Health & Fitness

Diet guide for 13 popular Chinese New Year snacks

The sugar and fat in all your favourite festive goodies can really add up. This nutrition and calorie guide of popular Chinese New Year festive treats, from bak kwa to pineapple tarts, can help you decide how much, and what, to indulge in
 

Christmas may be over, but like most people, you’re probably still trying to lose the extra pounds gained from all the festive feasting. Now that Chinese New Year is coming up, you’re going to be eating a whole lot of food again, and not the healthy kind. What’s a girl to do? It’s not like you can refuse the goodies that will be placed in front of you when you visit your relatives, and you definitely can’t turn down those lo hei lunch invitations from your workmates.

Celebrations are more fun when there’s plenty of food around, but if you’re watching your weight or trying to eat healthier, it helps to know what ingredients are in those foods and how Our breakdown of popular Lunar New Year treats can help you make better decisions when it comes to what – and how much – to eat.

PEANUTS (IN THE SHELL)

calorie and diet guide for 13 popular chinese new year snacks PEANUTS

Peanuts have good amounts of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, but they are also high in calories. Compared to most other Chinese New Year snacks, peanuts are healthy as they contain protein and some vitamins, but eating too many can make you pack on the pounds. It’s best to eat no more than a small handful.

Breakdown (20g portion):

  • Calories – 113
  • Fat – 10g
  • Sugar – 0.8g

2. LOVE LETTERS
This crisp, rolled cookie is made with coconut milk, flour, sugar and eggs. Because love letters are so light tasting and melt in your mouth in seconds, it’s easy to assume that they’re low in calories, but surprise, they are actually calorie bombs.

Breakdown (2 rolls):

  • Calories – 112
  • Fat – 2.1g
  • Sugar – 9.9g

3. BAK KWA

calorie and diet guide for 13 popular chinese new year snacks BAK KWA

Made from minced pork blended with salt, soy sauce, sugar and honey, this barbecued pork jerky is sticky, chewy and oh-so moreish. It’s impossible to stop at one slice, but you should, because this treat is high in saturated fat and sugar. Here’s a shocking fat: Just two slices of bak kwa have almost the same number of calories as a plate of chicken rice!

Breakdown (one square slice):

  • Calories – 229
  • Fat – 7.8g
  • Sugar – 24.5g

4. MINI PEANUT PUFFS
Also known as kok chai, these fried snacks are Cantonese in origin. The pastry is made with flour, eggs and fat (butter, margarine or lard), and the filling contains peanuts, sesame seeds, sugar and oil. Commercial peanut puffs are usually deep-fried in palm oil.

Breakdown (four puffs):

  • Calories – 156

5. OPEN-FACE PINEAPPLE TARTS

calorie and diet guide for 13 popular chinese new year snacks PINEAPPLE TARTS

The pineapple filling is high in sugar, while the pastry, which contains flour, butter and eggs, is high in fat. Don’t be deceived by their small size – too many of these fruity, buttery treats can lead to weight gain. If you make your own tarts, you can control the amount of sugar in the filling. Local bakery, Delcie’s Desserts and Cakes (www.delcies.com) makes eggless pineapple tarts as well eggless and low-sugar pineapple balls.

Breakdown (one 20g tart):

  • Calories – 82
  • Fat – 4g
  • Sugar – 6g

6. DRIED SHRIMP ROLLS
These tiny, spring roll-like snacks are made with dried prawns, chillies, garlic, oil, salt and sugar. Unless they are homemade, they are likely to have been deep-fried in palm oil, which, due to its high saturated fat content, can increase one’s risk of heart disease. The high sodium content can also contribute to that risk.

Breakdown (45g portion or 10 rolls):

  • Calories – 228g
  • Fat – 14g
  • Sugar – 2g

7. KUEH BANGKIT

calorie and diet guide for 13 popular chinese new year snacks KUEH BLANGKIT

Like love letters, these traditional cookies melt instantly on the tongue and are easy to eat. The main ingredients in kueh bangkit are coconut cream, sugar, tapioca starch and flour.

Breakdown (two cookies, about 6g each):

  • Calories – 46
  • Fat – 2g
  • Sugar – 2g

8. CASHEW COOKIES

calorie and diet guide for 13 popular chinese new year snacks CASHEW COOKIES

These bite-size cookies contain butter, sugar, eggs, flour, and of course, cashew nuts, making them high in fat and sugar. Tip: You’re better off satisfying your cashew craving with a small handful of dry roasted, unsalted cashew nuts.

Breakdown (one cookie):

  • Calories – 62

9. YU SHENG

calorie and diet guide for 13 popular chinese new year snacks YU SHENG

Slices of raw fish, salad vegetables, spices, sesame seeds… It all sounds healthy, but add the plum sauce, oil and “golden pillow” crackers, and you’ve got one high-fat, high-sugar appetiser on your hands. Fortunately, you can control the nutritional value of this popular dish by reducing the amount of oil and plum sauce used, using less pickles, adding more veggies, and replacing half or all of the crunchy crackers with unsalted nuts.

Breakdown (one 385g portion):

  • Calories – 560
  • Fat – 42g
  • Sugar – 15g

10. NIAN GAO

calorie and diet guide for 13 popular chinese new year snacks NIAN GAO

This Chinese sticky cake is made with glutinous rice flour, sugar and oil. It can be eaten steamed, which is of course the healthier option, but it is typically served pan-fried (after being dipped in egg).

Breakdown (one 20g steamed slice):

  • Calories – 46
  • Fat – 0.1g
  • Sugar – 7g

11. MANDARIN ORANGES

calorie and diet guide for 13 popular chinese new year snacks MANDARIN ORANGES

These are by far the healthiest of all the Chinese New Year treats, as they are unprocessed, low in fat and contain vitamins and minerals. But, as they are high in natural sugar (fructose), you should avoid going overboard.

Breakdown (one whole orange):

  • Calories – 50
  • Fat – 0.3g
  • Sugar – 10.6g

12. BANANA CHIPS

calorie and diet guide for 13 popular chinese new year snacks BANANA CHIPS

These are deep-fried before being coated with honey or sugar syrup, making them high in fat and sugar calories.

Breakdown (100g portion):

  • Calories – 510
  • Fat – 14.9g

13. DRIED MELON SEEDS

calorie and diet guide for 13 popular chinese new year snacks PUMPKIN SEEDS

They are small and minimally processed, so they can’t be that bad, right? Unfortunately, like other seeds and nuts, melon seeds are fattening if consumed in large quantities – and they usually are, so try not to eat the whole bag.

Breakdown (100g portion):

  • Calories – 258

Healthy snacking tips for the festive period:

  • The average person requires about 1,500 to 1,800 calories a day, depending on his or her activity level. Munching on festive goodies all day long can easily cause you to exceed this limit, so be mindful about your snack selections and portion sizes. According to the Health Promotion Board, a 60kg man would have to jog for about 21 minutes to burn off the calories in just three love letters, 31 minutes to burn off the calories in three pineapple tarts, and 47 minutes to burn off the calories in a 94g slice of bak kwa. That’s a lot of exercise!
  • Do not show up at someone’s house on an empty stomach. You’ll just be setting yourself up for a day of binge eating. Before you head out to visit family and friends, or in-between visits, fill your tummy with something healthy, like a banana, a bowl of high-fibre cereal, an omelette, or a yogurt smoothie.
  • Use a small plate, which will help you manage your portion sizes better.
  • Eat slowly. Your brain takes about 20 minutes to register that your stomach is full, so the longer you take to eat the less you will eat.
  • Watch your beverage intake. A few glasses or beer or wine can push your calorie intake over the limit. Stick to sparkling water, diet soft drinks, or plain tea or coffee. If you really must have a glass of alcohol, sip on it slowly to make it last.
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