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.
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.
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.
Drinking tea comes with a myriad of perks: it boosts overall health and it is chock full of antioxidants that ward off diseases. Frequent tea drinkers even build up a repository of knowledge on various herbs and plants that improve our well-being and improve symptoms of health ailments and conditions.
But my favourite part of being a tea lover is the culture. It’s not even just a single culture; there are so many that you can imbibe in such as those from the Chinese, Japanese and English. We even have our very own Singaporean teh culture. With tea coming from so many parts of the world, it is a shame not to try some of them out. Here are some gorgeous teas that you can get for a tea lover, or perhaps even for yourself as a treat!
Blended with rose petals, corn flower, lavender, lemongrass and citrus, this tea not only tastes flavourful but it also works wonders on your skin. Rose is known to maintain good looking skin by reducing acne and improving your digestion. With the inclusion of so many flowers, it doesn’t just taste good – it looks like a dream too. The gift box comes with 8 sachets, each of which can brew 400ml of tea.
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Looking for something Chinese New Year appropriate? This Pu-Erh Tea Brick from TWG might be just the tea for you. Packaged in a gorgeous matte red and gold gift box, it gives a luxurious touch to your tea. The tea brick is hand compressed and the tea leaves are all grown traditionally in the fog filled mountains of Yunnan. Plus, you don’t have to worry about it going past the expiration date – the tea improves with age. To brew, flake off 2.5g of tea leaves for each cup and infuse for 3-5 minutes.
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Why settle for one tea when you could have three? Especially if the three fruit flavoured teas remind you of frolicking in the sun? With blends of peach, passion fruit and mango, you will feel like you are on a holiday every time you brew yourself a cup in the middle of the work week. Now that is a beautiful gift for anyone.
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This fruity tea is refreshing whether served hot or cold. With almost no caffeine, this makes it the perfect tea to drink to relax before bed. Rooibos is also a great source of antioxidants which helps maintain the suppleness of your skin and also keep your immune system strong. Packaged in a classy navy box, it is an amazing gift for any tea lover.
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Other than being gorgeously packaged, this tea gift set scores points for the witty pun which points to the inspiration of the blend. This fragrant green tea is inspired by the flower garland shops around Tekka Market area. There are 12 sachets in each tin. The pearls in the sachets unfurl in the heat so it is not only a treat for the mouth and nose but also the eyes.
I hope you are inspired to gift the tea people in your life. Whether it is a tin of their favourite tea or a blend that is completely new for them to try, the thought and effort put into the gift warms the heart more than any tea.
Written by: Annmaria Patteri