How To Eat More Healthily This Lunar New Year

From guilt-free festive favourites to snacks that are best enjoyed in moderation.

By Leslie Huang        15 January 2024

What makes the Lunar New Year exciting for many of us is the array of goodies available. Whether it’s visiting friends and family or browsing the night markets, we’re surrounded by all manner of traditional snacks and dishes, many of which have symbolic meaning and are considered auspicious.

Admittedly, not all of these are healthy. Many contain large amounts of sugar, fat and sodium, which can lead to weight gain and are associated with medical conditions like diabetes and heart disease. A number of these snacks also contain chemical additives and preservatives to improve their flavour, appearance and shelf life. 

This is why it’s important to make smart decisions when it comes to feasting this festive season. That doesn’t mean abstaining from your favourite salty, sweet or high-fat delicacies – you can certainly enjoy these in moderation – but if you pile your plate with the healthier options, it’ll leave little room for the less healthy ones.  

Here’s your guide to snacking and feasting right.

Go ahead and indulge

Mandarin oranges, steamboat

Mandarin oranges: Packed with vitamin C and containing small amounts of fibre, magnesium and potassium, mandarin oranges are one of the healthiest fruits around, so eat them to your heart’s content. A 100g serving has just 60 calories and 0.2g of fat. (The average recommended daily caloric intake is 2,200 calories for males, and 1,800 calories for females).

Red dates: Served dried, this is a top Lunar New Year snack because it symbolises wealth and prosperity. About 20 dried red dates have 45 calories and virtually no fat.

Steamboat: The spherical shape of the steamboat pot symbolises reunion. Steamboat is generally healthy, especially if you load up on vegetables, fa cai (black moss), tofu, mushrooms, lean meat and fish. Limit processed ingredients like fish balls and luncheon meat, fatty cuts of meat like pork belly, and high-calorie sauces.

Sunflower seeds: These are always available when visiting homes as they symbolise good wishes. All seeds are high in fat, but if you don’t go overboard, it’s fine to enjoy a small handful. One tablespoonful of shelled seeds contains 52 calories and 4.4g of fat.

Persimmons: This round orange fruit represents longevity and good fortune. Persimmons contain a variety of antioxidants, like beta-carotene and quercetin, which may help reduce our risk of heart disease. One persimmon has 118 calories and 0.3g of fat.

Enjoy with caution

Love letters (kueh kapit): Of all the festive cookies available, these are among the least unhealthy, but that’s no reason to consume them by the handful. Made from eggs, sugar and coconut milk they’re high in calories. Three rolls contain 168 calories – you’d have to jog for 21 minutes to burn that off

Plain nuts: Unsalted, unsweetened nuts contain vitamin E, protein and fibre and may help lower cholesterol, but they’re high in fat. It’s fine to consume about 40g (a small handful) of nuts a few times a week as part of a healthy diet.

Preserved fruits: As dried preserved fruits tend to have high concentrations of natural sugar, you should limit your servings. Be extra mindful of varieties like candied plums, which have added sugar.   

Kueh bangkit: Because these coconut cookies have a light texture, it’s easy to assume they’re not fattening, but each 6g cookie, while having only 23 calories, contains 1g of fat.

Yusheng: The veggies and raw fish in this traditional prosperity fish salad may be wholesome, but watch out for the crispy crackers and sauces, which are laden with fat, sugar and sodium. One 387g serving of yu sheng has 561 calories and 42.6g of fat

Think before you eat

Bak Kwa, pineapple tarts

Bak kwa: Just one 90g slice of pork bak kwa contains 352 calories and 12g of fat. To save on calories, cut one slice into quarters and limit yourself to just one or two pieces.  

Pineapple tarts: The buttery pastry and sweet pineapple jam make this treat hard to stop at just one. With a 20g tart packed with 82 calories and 4g of fat, you should definitely limit the number you consume.  

Peanut cookies: Containing peanuts, butter and sugar, these bite-sized cookies should be enjoyed minimally. Each cookie contains 54 calories and 3.1g of fat.

Twisted dough fritters: These sugar-coated fried snacks are tasty and easy to binge on, but note, three 12g pieces are loaded with 201 calories

Nian gao: The sweetness of this glutinous rice cake symbolises wealth and prosperity while its round shape represents reunion. It’s usually served sliced and fried, with two slices containing 380 calories. For a healthier option, go with the steamed version – one 20g slice has just 46 calories. 

Lunar New Year foodie deals and gifts

Reunion dinner, sorted

Keng Eng Kee Seafood is offering a range of special promotions at their SAFRA Tampines outlet. Try their Premium Reunion Set for five people ($568, dine-in), with dishes like Fortune Yusheng, Steamed Garoupa with Premium Light Sauce, Abalone and Chinese Mushrooms with Vegetables, Tobiko Seafood Ee Fu Noodles, and more. They also offer a set for 10 people ($768, dine-in), a takeaway set for 10 ($468) and a range of signature festive dishes. Visit safra.sg/kek-seafood-cny-2024-menu for more information. 

Check out more reunion dinner packages with discounts for SAFRA members here!

Bak kwa at your doorstep

Need your fix of Lim Chee Guan Bak Kwa? Order it for delivery right to your door with WhyQ. SAFRA members can enjoy 10% off Lim Chee Guan Bak Kwa pre-orders with WhyQ, using the code SAFRABAKKWA10. Go to safra.sg/whyq-cny2024 for more details and terms and conditions. 

Keto-friendly goodies

Ange Bakes caters to diabetics and those on keto or low-carbohydrate diets. This New Year, choose from sugar-free pineapple tarts (which are also gluten-free), peanut cookies, black sesame cookies, cakes and more. 

77 High Street, #01-07 High Street Plaza, Singapore 179433; Tel: 8488 0891

Just for vegans

Those who don’t consume animal-based products like egg and dairy can check out the vegan almond cookies, hazelnut cookies and peanut cookies at Mdm Ling Bakery. The cookies are halal, too. 

10 Ang Mo Kio St 65, Techpoint, #03-15 Singapore 569059; Tel: 8468 0201

Spring to Health This Chinese New Year
Nutritional Facts About Auspicious Chinese New Year Foods
How Much Calories Do I Need A Day?

Food calorie counts are based on the myfitnesspal.com app.

Save more with SAFRA! Enjoy special deals and discounts on dining, shopping, entertainment, travel, fitness and more from over 1,500 merchant outlets islandwide. Sign up or renew your SAFRA membership for three years at the price of 1 year ($43.20 inclusive of GST)! Plus, get your spouse and children on board to enjoy the same privileges too – 1st dependent pays $5.40/year, and it’s free for the 2nd dependent onwards. Visit safra.sg/savemore for more details. 

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