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Health Tips for Lunar New Year - Eating a Balanced Diet

Apart from the many snacks and treats specially prepared for the Lunar New Year, the Chinese also attach special importance to several main meals during the New Year period. They are, the Family Reunion Dinner (Tuen Nin Faan) on the New Year’s Eve; the vegetarian feast on the New Year Day, and, the New Year Feast (Hoi Nin Faan) on the second day of the New Year.

Things to consider when preparing the Family Reunion Dinner and the New Year Feast

Traditional Family Reunion Dinner and New Year Feast often contain lots of meat with little vegetables. They also tend to have strong flavour. By eating such meals of high animal fat and salt contents, your health is easily compromised without knowing it in the long run. Here are some healthy tips for you when preparing the dishes for these meals:
  • Limit high-fat ingredients, such as pork brisket, poultry skin, pork feet and chicken paws.
  • Limit high-cholesterol food, such as offals, shrimp paste and crab paste.
  • Limit preserved or salted meat, such as salted fish, Chinese preserved sausages or siu mei, etc.
  • Prepare plenty of vegetables by low-fat cooking methods, including leafy vegetables, gourds, mushrooms and beans by boiling in stock or water, stir-frying with small amount of oil.
  • Choose meat with lower fat content or its alternatives such as fish, seafood and dried seafood (including sea cucumber and dried scallop), but consume them only in moderation.

Things to consider when preparing vegetarian dishes

The ingredients of vegetarian dishes tend to be bland in flavour, and a lot of people will add relatively large amount of oil and seasoning when making vegetarian dishes. To avoid turning the feast into a high-fat or high-salt banquet, here are some rules of thumb for you to go by:
  • Use non-fried vegetarian ingredients, e.g. tofu, dried tofu and soybean sheets.
  • Enhance the taste and texture of the dish by using a wide range of ingredients, such as mushrooms, bean sprouts, tomatoes, carrots, lotus roots, bamboo shoots, black fungus or even fresh fruit dices.
  • Use natural ingredients as seasonings, e.g. ginger, basil and coriander.
  • Use low-fat seasonings such as vinegar and white pepper instead of high-fat ones, such as chilli sauce and red fermented bean curd.
  • For cooking methods, use steaming, stewing, braising and baking instead of pan-frying and deep-frying, or stir-fry quickly on high heat to reduce the amount of oil used.

Other important practices of a balanced diet

  • Do not overeat or over-drink. Maintain regular meals during the New Year period.
  • Pay attention to the ingredients used to maintain balanced nutrition. Do not forget fruit and vegetables in the Family Reunion Dinner and the New Year Feast. On the other hand, have an adequate amount of dried beans in the vegetarian feast, including tofu, soybean sheets and different kinds of dried beans, to ensure sufficient protein intake.
  • Apart from the many delicious main courses, make sure you have some rice or noodle to go with the dishes, and avoid mixing them with the gravy from the dishes.
  • Use low-fat ingredients such as lean meat, skinless poultry, conch and dried mushrooms etc. to make soup. Remove the oil layer off the soup before use.
  • Avoid consumption of alcohols, such as beer.
  • Reduce intake of sweetened drinks, such as soft drinks.