The festive season is upon us! Break out the red packets, mandarin oranges, gold ingots, new clothes and of course the new you for this Lunar New Year! If you haven’t been paying attention, it is the year of the dog and according to the horoscope, it is going to be a good year in all respects, but also an exhausting one. You will experience a rollercoaster of emotions, from happiness and frustration, to feeling rested, dull, cheerful and tired. But do not fret! We humans are well equipped for such situations, just lean on your friends and family in the upcoming joyous new year and if all else fails, stuff your face with some yummy new year goodies!
Speaking of which, I know we all love the usual sinful treats that come with Chinese New Year like bak kwa, love letters, pineapple tarts and my biggest weakness: shrimp rolls. As I am writing this, I already cannot wait to get my hands on my favorite brand of shrimp rolls. However, is it a common phenomenon among all of you who – like me – love indulging, to gain weight, feel sluggish and even have breakouts after the new year is over? I always prep myself for the onslaught of weight gain because I love snacking so much but it’s time to be healthier, and have the willpower to eat healthier alternatives so our bodies are well nourished. All who wish to embark on this journey to health and wellness, here is a list of healthy alternatives to the usual goodies, do pack these in a Tupperware container to carry around while visiting so you won’t be tempted to indulge.
Almonds are a type of tree nuts that are renowned for their health benefits. Experts often rave about how much healthy fats, fiber, protein, magnesium and vitamin E almonds have and how they can lower blood sugar levels, reduce blood pressure, reduce hunger and lower cholesterol levels. Those of you out there who are on the path to weight loss, this snack just might be your holy grail! Almonds are low in carbs, and high in both protein and fiber with increase satiety and thus reduces your hunger and helps to lower your overall calorie intake – ie. Eat almonds, eat less overall and eventually lose weight. The recommended serving size is approximately 23 almonds or a handful, portion control is key, it will be pointless if you stuff yourself with a hundred almonds to combat hunger. Ration your nuts wisely throughout the day!
Odds are, many of you have heard of or even tried edamame but you don’t actually know what they are and how they benefit you. Edamame are young soy beans that are actually harvested before they have ripened and hardened. Japanese restaurants often serve them in their pods and they are rather fun to pry open and pop into your mouth, but they can be purchased both fresh and frozen. Edamame is rich in calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin C and E, riboflavin and many more. These nutrients are important in keeping our skin healthy and age resistant, strengthens the immune system, strengthens our bones and even reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases. The recommended serving size is about ½ a cup of edamame. Pop a bean every now and then whenever you feel hungry, they will surely leave you feeling fresh and rejuvenated.
3. Dark Chocolate
I know how hard it is for fellow sweet tooths out there to survive this dastard holiday, the temptations are everywhere! Sweets, pineapple tarts and the cursed cookies! So if you are in severe need of a sugar fix, dark chocolate is your best friend. The higher the percentage of cocoa the better, because it has less sugar and more flavor than milk chocolate and you can really taste the strong hint of the cacao plant. However, for beginner dark chocolate enthusiasts, I recommend working your way up before you try 90% dark chocolate because you might just spit it out. Start at 50-60% and as you appreciate the bitter taste more and more, try higher percentages. You might think even though its dark chocolate, it is still unhealthy. Wrong! It has been scientifically proven that dark chocolate has tons of antioxidants, Fiber, Iron, Magnesium, Copper, Manganese and a few other minerals that can lower blood pressure, the risk of cardiovascular diseases and improve your blood flow. However, it is still something to be eaten in moderation, like all other snacks. The recommended serving size is about 100g twice a week, not daily.
Hummus is a thick creamy Levantine spread that is commonly found in the Middle East, it is primarily comprised of mashed chickpeas and other beans, tahini, lemon juice, mixed with some oil and seasoning. Hummus is a good source of plant based protein, can help balance blood sugar levels, is anti-inflammatory and it can help boost your energy. It has a unique taste and serves to widen your food palette – stop eating so much laksa and chicken rice! Try something new. You can eat hummus with some whole meal bread, whole grain crackers and even use it to top dishes like Mediterranean fish. It is also incredibly easy to make from scratch so you have to buy it from a store. The recommended serving size is about 100g.
5. Plain popcorn
Read the header again, “PLAIN”! I bet a few of you were ready to dash to the movie theatre to load up on some sweet caramel popcorn. Only when eaten plain, does popcorn have many nutritional benefits. Popcorn is a type of grain and it is rich in fiber, antioxidants, manganese, magnesium and more. Popcorn helps improve digestion and facilitates regular bowel movement, lowers cholesterol levels, prevents aging, and can aid in weight loss. Note again that this is only true for plain popcorn, try not to douse it in salt, butter or caramel because that would make it moot. The recommended serving size is about 3 cups of popped kernels. Pop some in your microwave and enjoy a round of Netflix, you deserve it you superstar.