Sweetening Your CNY Without the Added Sugar

If you’re Chinese, you’re likely to be stocking up on all sorts of snacks and drinks. Play the perfect host this coming Chinese New Year and practise these sugar-reducing tips

Chinese New Year Feasting

If you’re not Chinese, you’re probably looking forward to visiting a colleague or friend’s house to indulge in the annual feasting.

Less Sugar Doesn‘t Mean Less Taste

Within the huge array of snacks on offer, there’s bound to be lots of sweet treats and drinks. Even though you probably already know that too much sugar puts you at risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, Chinese New Year only comes once a year, so shouldn‘t you just enjoy the moment? After all, what would your friends and relatives think if all you served was plain water and sugar-free cookies?

It‘s not just your taste receptors in your mouth that adjust; there are also sweet taste receptors in your gut, which influence the release of hormones that control blood sugar and your appetite. In other words, the more sugar you consume, the more your body expects, and conversely, the less sugar you take, the less your body expects.

So now that we have busted the myth that more sugar = more taste, let‘s look at some practical figures and methods to aid us on our journey this Chinese New Year to cut down on sugar.

Practical Tips to Reduce Sugar Intake this CNY

As a rough guideline, added sugar (sugar which is added during manufacturing or cooking) should not constitute more than 10% of your dietary energy. This works out to approximately 40-55 grams (8-11 tsp) of sugar intake a day.

The following table shows you the estimated amount of sugar found in popular Chinese New Year snacks. With these numbers in mind, you should be able to make a more informed decision before gorging yourself silly with festive goodies.

Chinese New Year SnackAmount of Sugar per Serving
Pineapple Tarts (2 pcs)12 grams
Nian Gao (1 pc)17 grams
Love Letters (2 pcs)10 grams
Spicy Dried Shrimp Rolls (45g packet)2 grams
Kueh Bangkit (2 pcs)2 grams
Kueh Bahulu (3 pcs)12 grams
Bak Kwa (1 slice)32 grams

You can also try some of the following tips:

1. Use Sugar Substitutes in Your Cooking

As an alternative to sugar, experiment with non-caloric sweeteners in your cooking this Chinese New Year. These sweeteners contain little to no calories and are safe when consumed in moderate amounts. With the exception of aspartame, most sugar substitutes are heat stable and can be used for cooking.

You can also try mixing them with real sugar to achieve a more natural taste. Check out this useful guide on sugar substitutes.

Take note that while sugar substitutes contain fewer calories, they do not help your body get accustomed to less sweet foods.

2. Use Fruits as Sweeteners

Instead of sugar, use fruit purees, dried fruit or fruit juices in your baking, cooking or drinks. Check the ingredient labels to see that they have no added sugar.

3. Buy Foods and Snacks with the Healthier Choice Symbol

When stocking up on food and snacks to serve this Chinese New Year, look out for products with the Healthier Choice Symbol. These indicate healthier options, which are not only lower in sugar, but also in salt and fat.

4. Serve Dried Fruit Snacks

While dried fruit snacks contain more calories than fresh fruits, they are still a better option than chocolate and candies.

5. Offer Drinks with Less or No Sugar

Stock up and serve drinks with less or no sugar. You‘d be surprised at how many people go for the healthier option.

6. Eat Regularly

While this might sound strange, when you don‘t eat regularly, your blood sugar levels drop, causing you to feel hunger and crave sugary snacks. This CNY, arm yourself with healthy snack bars as you go about your house visitation. Every time you feel the hunger pangs set in, take a bite. This way, when you get to your next destination, you are less likely to overeat.

The Problem of Binge Eating and Excessive Dieting

You‘ve heard it all too often, and you may even be guilty of this. Come festive periods such as Chinese New Year, it‘s hard to say no to the endless feasting. You make yourself feel better by saying, “It‘s only a couple of times a year! I‘ll make it up by dieting after and going to the gym more often.”

However, this pattern of binge eating and excessive dieting, also known as yo-yo dieting or weight cycling, may not be ideal for your body in the long run. While more studies are still required to know if there are any proven negative effects on your body, we know that weight cycling is not the most effective method for weight loss.

While you may succeed initially at your ambitious diet plan, these goals are hard to achieve in the long run. You are likely to revert back to your old eating habits and may even put on a few extra kilos due to the negative emotional state of having failed at your diet plan. Remember, the key to a successful diet plan is to set achievable goals and be consistent.

Here’s wishing you a sweet celebration without the added sugar!

This article was originally published on Health Hub on 19th November 2018.