Chinese New Year food and goodies: Healthy eating tips every pregnant woman should know

January 02, 2020
  • Yusheng 
    1 / 12 Yusheng 

    This raw fish salad can be high in calories and sodium because of the added oil and plum sauce. One serving (390g or served on a 23cm-size plate) has about 560kcal, 42g fat, 650mg sodium and 12g of fibre. Nevertheless, it’s high in fibre, thanks to the assorted vegetables used.

    Healthy eating tips Toss the salad for good luck and prosperity with the family, and leave the table discreetly while they’re eating it. Skip this dish because there’s a risk that harmful listeria bacteria may lurk in the raw ingredients. This infection can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth or preterm delivery.

    Eating raw fish, especially smoked fish, increases the risk of botulism (a food-borne disease caused by Clostridium botulinum) and paralyses muscles, among other symptoms.

    Encourage your family to make this a healthier dish – opt for olive oil or pure peanut oil and use them sparingly. Substitute the sauces with fresh lemon juice, lime juice or balsamic vinegar. And why not consider adding cooked seafood instead of raw fish?

    (Also read: 5 ways to make yusheng healthier)

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  • Bak kwa
    2 / 12 Bak kwa

    This is high in fat, sugar and sodium – which is why it tastes so good. One slice (60g) has 230kcal, 8g of fat, 25g sugar and 500mg of sodium.

    Healthy eating tips Cut a big piece into quarters and indulge in small portions. You’ll want to limit sodium to reduce the risk of high blood pressure. If you had the condition before you got pregnant, you have a greater risk of pregnancy-induced hypertension.

    This can lead to pre-eclampsia, which is life- threatening if left unchecked. The Health Promotion Board (HPB) recommends no more than 2,000mg of sodium a day, which is about one teaspoon of salt.


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  • Hae bee hiam (spicy prawn rolls)  
    3 / 12 Hae bee hiam (spicy prawn rolls)  

    This addictive snack is deep-fried, which means it’s high in calories. One small bowl (40g) has approximately 200kcal, 14g of fat and 400mg of sodium.

    Healthy eating tips Consider investing in an air-fryer to make healthier hae bee hiam at home. That will help you cut down on trans-fat, which raises your “bad” cholesterol and lowers “good” cholesterol; too much of it increases your risk of stroke and coronary heart disease. It’s also associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus.

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  • Pineapple tarts
    4 / 12 Pineapple tarts

    One small piece (75g) has about 90kcal, which is slightly more than the calories in a slice of bread. That doesn’t sound so bad, until you realise that the calories come mainly from the added sugar and fat, especially unhealthy trans-fat.

    Healthy eating tips Savour each piece slowly to control your cravings. Eating too many will just add to your already expanding waistline, while excessive trans-fat won’t do your cholesterol levels any good.

    The American Heart Association recommends limiting trans-fat to less than 7 per cent of your total energy intake.

    (Also read: 30 easy solutions to spring-clean your entire home)

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  • Melon and pumpkin seeds
    5 / 12 Melon and pumpkin seeds

    Both are high in iron, magnesium and polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat, although pumpkin seeds are higher in fibre – 18g for every 100g, compared to 2g for melon seeds.

    Healthy eating tips Make them a healthy snack beyond Chinese New Year. Polyunsaturated fat (omega 3) is important for Baby’s brain and eye development, and when you take enough fibre, it helps prevent constipation and overeating.

    (Also read: 6 best wholesale centres in Singapore for Chinese New Year)

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  • Soft drinks
    6 / 12 Soft drinks

    Most sodas are high in refined sugar and contain up to eight teaspoons of sugar. Think that can of chrysanthemum tea is fairly healthy? It has up to four teaspoons of sugar.

    That’s not all. Don’t forget that most sodas contain caffeine – one can of cola has up to 80mg, while tea has about 50mg. Limit caffeine to no more than 300mg per day – overdosing can increase the risk of a miscarriage or a baby with low birth weight.

    Healthy eating tips Ask your host for plain water instead – you should drink eight to 10 glasses daily.

    If you want to indulge in soft drinks, go for those with artificial sweeteners (such as diet sodas), or beverages with “no added sugar” or “less sugar”.

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  • Roasted pork belly
    7 / 12 Roasted pork belly

    This is high in fat, especially the saturated kind. One piece (8g) has 32kcal and 2.7g of fat.

    Healthy eating tips Too much saturated fat increases your bad cholesterol levels. Trim off the fatty part or ask for lean meat.

    (Also read: Taking ginseng during pregnancy: What you should know

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  • Mandarin oranges & chiku chips (arrowhead chips)
    8 / 12 Mandarin oranges & chiku chips (arrowhead chips)

    Mandarin oranges One medium-sized orange has 1.6g fibre and 24mg of vitamin C.

    Healthy eating tips Instead of having kueh lapis as an after-meal dessert, enjoy a mandarin orange or two instead. The vitamin C in fresh fruit helps enhance iron absorption. It’s also a good source of fibre, which helps ease constipation.

    This is a common woe during pregnancy, no thanks to the increase in the hormone progesterone, which slows down the digestive system and intestinal movement. The problem may worsen if you take iron supplements.

    HPB recommends two servings of fruit daily. But if you have gestational diabetes, consult your dietitian for specific advice.

    Chiku chips Most plant foods are low in calories. But these chips are deep-fried and a small bowl (35g) has about 140kcal. If they’re sprinkled with salt, that adds to your sodium intake.

    Healthy eating tips Enjoy their natural sweetness – skip the salt if you’re making them at home.

    (Also read: Should you take supplements every day throughout pregnancy?)

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  • Love letters
    9 / 12 Love letters

    Made with sugar and coconut milk, one piece (13g) has about 56kcal, 1.5g of fat and minimal fibre.

    Healthy eating tips It’s easy to overindulge in this snack because it’s so crunchy, flaky and light. Place a few pieces in a small plate or bowl instead of grabbing it straight from the box or bag, which often leads to overeating.

    (Also read: What should you eat just before giving birth?)

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  • Nian gao
    10 / 12 Nian gao

    This traditional sweet sticky cake is made with glutinous rice flour, sugar and water. One nian gao (420g) has 980kcal and 225g of carbohydrates.

    Healthy eating tips Steam this delicacy rather than pan-fry it, but watch your portions – you don’t need a sugar high right now.

    If you have diabetes mellitus or gestational diabetes, watch your carbohydrate intake to keep your blood sugar levels in the safe range.

    (Also read: How to eat healthier during pregnancy

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  • Pen cai
    11 / 12 Pen cai

    The dish is usually served in a claypot, filled with braised ingredients such as abalone, mushrooms, pork belly, sea cucumbers and dried scallops. The gravy tends to be high in sodium from the sauces and seasoning.

    Healthy eating tips Skip the gravy and cut back on the pork belly. Fill up with vegetables, such as broccoli, to increase your fibre levels.

    (Also read: Sleep during pregnancy: Why you need more than 6 hours

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  • Steamboat
    12 / 12 Steamboat

    Traditionally, you dunk meats, such as sliced pork belly or beef into the hotpot, but these are high in saturated fat. If you add fishballs, crabsticks, meatballs and other processed food – and dip them in sauces – that adds way too much sodium.

    Healthy eating tips Make your steamboat healthier: use natural ingredients, such as chicken bones, mushroom and fresh vegetables, to prepare the soup base. Choose lean meat and more vegetables, and resist dipping the meat in sauces to cut down on salt.

    The most important rule: Make sure the food is well cooked. Eating undercooked food may increase your risk of food-borne disease, such as listeriosis, that can harm you and your unborn baby.

    Use separate crockery and cutlery for raw and cooked food to prevent cross-contamination, as well.

    Chow Li Ming, a dietitian at National Healthcare Group Polyclinics, contributed the nutritional tips.

    (Photos: ST, TNP)


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