prepare the soup base using fresh vegetables and ingredients such as soy bean, radish, carrot, corn and mushrooms instead of using ready-packed soup stock.
- Choose lean meat such as chicken and fish over red meat and fatty cuts e.g. pork belly
- Cut down on processed foods and add more vegetables and fresh ingredients like tofu and mushrooms
- If you need, choose dipping sauces with the Healthier Choice symbol, as they are lower in salt content. Alternatively make your own dipping sauce using freshly chopped garlic, parsley or spring onions with a little soy sauce.
3. Pen Cai
This treasure pot is loved by many for its assortment of premium food ingredients such as abalone, sea cucumber, prawns, scallops and roast meat. Symbolising prosperity and wealth, it is extremely tempting to want to add as many luxurious delicacies as you can to this pot of goodness. However, beware of the saturated fats and cholesterol that come with it. Saturated fats add to the level of bad cholesterol in your body and increase the risk of heart diseases.
Tips for a less sinful Pen Cai:
- Go easy on the meat and seafood
- Choose leaner cuts of meat instead of fatty ones like roast pork
- Remove the skin and visible fats from your meat
- Don’t forget the vegetables! Line the pot with plenty of vegetables such as radish and cabbage for a more balanced meal. Top it up with some broccoli and carrots which can add a burst of colour to your dish
Good health is not granted with just CNY greetings alone. With the above healthy feasting tips in mind, let’s make the conscious effort to eat a little healthier this year. Don’t let the above healthy eating plans go to waste! Serve your family and guests with sugar-free beverages and end your reunion dinner with a fresh fruit platter for dessert. Remember! Your brain takes about 20 minutes to register that you are full. So, slow down during your meal and take time to engage in deep meaningful conversations with your loved ones over your intimate reunion celebration.