Chinese New Year, one of the most important celebrations in Hong Kong, is just around the corner! Like many holidays, much of it centers around bringing families together through food — often followed by weight gain and yet another (lunar) New Year’s resolution to lose weight.
Traditionally auspicious foods enjoyed during Chinese New Year are often higher in calories, fat, and carbs. Examples are dumplings, noodles, turnip cakes and sticky rice. However, depending on the preparation, these delicacies can be full of health benefits and might bring you not only health but also luck and prosperity!
Try these practical tips for your favourite CNY holiday meals so you don't get more prosperous around the waistline.
Chinese New Year Salad (Lo Hei - which means to "rise"), is a mix of colourful shredded vegetables such as cucumbers, carrots, radishes, and ginger. Heart-healthy raw salmon is often tossed together with the veggies as people shout out to the lunar new year, making this salad a truly delectable dish that truly brings good health and luck for the upcoming year. Try making this salad not only during CNY but year round to fulfill your daily recommended 5-9 servings of veggies.
Dumplings are a staple for many Chinese, particularly during CNY. Choose dumplings that are steamed or boiled over those that are fried. And try making vegetarian dumplings instead of ones stuffed with minced meat.
Fish is a symbol of abundance. Try preparing it by steaming, baking, or broiling and add flavour by using spices such as ginger, lemon grass, and other herbs instead of salt or oyster/ soy sauces. Fish is an excellent source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids that help maintain healthy brain and eye health.
Mandarin oranges and tangerines — both are symbolic of the lunar New Year. People rush to the flower markets to buy small potted trees and present these citrus fruits as a gift of abundance and fortune to relatives and friends. In fact, they are an excellent source of vitamins A and C as well. Eat em’ on their own or add some to your favourite salad.
Noodles symbolise longevity in Asian cultures. The longer the noodles, the longer the lifespan. Opt for buckwheat or soba noodles, which are good sources of protein, fibre, and iron. However, don’t forget to go easy on the sauce/dressing in order cut back on your sodium intake.
“Tray of Togetherness” symbolises togetherness and are traditionally filled with high fat and sugary snacks. Swap out the empty calorie items and replace em’ with some healthy snacks choices such as dried fruits and unsalted nuts and seeds such as almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds which are all good sources of fibre, calcium and healthy fat.
Apart from diet, inadequate exercise is another major factor for weight gain after the festive season – so stay active by going for a walk with your family after each feast. Shooting hoops, skipping rope, or playing catch are also great family activities.
Have a healthy, happy, and prosperous year of the monkey everyone!
GONG HEI FAT CHOY!