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Finding balance

Usher in the Chinese New Year with healthier festive goodies and smarter food choices. PHOTO: ISTOCK
Usher in the Chinese New Year with healthier festive goodies and smarter food choices. PHOTO: ISTOCK

You don’t have to deprive yourself of Chinese New Year goodies this festive season

  • Jazz up your drink

    Low sugar doesn’t mean no fun. Treat your guests (and yourself) to one of these healthy, delicious and easy-to-make tipples

       

    Pom Pom Parade

    Ingredients:

    • 150ml ICE MOUNTAIN Sparkling Water (Classic/Grapefruit/Lemon)

    • 100ml OISHI Japanese Kabusecha Green Tea Low Sugar

    • Edible flower petals (such as rose, lavender, osmanthus)

    • 1 to 2 tbsp fresh pomegranate seeds

     

    Method:

    1. Add flower petals into 50ml of OISHI Japanese Kabusecha Green Tea Low Sugar. Freeze into popsicles or cubes.

    2. Put the flower petal popsicles and pomegranate seeds in a glass.

    3. Pour 50ml of OISHI Japanese Kabusecha Green Tea Low Sugar into the glass. Top off the glass with ICE MOUNTAIN Sparkling Water.

Hearty feasts and delicious snacks in all manner of ways are often synonymous with the festive season — and especially so with Chinese New Year. We all have fond memories of munching on pineapple tarts and bak kwa at family gatherings during the holiday period.

But as we become more mindful of our health and consumption habits, Chinese New Year has also become synonymous with paying closer attention to the snacks that tempt us.

This is especially so when articles that warn us about the nutritional value — or lack thereof — of our favourite Chinese New Year snacks become commonplace during this holiday season.

Nevertheless, it’s still all-too-easy to get swept along with the festivities and fall into the trap of consuming excess sugar.

Pop two pieces of pineapple tarts and you would have consumed approximately 12g (about 2.5 teaspoons) of sugar. Wash it down with a packet of fruit juice (about three teaspoons of sugar), and that’s more than half of the daily recommended sugar intake (no more than 10 teaspoons, based on a 2,000-calorie diet) by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The myth of the 'healthy sugar'

According to the Health Promotion Board (HPB), Singaporeans typically consume 12 teaspoons, or about 60g of sugar daily, from food as well as sugar-sweetened beverages. This is despite the fact that we nutritionally do not need any sugar in our diet, according to report by WHO and should ideally consume as little of it as possible.

Excessive consumption of sugar can increase our risk of weight gain and obesity, a key risk factor of Type 2 diabetes.

Sugar in drinks is also rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, leading to rapid spikes in blood sugar levels, which signal your pancreas to produce a large amount of insulin to counter the spike.


Tung Lok Group's low-sugar nian gao. PHOTO: TUNG LOK GROUP

Over time, these spikes in blood sugar level and insulin can impair the body’s glycaemic response, leading to increased risk of diabetes, regardless of weight gain.

Switching to drinks with naturally occurring sugars like fruit juices does little to mitigate the harmful effects, as these naturally occurring sugars have the same effect as white sugar on the body.

A 250ml packet of fruit juice typically contains three teaspoons of sugar, while fresh fruit juice of the same amount can contain as much as 3.5 teaspoons of sugar.

  • Chrys Cooler

    Ingredients:

    •200ml Yeo’s Chrysanthemum Tea

    •Goji berries (wolfberries)

    •Crushed ice

     

    Method:

    1. Combine the crushed ice and Yeo’s Chrysanthemum Tea in a cocktail shaker, and shake vigorously.

    2. Pour the mixture into a glass, topping it off with the froth.

    3. Lightly roast a few goji berries in a pan. Use them to garnish the drink.

Drinking this additional portion of sugar-sweetened beverage every day increases our risk of diabetes by up to 26 per cent.

The same concept applies to other seemingly healthier alternatives like brown sugar and honey used in desserts and sauces — the purported health benefits are negligible compared to the excess calories and carbohydrates ingested.

Making the right choices

However, this does not mean that you don’t get to indulge this upcoming Chinese New Year. A growing number of food and beverage (F&B) operators and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies have come up with healthier festive offerings that do not compromise on traditional flavours, so you can have your cake and eat it too.

Tung Lok Group for example, serves a low-sugar nian gao as well as a Prosperity Yu-sheng with a low-sugar plum sauce.

Other options you can consider are the healthier Yu-Sheng offerings from Sin Hwa Dee. Both its Sin Hwa Dee Fa Cai Yu-Sheng and Chef Chen Green Tea Prosperity Yu-Sheng, available at leading supermarkets, come with sauces that are up to 60 per cent lower sugar than regular sauces.


Tung Lok Group's rosperity Yu-sheng with a low-sugar plum sauce. PHOTO: TUNG LOK GROUP

These dishes have also been extensively taste-tested to ensure that they still taste good.

While stocking up on Chinese New Year drinks, look out for the Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS), which indicates that the beverage contains at least 25 per cent less sugar than regular sweetened beverages or better yet, choose a naturally-occurring zero-sugar beverage - water.

Public service officer Jaclyn Teo, 28, became a fan of Tung Lok’s low-sugar offerings when they were launched last year, and now makes it a point to hunt down low-sugar versions of her favourite Chinese New Year goodies for her family.

“I don’t want to be that person who refuses to eat anything during the festive season so I try to buy low-sugar alternatives,” she says. “You don’t really notice the difference in taste when you’re busy playing mahjong or chatting with your relatives anyway!”

  • Do you have something to share? Think you might have better ways to curb Singapore’s sugar consumption? Tell us at www.reach.gov.sg/sugarydrinks.


Sin Hwa Dee Fa Cai Yu-Sheng and Chef Chen Green Tea Prosperity Yu-Sheng. PHOTO SIN HWA DEE

Finance professional Diana Wong, 40, still prefers the original goodies over their low-sugar versions because of convenience. However, she admits that she likes the fact that she does not need to feel as guilty about snacking on the low-sugar goodies.

“Having to go to the gym to work off all the calories is always at the back on my mind when I reach for another pineapple tart or a glass of soda,” she explains. “If making the switch to low-sugar alternatives means I can fret about that less, then I’m sold!”

Additionally, HPB is also rewarding those who choose low-sugar options at participating outlets. Consumers can stand to earn sure-win rewards such as F&B and shopping vouchers in the Eat, Drink, Shop Healthy Challenge. Find out more at gethealthy.sg/eatdrinkshop.

Find out how much sugar is in your favourite festive treats
Chinese New Year snack Amount of sugar per serving

Pineapple tarts (2 pieces)

12g
Nian gao (1 piece) 17g
Love letters (2 pieces) 10g
Spicy dried shrimp rolls (45g packet) 2g
Kueh bangkit (2 pieces) 2g
Kueh bahulu (3 pieces) 12g
Bak kwa (1 slice) 32g

Check out our earlier story in this series. Find out more on healthier Christmas treats here.