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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Eat smart this Chinese New Year

Know the calorie count of anything, and that's half the battle won.
MyPaper - February 8, 2013
By: Jill Alphonso
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Eat smart this Chinese New Year

SINGAPORE - I am a person who enjoys working out as the sun rises, who cooks my own desserts because I prefer to know how much - and what kind of - sugar goes into the sweet.

Generally, through keeping fit and a common-sense approach to food, I like to treat my body well.

But if I had one weakness, it would be the pineapple tart, those gorgeous, golden, butter-laden Chinese New Year treats.

I don't diet, but I'm a firm believer in portion control, the key to shedding and maintaining weight.

I stick to my goals, and when I say I'm going to eat one cup of rice, that's what I eat.

However, pineapple tarts wreak havoc with all my well-laid plans.

See, each tart contains about 100 calories, which equates to about half a cup, or a small bowl, of rice.

That doesn't sound so bad. Until you consider that one can never stop at just one tart. Five is more of a realistic expectation. And that equates to, oh, a meal.

Not to mention that the sugar content (damn you, sweet, sweet pineapple filling!) is high.

Eat three tarts, and you'll have consumed some five teaspoons (about 20g) of sugar.

Many dietary guidelines recommend eating no more than eight teaspoons (or 32g) of sugar a day.

So, how does one face Chinese New Year, and still be able to fit into a pencil skirt or power suit, post-festivities?

There's nothing wrong with indulging a little, and there are ways to enjoy the bak kwa, nian gao, cookies and more.

To me, it's about knowledge.

Know the calorie count of anything, and that's half the battle won. Then, it's about how much you eat.

How many calories you need a day depends on your weight, activity level (a waiter on his feet, for instance, would burn more calories than a desk-bound office worker), if you exercise, and your basal metabolic rate (the amount of energy your body needs to function when at rest).


But as a rough guide, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) says that the average male adult requires about 2,100 calories each day, while the average female adult requires about 1,600.

For me, that translates to 200-calorie breakfasts; 500-calorie lunches and dinners; and fruit, desserts and snacks totalling 400 calories a day.

The definition of overeating is consuming more calories than you require.

I track what I'm eating for each meal by using a calorie counter on my smartphone.

There are plenty around, though my favourite, with a wide range of foods in its database, is MyFitnessPal.

HPB, too, has one on offer, called iDat.

For the rest, common sense applies.

If you're eating a lot, you need to burn it off somehow.

Take the stairs while visiting, for instance, instead of the lift. If you're driving, park your car farther away than you need to in order to get a walk in.

And don't go visiting on an empty stomach, when you're more likely to binge.

Instead, have a small sandwich (wholegrain or at least wholewheat bread only, please) or a piece of fruit before you leave the house.

Avoiding refined foods is almost impossible if you're a tart-lover like me, but try to stay away from salted or roasted nuts, and opt for raw ones instead.

As for drinks, have water or tea, instead of a sugary soft or sweetened drink.

If you're sitting down to a meal, choose three to five dishes and skip the rest. Have what you've chosen in small portions.

And if you do overeat, don't skip meals on subsequent days.

Instead, have regular meals but keep the portions small. And get back to your regular fitness regime.

I would say "good luck" but luck doesn't come into play when it comes to what you put into your body.

Instead, I shall leave you with this: Eat smart, and don't compromise.


The queueing for bak kwa