Safe and Balanced Eating: The Best Health Tips for the Year of the Rat

Chinese New Year is around the corner and we wish you great success and good health in the Year of the Rat!

During Chinese New Year, we like to enjoy some festive foods with family members and friends. The following are some tips for you when purchasing and consuming them.

When you shop for festive foods, do not buy excessive amounts as they may go bad after improper or prolonged storage. Also, choose fresh foods and buy less preserved or processed foods. For pre-packaged foods, check the expiry dates and make sure that the packages are intact. For non-packaged food products, pay attention to the hygienic conditions of the shops and the hygiene practice of the staff, for instance, whether the foods are kept in covered containers and whether the staff use clean utensils to handle foods. If you have any doubts on the source of the foods, do not buy them.

When buying traditional snacks (e.g. sweetened melon, sweetened lotus seeds and sweetened coconut slices) to fill up candy box, pay attention to their colours and choose those with natural colours as brightly-white food products may have been bleached. In fact, these traditional snacks are high in sugar or fat but low in nutrition values. Try replacing the traditional snacks with some healthy foods such as dried fruits (e.g. dried apricots and raisins) and baked unsalted nuts. When you buy melon seeds, pay attention to the hulls. Those looking unnaturally glossy may have been added with mineral oil and you may develop gastrointestinal discomfort if you eat them. Also, you may use a hand cracker when eating melon seeds to avoid any direct contact between the mouth and the hulls.

As for deep-fried foods like crispy triangles, sesame balls and crispy sesame seed balls, you should keep them in air-tight containers in a cool place. As these foods are high in energy and fat, you are advised to eat them in moderate amount only.

Another must-have food for Chinese New Year is a great variety of festive cakes symbolising a more prosperous year. For home-made turnip cakes, use healthy ingredients such as mushroom, dried shrimp, diced spring onion and lean ham instead of Chinese preserved sausages and meats. Use less sugar to make New Year puddings and water chestnut cakes. For pre-packaged cakes, pay attention to the expiry dates on their labels. Keep all festive cakes in the refrigerator and consume them as soon as possible. Reheat them thoroughly before consumption, preferably by steaming or in microwave oven to avoid use of oil. If the cakes have mould or abnormal taste or smell, discard them immediately as these signs imply that they may be spoiled.

Don't forget the need of a balanced diet and avoid eating too many preserved and processed foods in Chinese New Year. You are invited to use the Food Nutrient Calculator on our website to check the intake of energy and nutrients in a day.