Simple ways to eat healthy this Chinese New Year (2023)

Chinese New Year (CNY) is all about tradition, gathering and celebration.

The food you find on the table during this festive season carries symbolic meaning, often emphasizing that it brings luck and fortune.

While most of us gorge on sweets, some feel guilty about consuming large amounts of "unhealthy" high-calorie foods.

But don't worry, not everything you eat in this CNY is bad for you.

Here are some foods that you can definitely include in your diet to stay healthy!

wealthy and healthy

The following foods not only have good symbolic meaning but are also healthy to consume.


During CNY, tangerines are ubiquitous as this golden fruit symbolizes good luck.

Tangerines are citrus fruits rich in vitamin C.

A medium-sized tangerine (85 g) provides 24 mg of vitamin C, which is about a third of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C.

The bright yellow-orange color comes from plant pigments called carotenoids, which are the precursors to vitamin A.

In addition to vitamins, tangerines are also rich in fiber and antioxidants.

It is recommended to eat two servings of fruit daily.

One tangerine equals one serving, so always remember to eat in moderation.


In Mandarin, leeks are pronounced as "Suan', which sounds like 'count' and symbolizes abundance of wealth.

Like most vegetables, leeks provide fiber, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals.

It's also low in calories.

Include leeks in your protein dishes for added fiber (and color).

A good example would be searing lean meat or tofu with leeks.

According to the Malaysian Dietary Guidelines 2020 (MDG 2020), three servings of vegetables per day are recommended.

You can get constipated if you don't get enough fiber, so here's a reminder to eat your veggies during the CNY celebrations!


Pez (and) is always served at the table at the reunion dinner.

This is what “excess” or “abundance” sounds like.

(Video) 5 Tips For A Stress-Free Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner And CNY Meal Plan

Fish is a good source of protein and also rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Compared to red meat, fish has less saturated fat, i.e. the “bad” fat.

Regular consumption of fish is good for heart and brain health and reduces the risk of heart disease and dementia.

The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fish each week.

Steaming is one of the healthiest cooking methods, and you can add natural flavors like ginger, chives, tomatoes, or Chinese mushrooms.


Simple ways to eat healthy this Chinese New Year (1)Pistachios symbolize happiness to the Chinese, but your waistline won't be happy if you consume too many as they can really skyrocket your daily calorie count. — AFP

Pistachios are known as "lucky nuts" in Mandarin and thus symbolize happiness.

They mainly contain unsaturated fats, i.e. the “good” fats.

These nuts provide fiber, protein, and certain vitamins and minerals.

However, do not overdo it or you risk consuming too many calories.

It is recommended that you eat just a handful of nuts daily.

Also, opt for unsalted pistachios to reduce your sodium intake.


Dumplings are another popular food in Chinese families.

They are shaped like ingots and symbolize wealth.

The dumplings are usually steamed (i.e. a low-fat cooking method) and contain a good mix of ground beef and vegetables such as cabbage or Chinese chives.

They provide carbohydrates (dumpling skin), protein (meat) and fiber (vegetables), making them a balanced meal.

For healthier options, try pairing the meatballs with extra veggies to increase your fiber intake.

Also, opt for steaming or boiling instead of frying to reduce oil consumption.

>Loh Han Jai

Some families eat Loh Han Jai, also known as Buddha's Delight, during this festival.

This vegetarian dish consists mainly of vegetables plus some vegetarian ingredients.

These include shiitake mushrooms, peas, baby corn, carrots, black fungus, tofu, tofu leaves, rice noodles, etc.

This can be considered a balanced dish in terms of nutrition; it is also high in fiber.

However, if you plan to use fermented tofu as a condiment for this dish, use it in small amounts as it is high in sodium.

(Video) Simple Chinese New Year Foods You Can Cook - and Why We Eat Them

Promising, but it may be healthier.

Another way to turn your CNY food into something healthy is to do the right "swaps".Simple ways to eat healthy this Chinese New Year (2)Take a Korean leaf and cut your bak kwa into small pieces and wrap them in a piece of lettuce for a healthier snack. —Filepic


Some families have dinner on the steamboat during CNY.

The steamer has a round shape, which is why it symbolizes reunions.

It is a healthy cooking method, meaning low in fat and calories.

To make your steamer healthier, choose healthy and fresh ingredients.

Replace processed foods high in sodium like meatballs, sausage, fish cakes, crab sticks, cheese tofu, etc. with fresh ingredients.

The healthiest sources of protein include chicken, lean meats, fish, shrimp, and tofu.

And don't forget the veggies!

At least half of the ingredients should come from fresh vegetables like kale, spinach, tomatoes, and mushrooms.

Also, be careful with sauces: Don't eat too many sauces, especially oil-based ones like chili oil or sesame oil and salty or light soy sauce.

Instead, opt for fresh garlic and chili with a dash of soy sauce or vinegar as a dipping sauce if you enjoy a steamer.

>feather falls

Another favorite during this festive season is pen cai (poon choy in Cantonese), where all the "fancy" ingredients are cooked in one big pot.

Examples of ingredients used are abalone, scallops, shrimp, roast pork, etc.

This stew is very versatile and you can add whatever you want.

To make it healthier, add layers of vegetables like broccoli, bok choy, mushrooms, and radish.

Reduce the amount of sauces and condiments like oyster sauce, light soy sauce, and dark soy sauce, especially if you have family members with high blood pressure.

>nian gao

Every house will have Nian Gao (kuih bakul) during this festival.Simple ways to eat healthy this Chinese New Year (3)Instead of frying your nian gao, why not just steam it? —Filepic

"Nian" means "year" and "Gao" translated means "high", so Nian Gao symbolizes further achievements or promotions.

It is made from glutinous rice flour and usually has a sticky texture.

Some families prepare nian gao fritters as a snack during CNY, in which the nian gao is interspersed with yam and sweet potato and then fried.

A piece of Nian Gao donut (50 g) contains 220 kcal.

We recommend using minimal oil or a deep fryer to cook it; or better yet, just steam and eat!

(Video) What my Vietnamese family eats in Lunar New Year

>Pineapple cake

Pineapple pies are a typical delicacy eaten during CNY.

The word "pineapple" in certain Chinese dialects, e.g. "hybrid bee"en Hokkien y"wong lai' in Cantonese sounds similar to the expression 'prosperity is coming'.

Pineapple tarts with their sweet and tangy jam can be really addictive!

Always use caution when eating pineapple tarts or CNY snacks during home visits.

Take 1-3 pieces in a small bowl/plate and eat slowly.

Otherwise, you might end up eating non-stop!

>bake for

Bak kwa, or grilled pork jerky, is another CNY must-try.

It is generally very high in calories: a piece of bak kwa (90 g) contains 370 kcal.

Why not cut into small pieces and eat with vegetables?

Eating high-fiber foods can make you feel full and prevent you from overeating.

For example, you can wrap it with fresh salad (like the Koreans do with their grilled meat) or use it as part of your salad!

>Yee sang

Also known as the Prosperity Salad, Yee Sang has become an exciting ritual during CNY.

Family, friends or colleagues gather around the table with the plate in the middle to throw the ingredients in the air with their chopsticks and say their wishes out loud.

throwing means good luck; the higher the better.

Nowadays, we can see pre-packaged boxes of Yee Sang with colorful ingredients everywhere.

It saves time, but we recommend swapping them out for healthier ingredients.

For example, use fresh ingredients, especially pureed fruits and vegetables, to increase fiber and reduce calories.

Check out the recipe below for inspiration.

Simple ways to eat healthy this Chinese New Year (4)

Think of 88888!

Last but not least, remember to practice 88888 every day.

>Stop eating when you feel 80% full

Don't eat until you feel completely full (or worse, too full) and always eat slowly.

(Video) The 8 Essential Dishes of Chinese New Year

If you eat too fast, your brain may not have enough time to get the signal that you're full.

This leads to overeating.

>Have dinner before 8:00 p.m

Don't eat too close to bedtime to allow time for digestion, which can disrupt your sleep.

Eating late at night, especially in front of a screen, is often a mindless meal.

If you must eat, watch your portion size and choose healthy snacks.

ALSO READ:Don't let your kids eat late at night, it's not good for them

>Drink eight glasses of water.

Choose plain water instead of sugary drinks.

Always keep a bottle of water handy, especially when you go out.

If you want something other than water or Chinese tea, choose teas with less sugar, soy milk, or grass jelly.

ALSO READ:Drink more fluids for a longer, healthier life

>Sleep eight hours

During the festival we can attend meetings, watch TV or play card games until the early hours.

This can lead to fatigue, lack of alertness and mood swings.

It's best to stick to the same sleep schedule and avoid staying up late.

ALSO READ:16 tips for a good night's sleep

>Walk at least 8,000 steps

Ten thousand steps is even better!

Aside from overeating, reduced physical activity can also lead to unwanted weight gain.

So it doesn't sit for long.

You can break the sedentary lifestyle by walking or stretching.

If possible, integrate more physical activity into your everyday life, e.g. Park your car some distance away and use the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator.

ALSO READ:Are 10,000 Daily Steps Really the Magic Number for Better Health?

Follow all of the previous Ministry of Health advice and you'll be partying healthier!

May health and happiness abound in this Year of the Rabbit!

(Video) Easy Chinese New Year Recipes | Marion's Kitchen

Voon Suk Chen is a master's student in clinical nutrition and Dr. Suzana Shahar is Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics and Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. For more information please email The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice.The starmakes no warranties as to the accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness, or any other warranties as to the content of this article.The stardisclaims all liability for any loss, damage to property or personal injury arising directly or indirectly from reliance on any such information.


What are the 7 lucky food for Chinese New Year? ›

8 Lucky Foods to Ring in the Chinese New Year
  • Jiaozi (Dumplings)
  • Dayu Darou (Whole Fish or Meat)
  • Lawei (Cured Meats)
  • Chun Juan (Spring Rolls)
  • Changshou Mian (Longevity Noodles)
  • Good Fortune Fruit.
  • Babao Fan (Eight Treasures Rice)
  • Tang Yuan (Glutinous-Rice Balls in Sweet Syrup)

What to eat for Chinese New Year 2022? ›

8 Must Have Chinese New Year Recipes for a Lucky Year 2022
  • Chinese New Year Cake (Sweet Rice Cake) ​ Luck Category: Increasing Prosperity. ...
  • Pork & Leek Potstickers. ...
  • Traditional Whole Steamed Fish. ...
  • Whole Chicken ​ ...
  • Longevity Noodles. ...
  • Shanghai Rice Cakes Stir Fry (Savory Rice Cakes) ...
  • Traditional Chinese Almond Cookies.

Which fruit should not be given at Chinese New Year? ›

Giving gifts of fruit is common on Chinese New Year but one to avoid is the pear. The word for pears is very similar to the word for parting or leaving and so can be seen again as a gift referring to saying goodbye.

What fruit is good luck in Chinese? ›

Oranges, kumquats, tangerines and pomelos are common Chinese New Year food gifts because they're believed to bring good luck and happiness. The Chinese words for orange and tangerine closely resemble the words for luck and wealth. The gold color also symbolizes prosperity.

What do you eat for breakfast on Chinese New Year? ›

Steamed fish is one of the most famous CNY recipes and it definitely a healthier choice. “Tang Yuan” is associated with reunion and being together. They're made of glutinous rice flour and water, They're always served in a seasoned, typically sweet, syrup soup. Chinese people eat “Tang Yuan” for a happy reunion.

What is the new year's Food for Health wealth and happiness? ›

Some popular traditions call for greens, legumes, pork, grains, noodles, and fish. All are symbols of health, wealth, and prosperity for the coming year. Greens—including cabbage, collards, kale, and chard—represent folded money.

Can you eat eggs on Chinese New Year? ›

Eating a whole egg in any kind of preparation is an important part of welcoming the new year and celebrating the Spring Festival—the rounding of the cruel curve of winter in Chinese culture. Like everything else around this cultural holiday, it's dripping with more symbolism than sauce.

Why do we give 2 oranges during Chinese New Year? ›

According to the Cantonese speaking Southern Chinese, giving Mandarin oranges ('song gam') sounds like 'giving gold'; thus, the giving of mandarin oranges is a gesture of wishing prosperity to the recipient. While giving Mandarin oranges, do give them in a pair (or several pairs) for good luck.

What not to eat during Chinese New Year? ›

In Chinese tradition, white is an unlucky color because it symbolizes death, so all white foods are out for the celebration. Tofu, eggs, rice, cauliflower, white cheeses—say goodbye to them for the night. Instead, fill your New Year's table with other colorful foods.

What are the lucky 12 round fruits for New Year? ›

The 12 fruits enlisted were pineapple, orange, apple, mango, banana, watermelon, avocado, grapes, papaya, lemon, lychee, and pomegranates.

What food is traditionally eaten for luck? ›

Today we'll take a look at popular food items revered for bringing good fortune to those who consume them.
  • Pork. Succulent, rich, and fatty, pork symbolizes wealth and prosperity. ...
  • Fish. Scales represent coins, and so fish is deemed a culinary item of good fortune. ...
  • Beans. ...
  • Greens. ...
  • Corn bread. ...
  • Grapes. ...
  • Pomegranate. ...
  • Noodles.


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