Feast and fast

Feast and fast

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Don't think you can pig out over the holidays and then diet it all away, if you want to stay healthy, writes Zoe Mak

Lunar New Year is a time of feasts. A table groaning with meat and fish heralds a prosperous year ahead. But while the mounds of food represent good fortune, overeating is not good for our health.

Peggy Yip Pui-sze, a registered dietician and an instructor on the Food and Nutritional Sciences Programme at the Chinese University, says it is common to eat more meat and fewer vegetables during Lunar New Year. But meat dishes often contain a lot of salt and sugar, which are bad for you.

'It is usual to eat heavily during major festive seasons like the Lunar New Year, but the traditional way of cooking is not very healthy,' she says. 'We use a lot of seasoning, especially oyster sauce and soy sauce, and these sauces contain a lot of salt.'

'We also consume a lot of sugar, too - candies and cookies; for example, sugared lotus seeds and chocolate,' Yip adds.

Consuming high levels of sugar causes the body to store extra calories as fat. This may result in weight gain, with the added risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

'But remember, it's the extra calories that cause diabetes, not just the sugar, meaning that all the calorie-yielding nutrients like fat, sugar and protein contribute to diabetes,' Yip says.

What's more, consuming high levels of salt can cause high blood pressure, which can further cause kidney disease if the blood pressure is not controlled.

Yip suggests weighing yourself before and after the holidays to get an idea of whether you have overindulged.

Significant weight gain is a sign of chronic health or lifestyle problems that can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes if not properly dealt with, she says.

'These health problems are not common among young people, but they should bear in mind that they can develop over time,' says Yip.

Most people think they can eat heavily at big feasts and then eat sparingly afterwards to balance it out. But Yip says, once you've overeaten, the damage is done.

'Once the food is eaten, it's already digested in your body - it's in you,' she says.

Yip adds it is important to eat a variety of vegetables and fruits, and reminds young people that they should not only stick to the one or two particular fruits or vegetables that they happen to like while excluding others.

The key to lasting good health, she says, is a consistently balanced diet.

Young Post wishes you a healthy Year of the Tiger!

Peggy Yip suggests two easy and delicious recipes to help Young Post readers start a healthy post-festive diet

Strawberry Smoothie


1 cup skimmed milk
1/2 cup strawberries
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 peeled banana


Put all the ingredients into a blender, and process until smooth. The drink is good for breakfast or as a snack.

Fruit with yoghurt dressing


1 cup fat-free or low-fat plain yoghurt several pinches of ground cinnamon (available in supermarkets)
1 cup of your favourite fruits (I suggest grapes, banana, pineapple, and kiwi)


Mix the yoghurt and cinnamon and pour it over the fruit. This may be a simple recipe, but it is tasty and easy, and perfect as a quick lunch or snack.



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