The first few days of Chinese New Year are usually spent “carbo-loading”, to put it in runner-speak. That’s because many Chinese families spend the time visiting friends and relatives and at the same time, eating lots of festive goodies, including Bak Kwa, Pineapple Tarts, Love Letters and Shrimp Rolls.Many of these festive goodies are high in carbohydrates, fats and sugars, and as such, they are not very healthy to the body. More often than not, weight gain is usually the result – and this is weight that we may struggle to shake off during the rest of the year, unless we make drastic changes to our diet and lifestyle to shake off the post-festive blues.
Common Chinese New Year Goodies we Love to Eat
First let’s take a look at some of the more common Chinese New Year goodies that we enjoy having – but which adds more centimetres to our waistline.
Pineapple TartsComprising mainly of pineapple paste, eggs and sugar, pineapple tarts are far from healthy because of their high butter and sugar content. Sure, they may contain some (fruit) as in the pineapple tarts – but despite this, they can’t be counted as part of your daily fruit and vegetable intake!
In fact, I myself admit that I am quite addicted to eating these.
One pineapple tart will take 0.93km to completely burn off through running. But then again, how can you possibly just eat one pineapple tart? I know I can’t.
Pork Bak Kwa
Containing sliced or minced pork marinated in fish sauce, soya sauce and rice wine, as well as plenty of sugar and honey, Bak Kwa is one the staples at Chinese New Year feasting sessions, with long queues developing at Bak Kwa outlets in the weeks leading up to the Chinese New Year season.
However due to the high sodium and sugar content, Bak Kwa will increase your risk of hypertension and is one of the primary suspects for weight gain. It is also a likely cancer-causing food, due to the carcinogens that develop in the preparation of the meat.
Each slice of Bak Kwa will require a 4.22km run to completely burn off. So do eat these in moderation and watch your intake – as just ten slices of these will mean that you’ll need to run a full marathon!
Love LettersThey look very light and delicate, but these crunchy, addictive Love Letters are far from being a healthy snack.
Consisting of coconut milk, flour, sugar and egg, Love Letters are high in saturated fats and sugar, which increases one’s risk of getting cardiovascular disease.
Each standard-sized Love Letter consumed, requires 0.64km of running to burn off. But then again, you can never stop at one, can you?
These sticky-sweet rice cakes are another popular Chinese New Year snack, and comprise of eggs, coconut milk, flour, sugar and salt. Though they may be considered good luck to consume, try not to eat too much – as you will end wind up gaining weight, due to their high carbohydrate and fat content (fried version).
One regular-sized piece of Nian Gao (about 43g) will require you to run 2.51km in order to completely burn. So do watch your intake and try to take a smaller slice, rather than the biggest one possible.
Mini Shrimp RollsThese little deep-fried morsels can be deceiving. Comprising of dried shrimps, dried chillies, shallots, eggs, spring roll skins, garlic, oil, salt and sugar, they contain generous amounts of saturated fat, sodium and calories.
One Shrimp Roll takes 0.28km of running to burn off, primarily due to their mini size, but then again, I haven’t seen anyone eat just one of these at family gatherings – it’s really very easy to polish off an entire handful of them at one go.
Yes, peanuts are groundnuts, and you’re right, nuts are supposed to be healthy. But the peanuts served at Chinese New Year gatherings are typically deep-fried and so they can cause high cholesterol and heart disease.
Still though, if you have to eat these not-so-healthy deep-fried peanuts, try and combine them with healthy trail mix, such as raisins, raw cashew nuts and raw almonds, which are all more body-friendly options containing plenty of healthy fats, vitamins and minerals.
One typical handful of peanuts (about 40g) will take 1.94km of running to burn off. But then again, how can you stop eating at just one bowl? I am sure that many of you are nodding your heads by now. More often than not, you will reach into that packet for one handful after another – and before you know it, you will probably need to complete a 10km run in order to burn everything off.
These sweet, deep-fried morsels are commonplace in festive gatherings like Chinese New Year, and they comprise of eggs, coconut milk, sugar, salt and flour.
However to burn off one 43g piece of these, you need to run 2.51km. And because of their addictive nature, you may have to schedule a half-marathon into your busy festive schedule – in order to prevent weight gain, if eating these yummy cookies are your weak point during the Chinese New Year.
How To Stop yourself from Overeating
So now that we know the scary facts and figures of some of these delicious Chinese New Year goodies, here are some tips that you can use – to stop yourself from over-eating during this year’s festive season. Your body will probably thank you for it, too.
Do not go visiting on an empty stomach
Do not go visiting on an empty stomach. Try and eat a light and healthy snack before you leave your own home, for example, an apple or a Mandarin orange. If you are not feeling so hungry, you are less likely to overeat on the fattening stuff.
Eat slowly. This is because it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to process that you are feeling full. Instead of, for example, swallowing that pineapple tart in a single mouthful, try and slowly munch it in about two or three mouthfuls, as long as it doesn’t crumble in your hand, first.
Do not eat out of boredom
It happens quite often during Chinese New Year gatherings. You may be slightly bored during Chinese New Year gatherings but not particularly hungry, so you may reach into that container next to you – and take some more of those peanuts or shrimp rolls.
And so you may have consumed excess calories without even realising that you have been over-eating – till it is too late. So do not be tempted and eat out of boredom – just because your favourite snack is next to you. This happens to many people.
This problem can be solved though, by simply sitting as far away from the food as possible. If it isn’t near you, you are less likely to reach out and take something to munch.
Incorporate healthy foods into your diet outside of visiting hours
Try and make it a point to eat healthy foods when you are at home. For example, your breakfast in the morning does not have to consist of a sugary donut. And you need not tuck into that plate of fried kway teow for lunch.
Instead, whole-grain cereals for breakfast and a green salad with lean meat and a slice of wholewheat bread for lunch, would be much more nutritious options. This may also reduce the chances of weight gain throughout this festive period. If you feel peckish in between meals, grab some fruits to snack on, such as an apple, a handful of grapes or a few strawberries.