Help At Your Fingertips

Tips for those worried about mooncakes' calories

Snowskin mooncakes like these are healthier than the Teochew-style flaky crust ones.
Snowskin mooncakes like these are healthier than the Teochew-style flaky crust ones. PHOTO: ST REGIS SINGAPORE

It is getting harder to resist the lure of mooncakes, with the ever-expanding range of flavours, creative combinations and textures. Besides traditional baked varieties, you can find mooncakes made with chocolate, ice cream, fruit, spices, tea or even infused with alcohol.

If you are watching your calories this Mid-Autumn Festival, there are some basic guidelines that you can abide by, as shared by Ms Bibi Chia, principal dietitian at Raffles Diabetes and Endocrine Centre.

Baked, snowskin or flaky crust?

Among these three broad categories of mooncakes, the traditional baked and snowskin types can be considered the "healthier" options.

The Teochew-style flaky crust mooncake, which commonly comes with a yam paste filling, is made by rolling alternate layers of oily dough and flour that have been stir-fried in oil. Some recipes also call for deep-frying.

Therefore, the flaky crust mooncake tends to contain more fat.

When buying mooncakes

1. Check the ingredients list.

They are listed from the highest percentage to the lowest.

Opt for low-sugar or no-sugar mooncakes if you wish to minimise calorie intake. Skip those containing salted egg yolks to cut back on sodium.

This is important for people with diabetes, high blood cholesterol and who are overweight.

2. Look for the shelf life of the mooncake, or ask the retailer. Usually, the longer the shelf life, the higher the amount of trans fat, sugar or preservatives it contains.

3. If there are samples available, pay attention to the texture. The smoother and softer the mooncake skin or paste is, the more fat it has.

How much to eat?

Portion control is key to preventing excess calorie consumption.

If you are having mooncake for a snack, the general advice is to limit your intake to 100 calories - roughly one-eighth of an average mooncake.

A typical full-sized mooncake packs more than 700 calories; some varieties may even contain close to 1,000 calories. For example, a plain baked mooncake with lotus seed paste has 716 calories. A plain snowskin mooncake with lotus paste has 983 calories, according to the Health Promotion Board.

Make your own

If you are making your own mooncakes, consider adding these healthy twists.

1. Reduce the amount of sugar used. Instead, add fruit or dried fruit as they are naturally sweet.

2. Use wholemeal flour, which has more fibre and is lower in glycemic index than white flour.

This translates to a steady rise in blood glucose level, rather than a sharp spike.

3. Add some nuts and seeds for a fibre and nutrient boost.

Guard against overeating

One simple trick to keep yourself in check is to share a mooncake with your family and friends.

Also, cut it into pieces and just have one piece, instead of chomping on an entire mooncake.

Of course, do try to avoid buying too many mooncakes in the first place, or you may feel compelled to eat more, just to prevent them from going to waste.

Poon Chian Hui

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2015, with the headline Tips for those worried about mooncakes' calories. Subscribe