#HEALTH: Festive feasting done right

CHINESE New Year festivities have begun. It's time for feasting and family togetherness.

Food will be in abundance at open houses and get-togethers and it's easy to over indulge. It is important to savour the joys of the season without compromising on health.

Here are some tips from dietitians Lo Hin Wei and Yokanantini Muniandy from Pantai Hospital Penang to plan meals and eat responsibly while still enjoying the joys of the Lunar New Year.

Don't skip breakfast

Having breakfast stabilises blood sugar levels, making it easier to resist overindulgence during Chinese New Year feasts. Fuel your day for festive gatherings by starting with nutritious choices. Options include steamed dim sum, brown rice congee, oatmeal with fresh fruits, whole grain buns with kaya, or fruit salad with yoghurt, providing energy for the day's celebrations.

Skipping meals will lead to overeating and choosing fattier food options due to increased hunger. You can opt to have a light meal before a festive dinner or open house, such as a sandwich or half a plate of noodles to avoid overeating while feasting.

Ensure your festive plate is well-balanced

Fill your plate with lean proteins, whole grains, and colourful vegetables.

Favour homemade dishes over processed or deep-fried alternatives as home-cooked meals contain fewer additives and use healthier cooking methods. Choosing a smaller plate can also improve portion control, especially if there is an expectation of another meal down the line.

Stay hydrated

This is essential given the hot weather during the Chinese New Year period.

Look out for healthier beverage choices such as plain water or drinks with reduced sugar as your primary beverage during the festivities.

Choose Chinese tea, herbal teas, black coffee without sugar or infused water over sugary drinks.

Navigate between meals with mindful snacking

Snack on fresh fruits, seeds and nut mixes to curb hunger between festive meals. This prevents overeating during main celebrations and ensures a continuous intake of essential nutrients. While Chinese New Year snacks are delicious, they are often high in fat, sugar, and calories, especially the ones that have been fried such as fried shrimp crackers or crispy seaweed, as well as the sugary ones such as pineapple tarts or love letters.

Make a conscious decision to manage portions when indulging in festive snacks and choose lower calorie options at each meal.

Embrace variety but practise moderation

Taste each delicacy in small portions to savour flavours without excessive calories. Opt for smaller plates, promoting healthier eating habits and reducing the risk of overeating. Listen to your body's signals and avoid overindulging in large portions during celebrations and open houses.

Take time to savour the flavours of food while enjoying conversations with your family members. By doing so, you are also learning to identify your hunger and fullness cues, which can prevent overeating. Mindful eating leads to healthier food choices.

Make time for physical activity

Incorporate short walks, light exercises, or engage in festive activities that involve movement. Help out with various activities, be it cleaning, decorating, cooking or even joining in games.These activities help burn calories and reduce sitting time.

Park your car further away while visiting friends or families, go for walks in between meals, climb the stairs instead of taking the lift or play with the kids. Regular exercise not only helps burn extra calories but also promotes overall wellbeing and enhances mood during the festive season.

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