The Chinese New Year (CNY) is one of the most celebrated festival amongst Chinese communities in Singapore and around the world. Filled with family gatherings, reunion dinners, banquets, and a wide array of festive treats, it is no wonder that keeping to a healthy and balanced diet during this period especially if you have diabetes poses a challenge.
Do not be surprised how it can all quickly add up. CNY goodies like love letters, pineapple tarts, bak kwa, and butter cookies are delicious local favourites but are high in fat and refined carbohydrates filled with sugar. Refined carbohydrates, like sugar, are digested quickly and will cause a sudden rise in blood sugar levels.
Assuming that on one visitation day you eat an average of 2 pineapple tarts, 5 shrimp rolls, 1 slice of bak kwa, 3 pieces of kuih bangkit, and 4 love letters.
Adding this up, it would be comparable to eating 1 plate of Fried Hor Fun!
So here are 8 healthy eating tips to help you eat wisely and spring to health:
1. Avoid making a visit on an empty stomach
- When you are hungry, you may tend to eat without self-control and festive goodies, such as the ones above, are often calorie-dense and poor in nutrition with high amounts of fat, sugar and salt.
- If you find the festive goodies too hard to resist, enjoy a bite-sized portion and be mindful not to overeat.
2. Always start with a proper balanced meal
- As a guide, use the Healthy Plate
- Fill ½ your plate with vegetables, ¼ with protein foods (e.g. fish, meat, tofu), ¼ with starchy foods (e.g. brown rice, wholemeal bread), and include 1 serving of fruit.
3. It’s OK to say “No”
- “I’ve had enough, thank you” – It might seem rude not to eat food offered to you but politely refusing when you have had too much will reduce unnecessary caloric intake.
4. Drink water or choose unsweetened drinks
- Limit or avoid sugar-sweetened drinks like syrup, soft drinks and fruit juice. They raise blood sugar levels quickly and increase caloric intake.
- Water can help increase feelings of fullness to avoid overeating at a meal.
5. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation
- Alcohol can cause hypoglycemia (undesirable low blood glucose) especially if you are on insulin or on certain types of oral diabetes medications.
- If you choose to drink, follow the guidelines below and have it with food.
6. Pace yourself between houses
- You will likely visit several houses in a day with each house offering a large variety of food, snacks and desserts. Eat slowly, drink smart and refuse extra helpings. Enjoy a variety of food in moderation.
7. Provide healthier choices for your guests
- If you are hosting, offer a variety of unsalted nuts and cut fruit for snacks, and a variety of vegetables during meal times. For starters, dishes like Luo Han Zhai (Buddha’s delight) and Yu Sheng (raw fish salad) contain good amount of vegetables. Fruit and vegetables are a good source of fibre which can help moderate blood glucose absorption.
- Offer unsweetened beverages like water, diet cola, and plain tea instead of serving sugar-sweetened beverages.
8. Aim for 150 minutes of physical activity every week
- Take the stairs to a relative’s house, or brisk walk back home after a day of visitations. These will increase your exercise time and keep your blood glucose in control.
Eat mindfully, stay active and have a healthful new year.