Usher in good health this CNY

Serve traditional goodies along with healthier options to reduce calorie intake

Eating healthy may not spring to mind during festive seasons like the Chinese New Year.

Yet, making a little effort can bring health benefits.

This year, instead of serving only traditional goodies such as tarts and bak kwa, add healthier home-made desserts and snacks, as well as unsweetened drinks to the mix.

"Having some healthier foods or desserts and fruits around may help to balance the excessive calories usually eaten during CNY," said Ms Lynette Goh, senior dietitian, National Healthcare Group Polyclinics.

Healthier desserts like soya beancurd (tau huay) and barley with gingko and dried beancurd (fu chok) are good choices as they are high in protein and calcium and low in fat, she said.

Or you can put together a platter of colourful vegetable sticks and pair it with a tasty dip, said Ms Fiona Chia, director of nutrition consultancy Health Can Be Fun.

And instead of sugary soft drinks, serve drinks such as unsweetened green tea or unsweetened chrysanthemum tea.

"Staying hydrated is the key to regulating your appetite and cravings," she said.

However, do not be fooled by the new tall and slim design of canned beverages, which gives the impression that they are healthier drinks, she said. "It is still important to read the labels."

If you are buying desserts for your CNY gatherings, opt for less-sweet versions, if possible, said Ms Goh.

She said healthier desserts also include those with beans as they are higher in fibre and lower in fat, provided no additional coconut milk or syrup is added.

"Some examples include tau suan, green or red bean soup, ice kachang and cheng tng."

The local desserts found in hawker centres or food courts are generally very high in added sugars, so eat them in moderation, she advised.

What you can do this year is to make your own versions that are lower in calories and sugar.


LESS SINFUL DESSERTS AND A HEALTHIER PARTY DIP

SNOW FUNGUS DESSERT

INGREDIENTS

• 30g snow fungus

• 60g red kidney beans (canned)

• 90g yam, cut into cubes

• 1 litre low-fat milk

• 500ml reduced-sugar soya bean milk

• 250ml water

• ½ cup gingko nuts (optional)

• 1 tbs honey (optional)

METHOD

• Soak snow fungus in hot water until it puffs up and turns a whiter shade (at least 10 minutes).

• Drain and cut into small pieces. • Discard any dark yellow hard parts.

• Bring the milk and water to boil.

• Add all the ingredients. Boil and simmer until ingredients are soft. Add honey if you prefer.

• Serve warm or chill and serve cold.

SERVES SIX

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION (per serving)

• Energy: 198kcal

• Protein: 11g

• Total fat: 3g

• Carbohydrate: 33g

• Dietary fibre: 9.3 g

• Sodium: 107mg

Source: National Healthcare Group Polyclinics


CREAMY CORN DESSERT

INGREDIENTS

• One can of sweet corn, cream style (425g)

• ½ cup or 8 tbs sago pearls (soaked for 10 minutes and drained)

• 500ml reduced-sugar soya milk

• 250ml water (adjust according to desired consistency)

• Pinch of salt

• Two tsp of corn flour, dissolved in a little water

• Two bananas, sliced (optional)

METHOD

• Put all the ingredients in a pot, except for the sago pearls and bananas, and bring to a simmer.

• Add bananas and simmer till soft.

• Add sago pearls and remove pot from heat once the sago pearls become transparent.

• Serve warm or chill and serve cold.

SERVES SIX

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION (per serving, without bananas)

• Energy: 130kcal

• Protein: 2.8g

• Total fat: 1.6g

• Carbohydrate: 27g

• Dietary fibre: 0.7g

• Sodium: 277mg

Source: National Healthcare Group Polyclinics


GINGKO BARLEY IN SOYA MILK

INGREDIENTS

• 100g soya beancurd sheets (dessert type)

• 1 litre reduced-sugar soya bean milk

• 250ml water

• 50g pearl barley

• ½ cup gingko nuts

• 3-5 pandan leaves (tied into a knot)

METHOD

• Wash the pearl barley with water.

• Crush or tear beancurd skin into small pieces.

• Simmer the pearl barley in the water, pandan leaves and soya bean milk until the pearls have expanded.

• Switch to low heat.

• Add the gingko nuts followed by the beancurd skin.

• Bring to boil and simmer until soft or to your desired •consistency.

• Serve warm or chilled.

SERVES EIGHT

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION (per serving)

• Energy: 183kcal

• Protein: 12g

• Total fat: 5g

• Carbohydrate: 22g

• Dietary fibre: 4.8g

• Sodium: 10mg

Source: National Healthcare Group Polyclinics


SOYA, GINGER AND LIME DIP

INGREDIENTS

• 3/4 cup frozen shelled edamame or green peas

• 150ml water

• 2 tsp minced fresh ginger

• 1 tbs rice vinegar

• 1 tbs plain yogurt

• 1 clove garlic

• 1 tsp reduced sodium soya sauce

• Salt and pepper to taste

METHOD

• Blanch the peas or the frozen shelled edamame in hot water for three minutes.

• Press the edamame to release the green beans and blend with water, soya sauce, ginger, rice vinegar, yogurt, garlic, salt and pepper in a food processor or blender until smooth.

• Chill for one hour and it is ready to serve with vegetable sticks such as carrots and celery.

SERVES SIX TO EIGHT

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION (per serving of 70ml)

• Energy: 43 kcal

• Carbohydrate: 2.8g

• Total fat: 2g

• Protein: 4g

• Sodium: 32mg

Source: Ms Fiona Chia, director of nutrition consultancy Health Can Be Fun

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2016, with the headline 'Usher in good health this CNY'. Print Edition | Subscribe