Enjoy This Chinese New Year With A Minimal Weight Gain
Much like other holidays, the celebration of the Chinese New Year (CNY in short) will surely be filled with joy and festivities. Annual customs, parties, and, of course, food will be a part of it. Similar to Christmas or Diwali, Chinese New Year is known for its lavish offerings of Chinese delicacies like CNY goodies, some of which are only normally served during this time.
You might have manifested the “New Year, New Me” mantra to yourself when January 2022 came. You may also have taken the first step to be a better version of yourself. Maybe you are already looking for a suitable diet or you might have signed up for a gym membership. You might also be motivated by the weight gain you had from the past holidays.
Now that you are in the fitness mindset, celebrating CNY poses a challenge- a tempting one at that. With the number of celebrations among family and friends, food will always be an integral part of the festivities. More food means more temptations to binge. Why not? The New Year comes only once a year, right?
Well, there are ways you can enjoy the holiday without having to face consequences afterwards. In this article, we will list down some tips on how you can stay disciplined during the celebration of Chinese New Year, avoiding the risk of weight gain.
However, before you go into this battle with all these temptations awaiting, it helps to know what you can expect during the celebration.
Chinese New Year: Year Of The Tiger
Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, is one of- if not the most- important celebrations among the Chinese community. From a traditional festivity honoring deities, Chinese New Year is now known as a time to feast and to visit family members.
The celebration of the Chinese New Year usually lasts around two weeks. Within this time, you might be facing the challenge of controlling yourself in terms of eating. Many parts of this celebration involve some type of feast, offering a wide range of CNY goodies as well as having an abundance of side dishes for reunion dinners.
For instance, one of the main activities during New Year’s Eve is the family reunion dinner. Here, the family gathers over a feast of traditional Chinese dishes and CNY goodies. During the 10th day of the celebration, also known as Day of the Grain, many families have a second ‘mini’ reunion dinner.
Another custom during the Chinese New Year is giving or exchanging gifts. Most of the time, gifts come in the form of money in red packets. However, people also often give food items as a gift during the holiday. Some of these common CNY goodies include alcohol, tea, fruits, and candies.
As the celebration of Chinese New Year is not limited to just one day, there are a lot of opportunities for you to binge eat different dishes during the house visiting. With that comes more risk of weight gain in the course of the holidays.
The year 2022 is the Year of the Tiger. According to the Chinese Zodiac, the Year of the Tiger will be all about making big changes. It is about taking leaps and finding enthusiasm in what we do. At the same time, while it’s important to follow our intuition, we need to keep our reality in check from time to time so as to focus on being fit and healthy over the holidays.
Chinese New Year Foods And Goodies To Look Out For
As mentioned, most of the dishes served during this time are offered during the holiday. So, you might be excited to snack on these foods, but if you want to have a new year weight loss, you need to be cautious about what you are consuming.
To help you, here are some of the common dishes served as well as some CNY goodies during Chinese New Year and how they can affect your weight:
Fish is a staple in any Chinese New Year menu, as it is believed to bring an increase in prosperity. It is normally served whole to symbolize good luck from the start to the end of the year. It is also a custom to leave leftovers for the next day to signify that prosperity will overflow.
Generally, fish is a nutritious source of protein and other minerals including phosphorus, potassium, iodine and selenium. Types of fish such as tuna, mackerel, sardines and salmon, are oily, but not in a bad way. They contain omega-3 fatty acids, which is a “good fat” that supports overall heart health. Omega-3 fatty acids also have been associated with various health benefits such as defending against depression and reducing the risk of heart disease.
With that said, the preparation of the fish matters in terms of its nutritional value. During Chinese New Year, dishes using fish are usually steamed, which is one of the healthiest preparations you can do. Avoid deep-frying fish as it can reduce the omega-3 content and the excess oil can contribute to weight gain.
Longevity noodles, also known as Chángshòu Miàn, are one of the healthier meals you can opt for during the Chinese New Year. These noodles are usually uncut, ensuring that they are kept as long as possible to represent the longevity of the eater’s life.
These noodles are usually done with whole-grain noodles. Whole Grains is found to have a lot of nutritional value, being rich in vitamins and antioxidants. It can help in lowering your blood cholesterol and reducing the risk of diseases such as diabetes. More importantly, whole grains are rich in fibre, which aids in preventing weight gain. Foods rich in fibre make you feel full without consuming any extra calories. It also makes you less likely to overeat and feel hungry in between meals.
However, preparation is also key in how healthy longevity noodles can be. In some cases, these noodles are fried; instead, opt for the variant that is boiled and served in a bowl with their broth.
Small Rice Balls
Tāngyuán, small glutinous rice balls, are mainly eaten during the Chinese Lantern Festival though people often eat them throughout the Chinese New Year celebration. The pronunciation and round shape of Tāngyuán are associated with reunion and being together.
Tāngyuán is something that you need to consume in moderation as they are often high in sugar, salt, or fat.
A single Tāngyuán with filling can contain around 70 calories. Even if you only consume four pieces of Tāngyuán, you already have consumed 280 calories, which is almost equivalent to a bowl of cooked rice. Moreover, a bowl of Tāngyuán with sweet fillings cooked in a sweet soup, maybe peanut or red bean, can total up to 480 calories. That requires you to go on a brisk walk for at least 60 minutes to burn those calories.
If you want to eat these rice balls with a sweet filling, you can cook and eat them with hot water instead of a soup as they are sweet enough. You may opt for unfilled Tāngyuán, as they only contain around 30 calories. If you eat unfilled rice balls with a sweet soup, choose one that’s not too sweet. A soup with dried longans, wolfberries, jujubes or ginger can reduce the dish’s calorie content. For salty Tāngyuán with meat fillings, you can add more vegetables to the broth, such as scallions, radishes, chinese cabbage or crown daisies, to make it healthier.
In countries like Singapore and Malaysia, a popular CNY goodie is Bak Kwa. Bak Kwa is known to symbolize good luck and is believed to ward off negative energies. It is also considered to be luxurious, that’s why it is often reserved for the New Year.
As it often comes at a specific time of the year, it’s normal to indulge yourself with Bak Kwa while celebrating. However, try to control yourself as much as you can. Two slices of this snack can already contain around 700 calories, similar to a plate of chicken rice. About 75% of these calories is a result of the fat in meat and sugar or honey used for added flavouring. Also, Bak Kwa uses a significant amount of salt as a flavouring agent and preservative. Two slices of Bak Kwa already contain about half the recommended daily salt consumption.
Another Hokkien delicacy served during Chinese New Year is pineapple tarts. Its pronunciation “Ong Lai” sounds like the arrival of prosperity, making it a staple of the celebration.
Pineapple tarts are laden with fat and sugar, making it one of the most popular CNY goodies every year. Each serving of the tart uses 14 teaspoons of sugar to caramelize the pineapple into jam. That’s more sugar than a can of cola! Three pieces of pineapple tarts can already contain 300 calories, which is the same as a bowl of rice but with more fat and sugar.
You can modify the recipe to make it healthier. For the filling, you may use canned pineapples in natural juice with no added sugar. Then, you can replace sugar with honey or maple syrup and replace a third of the flour with gluten-free cornflour.
In Singapore, another Chinese New Year favourite is Yu Sheng. The dish consists of strips of raw fish mixed with vegetables, sauces, and other condiments like peanut crumbs and fried crisps. When pronounced, the name sounds similar to “increase in abundance”.
The main ingredients of Yu Sheng, such as fish, vegetables, spices, and seeds, are considered healthy and low in calories. However, the amount of calories in a serving of Yu Sheng is similar to the calories of one full meal. It is due to the amount of oil, plum sauce, and deep-fried shrimp crackers added to it. Together it results in a high-fat and high-sugar dish. It is also very tasty, which runs the risk of overeating if not being cautious.
If you are making your version of Yu Sheng, make sure to use less oil, less sauce and pickles, fewer flour crisps, and more fresh vegetables to make it healthier and reduce calories.
How To Reach Your New Year Weight Loss
Again, controlling your weight over the holiday does not mean you have to deprive yourself of eating. It is about being more conscious about your habits and how you consume food. Even though the New Year celebration is filled with temptations, avoiding weight gain during this time is possible! And if you are determined, you may also achieve a new year weight loss at the end of the day. Here are some tips to enjoy the Chinese New Year with minimal weight gain.
One of the most simple and natural ways to have a new year weight loss is drinking lots of water. Water tends to be a forgotten part of the diet during the holidays. Make sure to consume several glasses of water throughout the week to yield its health benefits.
Water is also a natural appetite suppressant. When the stomach is full, it sends signals to the brain to stop eating. Water helps to fill up space inside the stomach, suppressing your appetite and reducing the urge to eat more. It helps especially during the holiday celebration, making you eat enough to leave you satisfied but not overeat.
Also, water aids in removing waste from the body. Generally, the food we consume will eventually turn into body waste. Water helps the kidney to flush out toxins while retaining essential nutrients. When you are dehydrated, you tend to retain fluid or experience constipation and indigestion. As the waste builds up in your body, you might feel bloated and swollen, which adds a few extra pounds.
Furthermore, water is necessary to burn fat and calories. Without it, the body will not be able to burn off stored fats and carbohydrates from the food we eat. It also temporarily increases the body’s resting energy expenditure, or the number of calories burned while resting.
Ditch fruit juices, cola, and alcohol, and drink water instead. Cold water is also found to help burn calories as the body needs more fuel to heat the water for digestion.
There are parts of the Chinese New Year celebration that you can utilize to avoid weight gain. One of these is drinking tea. Tea has been a part of the Lunar New Year traditions for a long time. For instance, during the first day of a traditional New Year celebration, guests are served tea and sweet fruits, as a symbol for a sweeter year ahead.
There are several types of tea that you can drink to avoid weight gain:
- Oolong Tea
Oolong tea is said to help in weight loss by improving fat burning and speeding up metabolism. This tea is full of antioxidants, boosting the metabolism rate by up to 10%, which results in more calorie burn. These antioxidants also help in burning fat effectively, while strengthening the immune system.
Oolong tea also helps control your craving by maintaining blood sugar levels. It is due to the polymerized polyphenols present in it that helps reduce the absorption of fat and lower cholesterol levels.
Finally, oolong tea helps in improving digestion. Its antiseptic properties help in killing all the bad bacteria, resulting in smooth functioning of the digestive system and weight loss.
Oolong tea is calorie-free, making it a good alternative if you are too tired of drinking water.
- Pu Erh Tea
Pu Erh tea is similar to oolong tea in its fermentation process and weight loss benefits. It aids in weight loss as it blocks the body from producing more fat. Specifically, Pu Erh tea helps you lose weight by helping your body to metabolise fat. It triggers the secretion of certain hormones responsible for metabolising stored fatty acids in fat cells.
It is recommended to drink a cup of Pu-erh tea one hour after a meal. By doing so, it helps your body remove excess grease and eliminate hard-to-digest fats. However, consuming this tea before a meal can have adverse effects. It clears up the fat deposits in your body, increasing your appetite and causing you to eat more.
- Black Tea
Another type of tea for weight loss you may want to consume is black tea. Black tea is known to have prebiotic properties by improving digestive processes. It decreases gut bacteria associated with obesity while increasing gut bacteria connected with lean body mass.
Black tea also helps in boosting metabolism. The caffeine in this tea pushes the body to a process called lipolysis or the breakdown of stored fat, which metabolizes fat in the body. However, as it contains caffeine, make sure to have a regulated consumption of it, otherwise, it may lead to some issues like nausea, high blood pressure, or ulcer.
Furthermore, a cup of black tea only has 2 calories, making it a healthier option for colas or juices. With that said, if you add sweeteners and taste enhancers, it can spike up its content to 20 to 23 calories.
Mandarin oranges are also a staple of traditional Chinese New Year celebrations. It is believed to bring luck and prosperity to the new year. It’s another thing that you can utilize to avoid holiday weight gain.
Mandarin oranges have a high water content, containing around 87% of water. It brings the benefits of water mentioned earlier. It also has a rich fibre content. It aids in easy bowel movement and keeps you full between meals. Moreover, the water-soluble vitamins found in oranges help in obesity prevention and management by increasing the fat burning processes of the body.
Mandarin oranges are also naturally sweet, making them a healthy dessert alternative.
Going for a walk or jog
Aside from controlling what you eat, maintaining some sort of physical activity will be vital in avoiding weight gain during the holiday. A common mistake people make is that they skip exercise during the holiday. Because you are consuming more food than ever, the more essential physical activity is.
It does not have to be as strenuous as your normal workout routine. We get it, you want to spend time celebrating with friends and family, but there are ways to squeeze in light exercises throughout the week. For example, take a walk. It can help you digest the snack or meals you just ate. Do this with a friend or family member and it makes burning calories a way of bonding with them.
These small exercises can make a huge impact. Make sure that if you indulge in Chinese New Year treats, find a way to burn off some calories while at it.
Detoxing Your Body With Food
There are still ways to shed off the weight gain you had from the holiday once the celebration has passed. One way is by detoxing your body.
During the Chinese New Year, we tend to overeat foods high in calories, resulting in more toxins in the body. Detoxing will flush out these toxins caused by the unhealthy snacks you ate. It facilitates proper digestion and gives a boost to your metabolism. A good metabolism and digestive system can help you in losing weight, especially when matched with a proper diet.
Going on a detox diet with a smaller portion also aids in resetting your stomach intake. It is possible that you gained a bigger appetite from eating snacks. A reduced food portion helps us to lower our food intake and transit back to our usual appetite. Lower food intake also means lower calorie intake and a smoother weight loss journey.
In those small portions, it should include antioxidant rich foods that can help cleanse your body. Some of the items that you can add to your diet include greens (such as asparagus, broccoli, kale, and spinach), root vegetables (specifically beets and artichoke), and fruits (including avocado and grapefruit).
To have a detoxing effect, you need to carefully plan your meals. However, meal prep can be a hassle for some people, especially after the holidays, where you are again consumed by work and other responsibilities. But that is no reason for not pursuing this weight loss method. Seeking external support in creating nutritional meal preps that caters to your needs is an option to look into, and this would greatly help you to shed off the new year’s weight gain. Programs like DeFato Hub have a team of nutritionists that helps you to have a smoother weight loss journey by providing you with assistance in your diet.
Credits: 8 Days
Chinese New Year only comes once a year. Yes, you want to welcome it joyfully to have a positive start to the new year. That may come with the expense of indulging in food and spending more time indoors with your family. However, you can also think of it in another way. If you are entering the New Year celebration by being mindful of your weight, then you are able to set yourself up for a healthier new year. Staying healthy allows you to enjoy not only the week-long celebration but also the whole upcoming year.
Stay healthy and enjoy the holidays!