Chinese New Year Survival Guide: How to Stay Healthy & Still Have Fun

Festivities are truly dangerous times for your fitness and health goals. Not only do you have to deal with a thousand and one temptations (pineapple tarts anyone?), you also have to deal with the relatives and party hosts who can’t let you out of their sight until you’ve piled your plate with a generous assortment of party treats. This is how we do hospitality in Malaysia, after all.

So, how can you enjoy Chinese New Year without piling on the pounds? Here are some tips:

On the Road


1. Stock up on healthy snacks

To those of you who are going to balik kampung, especially during the peak hours, expect to spend some time in your car. Rather than having lots of potato chips and soft drinks on hand, why not munch on some healthy snacks instead?

Here are some ideas:

  • Carrot and cucumber sticks with hummus
  • Steamed edamame
  • Nuts
  • Tuna salad
  • Cut fruits
  • Roasted seaweed
  • Get more ideas here.

2. Drink water 

As much as you hate the queues at the rest stop restrooms, you need water in your system to function optimally. Dehydration will leave you feeling fatigued, which is not the condition you would want to drive in. Keep your brain fresh and alert by constantly feeding it some H2o. [1]

3. Get enough sleep before the journey

While some of you might sacrifice sleep to get the maximum done before heading back to your hometown, you’re probably upping your chances of being in an accident as well. Being awake for 18 hours or more is equivalent to having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08%, which is classified as legally drunk in certain countries [2]. So aim to get at least 8-9 hours of sleep before getting behind that wheel!

At the Reunion Dinner


4. Eat lunch before 

As tempted as you are to starve the whole day so your tummy is ready for the onslaught of food, don’t. It’s probably not a surprise, but you tend to overeat if you’re starving.

5. Be selective 

The table’s going to be completely filled with different dishes, some healthier than others. Fill up on veggies, mushrooms, fish and lean meat first, then carefully indulge in the deep-fried stuff but limit yourself.

6. Pace yourself

I don’t know about you, but at most big feasts I tend to pile my plate high with foods and steamrolling through them before crashing on the couch, realising that I’ve over-stuffed myself yet again. By taking it slow, you allow your brain time to register that you’re getting full, and you’ll stop chowing down on the calories.

Don’t believe me?

Research found that women eating quickly consumed 646 calories in 9 minutes, while women eating slowly consumed only 579 calories in 29 minutes. The saved calories can easily add up over multiple meals a day. A more interesting twist is that women who ate their lunch quickly reported feeling more hungry an hour later than the women who ate their lunch slowly. This means that eating slowly not only saves you calories, it keeps you satisfied for longer too! [3]

At House Visits


7. Choose water or Chinese tea

Chinese New Year usually means the fridge and ice coolers are stocked to the brim with a selection of sweet and soft drinks. You can get your hands on anything from chrysanthemum tea to Shandy, but we suggest you don’t. Check the sugar content on the drinks and limit yourself to a couple a day, otherwise you might be inadvertently drinking up your calories of the day.

Instead, drink water or Chinese tea! These are zero calorie drinks that’ll also help keep you full and away from all the snacks.

8. Make a snack plan

It’s super easy to unconsciously eat 10 pineapple tarts and 20 kueh kapek in one sitting. And that’s at one house visit. If you’re doing a few a day, prepare to add on hundreds or even thousands of calories on top of your regular breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The better way to do it is to make an agreement with yourself at the beginning of the day, before the snack attack happens. How many peanut cookies will you consume today? How many kuih bangkit? Make a deal with yourself and stick to it.

9. Walk and mingle

Walk around and talk to everyone instead of sitting in a corner waiting for people to come talk to you. Sitting too much is bad for your health, so make it a point to take walks occasionally. This will help burn some calories too!

10. Say no to excess food 

This can be quite a challenge especially when your hosts are trying to ensure that you’re more than well-fed. However, you’ll be sabotaging your  health goals if you’re constantly munching on cakes and cookies at every house visit you make. If you think it’s not so nice to decline the food, offer to share it with your other family members or friends.

The Chinese New Year Period


11. Get some exercise! 

Instead of filling your day with house visits, why not take advantage of the public holiday and hike up a hill with your family? It’s great for family bonding and there are plenty of beautiful hikes around the Klang Valley for those of you celebrating in the city centre. Work out as a family at the park, go for a bike ride, and do something active together! You don’t get many instances where the entire family’s together with free time on their hands, so make full use of that!

12. Bring your own snacks 

Some of you are probably going over to a friend’s or relative’s place for mahjong or card games till the wee hours of the morning. When you get hungry, a snack box filled with nutritious fruits would make a better snack than the calorific cookies and bak kwa.

Well, we hope these tips helped make your Chinese New Year a more healthful one! Gong hei fatt choy!!! 


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