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Eat Rice Dumpling the Healthy Way

Tuen Ng Festival (Dragon Boat Festival) is a traditional Chinese festival. Apart from watching dragon boat races, we also eat glutinous rice dumplings, a traditional festive food, to celebrate this major festival. However, most commercially available rice dumplings are high in energy and fat, and so excessive consumption may lead to obesity. To enjoy the festive fun to the full without affecting health, you may want to look at the suggestions below:

Healthy tips about eating rice dumplings:

  • A medium-sized savoury rice dumpling (weighing about 253 g) can provide about 455 kcal of energy, almost the energy content of a proper meal. When you eat a dish like this as a main meal, consider an additional dish of blanched vegetables of about 160 g (14 catty raw) for each person to compensate for the lack of dietary fibre and to increase satiety. Even if you are not eating a dumpling all on your own, it is recommended that you cut back on grains (e.g. rice, noodles) for the meal to avoid overeating and hence excessive intake of energy.
  • A savoury rice dumpling is usually made with pork belly and preserved pork, and is thus high in fat. One such dumpling of medium size contains 17 grams of fat (3 to 4 teaspoons of oil), which is 30% of an adult’s daily total fat intake. It is therefore suggested that the fat layers and preserved meat be trimmed from the dumpling before eating to cut down on fat intake.
  • Some rice dumplings contain Chinese ham, salted duck egg yolks and preserved meat, which are processed foods with high sodium content. They should be consumed in small amount to reduce the risk of hypertension.
  • Rice dumplings are made with glutinous rice, which is much more sticky than white rice. The amount of glutinous rice in a medium-sized savoury rice dumpling is comparable to 1.5 bowls of white rice, so watch your portion size.
  • Although "Gan-shui" rice dumpling of about 244 g has a lower fat content than a savoury one of about 253 g, its content of glutinous rice is higher. Thus, "Gan-shui" rice dumpling has the similar energy value to a savoury one. If "Gan-shui" rice dumpling is to be eaten as part of a main meal, limit the amount to one again. Also, a dish of blanched vegetables and a suitable portion of lean meat are recommended to supplement a rice dumpling meal to compensate for the lack of dietary fibre and protein.
  • Many people like to season their rice dumplings with soy sauce or granulated sugar, inevitably boosting sodium or sugar intake. Use seasonings sparingly.

Healthy tips for making your own savoury rice dumplings:

  • Use lean meat or skinned chicken instead of preserved meat and pork belly.
  • Use ingredients prepared with less salt, like conpoy (dried scallops), dried shrimps and shiitake mushrooms to replace Chinese ham, preserved duck egg yolks, preserved pork and other processed foods to control sodium intake and enhance the flavour.
  • Use less glutinous rice, and use mung beans, kidney beans, adzuki beans, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, etc. instead to increase the fibre content.

Apart from eating healthy, eating safe is also important. Remember these food safety rules:

    1. When buying rice dumplings:
      • Buy rice dumplings from reliable retail outlets.
      • When purchasing non-prepackaged rice dumplings, choose those that are securely wrapped in wrapping leaves.
      • When purchasing prepackaged rice dumplings, check the expiry date and whether the packaging is intact.
    2. When cooking:
      • Before consumption, reheat the rice dumplings thoroughly until the core temperature reaches 75 degrees Celsius or above.
    3. When eating:
      • Consume the purchased rice dumplings as soon as possible and avoid prolonged storage.
      • Store the rice dumplings in the refrigerator at four degrees Celsius or below, or store them properly according to the instructions on the package if they are not consumed or cooked immediately.
      • Do not reheat rice dumplings more than once.
      • Consume reheated rice dumplings as soon as possible. 
(Source of food safety information: Centre for Food Safety)