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Sinful! The reaction we have to goodies at Chinese New Year gatherings is almost instinctual by now. The taste bombs are often laden with fat, sodium, and sugar (sometimes even all of the above!), deceptively tucked away in small bites, and are impossible to avoid during house visits.

Almost designed to break new year resolutions on better diets, the only way we can navigate this snack minefield is to be keep ourselves informed. With all that walking between visits, we use that as a gauge and even throw in a few healthier alternatives in the mix!


Pineapple Tarts

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These buttery pastries that combine the best of savoury and sweet have become a firm favourite at Chinese New Year gatherings, and if Chaucer’s sin of gluttony needed a mascot, this would be it. They average 90 calories a piece and with their double whammy of pastry and jam, hold 5g of fat, 6g of sugar and 58mg of sodium.

Serving: One piece

Walking time: 15 minutes

Alternative: Nothing can really replace the pineapple tart but health-conscious trends have bakeries offering options with less or no sugar, so keep a lookout. Otherwise, go for the other popular fruit instead — tangerines!


Love Letters

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Not actual notes written for your beloved, these are thin and airy egg wafer rolls that crumble at the slightest bite. They are deceptive snacks as they melt quickly in the mouth. We wish the same disappearing act applies to the 56 calories and almost 5g of sugar that each roll has, no thanks to the amount of sugar, coconut milk, eggs and flour in the recipe.

Serving: Two pieces

Walking time: 20 minutes

Alternative: Soda crackers are just as crunchy and flaky, but only have 10 calories per piece.


Bak Kwa

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These Chinese meat jerkies already warn with their glistening surface. Sliced thin and marinated with sugar and spices, the final step of grilling the meat (usually pork) seal in not only the robust flavours, but also 370 calories, 6g of fat and 25g of sugar. It might be a staple but the oily snack needs to be managed to avoid a post-CNY nightmare!

Serving: One slice

Walking time: 60 minutes

Alternative: Nothing applies like the old adage, “good things must share!” The best way to lessen the impact is to cut up the slice into smaller pieces and distribute! Or if you’re a pro in the kitchen, make a honey baked chicken version instead.


Mini Dried Shrimp Rolls

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We know how insanely addictive these salty and spicy rolls are. The punchy stir-fried minced dried shrimp filling strikes the taste buds afire, and the crunchy shell just makes us want to take another bite. But bundled up in four small pieces is 92 calories and 165 mg of sodium — a shocking figure for barely a mouthful.

Serving: Four pieces

Walking time: 15 minutes

Alternative: Halt the snack attack with some melon seeds instead. The effort needed to crack them open slows the snacking and even if you go through two handfuls, that’s only half the calories at 40.


Kueh Bangkit

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They soak up all the moisture in your mouth as the chalky cookie crumbles away. These flower-shaped treats are made from tapioca flour and coconut milk for that creamy mouthfeel, but don’t be fooled by the pretty appearance. They bode well for blessings and fertility but not for your waistline. At 15 calories apiece, they don’t offend as much as the rest, but we all know no one stops at one, or two… or three!

Serving: Three pieces

Walking time: 10 minutes

Alternative: You can divert the addictive eating to some groundnuts instead. Although two handfuls contain about 90 calories, it’s mainly healthy monounsaturated fats, fibre and protein that will make you feel full faster.


Fried Nian Gao

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A crunchy skin, a tacky, sweet inside — what’s not to like? The glutinous cake that is eaten during new year because the name (we Chinese love to be literal) means “higher year”, goes down easy. Bad news — it also goes straight to the tummy. One piece alone hits 190 calories and 55g of fat.

Serving: One slice

Walking time: 10 minutes

Alternative: This is easy. Steam them! By changing the preparation, you slough off that nasty skin and take in only half the calories and a quarter of the fat. You get all the sweetness, but without the guilt.