Diet / 17 Jan, 2020

Tips for healthy eating during the festive season

Dr Goh Lit Ching

Tips to manage unwanted weight gain during Chinese New Year

With Chinese New Year around the corner, communal eating such as potluck gatherings and ‘lo hei’ is very common. Spending time with your family and friends is a wonderful way to celebrate but the constant eating can often cause unwanted weight gain.

Here are some tips for healthy eating during festive season while still enjoying the season’s delights.

1. Healthier cooking

If you plan to cook or cater for a gathering, try to adjust the menu to a less oil, less salt and less sugar option. Try to go for alternative cooking methods whenever possible. For example, instead of deep frying, try boiling, steaming, grilling, and baking to avoid unnecessary saturated fats consumption.

2. Buy food and snacks with the healthier choice symbol

When stocking up on food and snacks to serve this Chinese New Year, look out for products with the ‘Healthier Choice Symbol’ indicating – higher in wholegrains, higher in calcium, lower in sugar, lower in sodium, lower in saturated fats and trans-fat free options.

3. Avoid attending gatherings while starving

New Year celebrations often involve visiting friends and relatives for gathering and meals. Avoid going on any visits on an empty stomach. Starving yourself in anticipation of a bigger meal will make it harder to go for healthier choices because everything on the table will look irresistible. As a result, you end up eating more than intended.

4. Wise portion control

Do a quick survey of all the food options available and decide what you really want to eat before loading your plate. Try to resist sampling all the food options just because they are there.

5. Choose food that are high in fiber

Instead of going for New Year cookies, carbohydrates and fried food, choose vegetables and whole grains. They are good for your health and will add bulk to your diet, keeping you feeling full for longer.

6. Slow down while eating

Take time to savour every bite by paying attention to the appearance, taste, aroma, and texture of food so that your body will have enough time to send the message to your brain that you are satisfied and prevent from overeating. If you eat too fast, you will end up feeling too full at the end of the meal.

7. Pay attention to your drink choices

Try to choose water over sweetened drinks. Always remember that water is a source of empty calories. On the other hand, alcoholic drinks and soft drinks, which are often served during this period, are high in calories. If you really must drink, try to incorporate a few glasses of water in between servings to reduce the amount of other drinks you consume.

8. Learn to say ‘no’

It is common to push food onto each other’s plate as a sign of love and care. It is fine to politely decline the kind gesture if you have already eaten enough. If you find it hard to say ‘no’, try to say ‘later’ instead. This way, you don’t seem impolite and hopefully, your host won’t remember to press you to eat more.

9. Move away from the food

The sole focus in a party or gathering should not be food. Once you have had your fill, move away from the dining area and spend time catching up with your loved ones.

10. Do not stop your routine exercise regimen

Make it a habit to continue with your regular physical activities even during festive season. This is the best way to deter weight gain. 150 minutes of moderate physical exercises or 75 minutes of intensive work-out a week is recommended. You might think that doing more exercises after the festive season can compensate for festive eating but in fact, more effort and longer duration will be needed to lose the unwanted calories consumed.

Let’s celebrate this festive season by eating wisely and finding time to stay physically active. Try your best to make it a healthy holiday instead of one that causes too much damage to your health and waistline.

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