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Six Principles for New Year Dishes: Delicious and Balanced Without Overindulging

As we approach the year-end and Lunar New Year, whether it’s gathering around a hot pot or enjoying a table filled with New Year dishes, the mixed feelings of savoring delicious food and fretting over weight control often come up. Dietitian get where you’re coming from, and the following tips can help ease this dilemma.


Pei-Li Hsu, the dietitian at Taipei City Hospital, Zhongxing Branch, recommends using your own dishes and applying the six principles of “My Plate,” designed by the Health Promotion Administration of the Ministry of Health and Welfare. This can help you adjust the quantity and proportions of the six major food categories, letting you relish tasty meals during the Chinese New Year without going overboard.


Principle 1: Some amount of rice as vegetables.


Whether it’s rice dishes (such as steamed glutinous rice and rice cakes), noodles (like stir-fried noodles, rice vermicelli and glass noodles), traditional Chinese pasty (including radish cake, sticky rice cake, steamed sponge cake and sweet dumpling), or starchy vegetables (like taro paste, pumpkin pie, sweet potato balls and corn), they all fall under the starchy whole grain category. Without careful attention, it’s easy to overindulge. To strike a balance, intaking various vegetables in the same quantity as whole grains can enhance the feeling of fullness.


Principle 2: Slightly larger amount of vegetables than fruits.


Common winter vegetables include leafy greens (such as spinach, Chinese broccoli and crown daisy), leafy vegetables (like mustard greens, cabbage and Chinese cabbage), cauliflower (including white cauliflower, green broccoli and long yellow daylily), root vegetables (like carrots and white radish), fruit vegetables (such as winter gourd, tomato and bell pepper), legumes (including bean sprouts, snow peas and string beans), mushroom varieties (shiitake mushroom, king trumpet mushroom and black wood ear), seaweed varieties (like hair seaweed, laver and kelp), etc. All of them are rich in dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals. Consuming an amount equivalent to 1.5 fist sizes per meal can have noticeable effects on weight control, cholesterol reduction, slowing blood sugar rise, and preventing constipation.


Principle 3: Fist-size amount of fruits for every meal.


The main difference between fruits and vegetables lies in the higher sugar content and relatively higher calories present in fruits, making it easy for people to overeat due to their convenience. Pei-Li Hsu suggests maintaining a portion of fruit equivalent to the size of a fist for each meal, with twice daily intake being advisable. It’s especially important for people with dysglycemia to be mindful of the appropriate amount of fruit consumption.


Principle 4: Palm-sized amount of protein foods (Beans, fish, eggs and meats).

In New Year dishes, including pork, beef, lamb, chicken, duck, goose, seafood, eggs and soybean products are high protein sources. However, some items may have a high-fat content, and cooking methods such as frying, pan-frying and deep-frying can raise concerns about high calories. Therefore, a palm-sized portion per meal is more appropriate! It is recommended to choose ingredients with minimal processing, low fat, and light cooking methods, such as steaming, toasting, stewing, cold and dressed with sauce. Tofu, fresh fish and chicken cooked in this manner are preferable, as they not only avoid excessive calories but are also easily digestible, reducing the likelihood of bloating.


Principle 5: One teaspoon of nuts and seeds.


Nuts and seeds include peanuts (peanut candy), cashews (cashew tart), walnuts (Chinese walnut cookie), almonds (sliced almonds), sesame seeds (sesame rice puff), pine nuts, melon seeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. These are often mixed into dishes and snacks, but as they are rich in oils, they are concentrated sources of calories. It is recommended to consume them in moderation, with each serving not exceeding the size of a thumb (about one teaspoon) per meal, and the total daily amount should not exceed one tablespoon.


Principle 6: A glass of milk twice a day.


Drinking a glass of a dairy product each morning and evening (240 ml/serving) can enhance calcium intake and maintain bone health. Other dairy products, such as unsweetened drinking yogurt (240 ml/serving), sugar-free firm yogurt (210 g/serving), cheese (2 slices/serving), and shredded baked cheese (35 g/serving), can also be consumed in moderation.