Spring-clean your fridge for a healthier CNY

SINGAPORE - When spring cleaning your house this Chinese New Year, grab the opportunity to give the contents of your fridge a makeover as well.

You will get more fridge space and may even shed some kilos as a result.

Ms Pauline Xie, a senior dietitian at the National Healthcare Group Polyclinics, and Ms Emily Quek Tsu-Hwei, the principal dietitian at the department of dietetics at the Singapore General Hospital, show you how.

Drinks

Discard:

  • Sweetened drinks of all varieties, including canned and bottled drinks of carbonated and non-carbonated varieties, and tetrapak drinks with sugar in them.
  • Even juice that trumpets no added sugar have plenty of the sweet stuff in them.
  • All types of syrup and cordial.

Why: These drinks are high in sugar. For instance, a typical 330ml can of carbonated drink contains about eightteaspoons of sugar, or about 140 calories.

This makes up almost 10per cent of a typical adult Singaporean's daily energy needs which range between 1,500 and 1,800 calories.

Also, note that drinks of the "juice" variety are different from actual fruit juice. They are not 100 per cent juice and are often made from concentrate or have added sugar or high fructose corn syrup.

Choose:

  • Diet soft drinks
  • Reduced-sugar drinks
  • Diluted syrups and cordials
  • 100 per cent juice

Why: Diet soft drinks and reduced-sugar drinks serve as alternative beverages for those looking to enjoy festive treats without the added calories.

Diet soft drinks do not contain sugar and, therefore, have no calories.

Reduced-sugar drinks contain less sugar, with or without additional artificial sweeteners.

One hundred per cent juice also has less sugar and is generally preferred over juice drinks.

But remember that juice still lacks the fibre of whole fruit. So do not forget to include whole fruit in your diet.

The Health Promotion Board's Healthy Diet Pyramid recommends at least two servings of fruit a day.

The Mandarin orange, a Chinese New Year must-have, is a good source of fibre and vitamin C.

Other tips:

  • Leave a flask of water in the fridge with a few slices of lemon. It is a great thirst quencher.
  • Mix your own reduced-calorie carbonated drink by adding sparkling water to reduced-sugar cordial.

Dairy

Discard:

  • Full-cream milk
  • Full-fat yogurt
  • Butter and hard margarine

Why: Although dairy products are not typically used in Chinese cooking, they can be found in many desserts, drinks and pastries eaten during celebrations. So avoid overstuffing your fridge with these items.

Full-fat dairy products, such as full-cream milk and full-fat yogurt, are high in saturated fat, which is associated with a rise in the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad" cholesterol in the blood, a risk factor for heart disease.

Hard margarine, which needs no refrigeration at room temperature, is high in trans fat, which raises the "bad" cholesterol level, and lowers the level of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or "good" cholesterol.

This makes it worse than saturated fat, which raises bad cholesterol but has no effect on good cholesterol. It further raises the risk of heart disease.

Choose:

  • Low- or non-fat (skim) milk
  • Calcium-fortified reduced-sugar or unsweetened soya milk
  • Low-fat or non-fat yogurt
  • Soft margarine
  • Reduced fat spread

Why: These products contain significantly less saturated fat and are more beneficial for the heart than their full-fat counterparts.

They can help lower overall calorie intake during Chinese New Year.

Regular soya milk has little calcium, so choose calcium-fortified soya milk whenever possible.

Soft margarine, which requires refrigeration, is low in saturated fat and high in "good" unsaturated fat, such as monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. In moderate amounts, both have a protective effect on the heart.

Other tips: No matter how good a type of fat is, it is still fat. The Healthy Diet Pyramid advises people to use it in small amounts.

Frozen Food

Discard:

  • Nuggets
  • Roti prata
  • Ice cream

Why: Nuggets are processed food that has been fried in advance. Roti prata is high in fat.

Choose:

  • Frozen vegetables
  • Frozen low-fat yogurt
  • Fruit sherbet

Why: Frozen vegetables are often mistaken for being less nutritious than fresh ones. However, as they are quick- frozen at the source, they often retain their nutritional value.

Other tips:For easy thawing, freeze meat, fish and poultry in portion sizes that you would use for cooking.

Condiments

Discard:

  • Regular salad dressing
  • Mayonnaise

Why: They may be the dips of choice for fried food, but use the above two condiments - both of which are high in fat - sparingly. For instance, one tablespoon of regular mayonnaise contains about 50calories, mostly from fat.

Choose:

  • Low-fat dressing
  • Balsamic vinaigrette

(You can make a simple version with one part balsamic vinegar and three parts olive oil, with a pinch of salt and black pepper.)

Why: These are lower in fat compared with their regular full-fat counterparts. Balsamic vinegar in itself does not contain many essential nutrients but when paired with olive oil, has a tartness that brings out the sweetness in vegetables. Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fat, which is good for the heart.

Other tips: Citrus fruit such as mangoes, oranges, green apples, pineapples and lemons can help to bring out the sweetness in vegetables. Consider using them whole or squeezed for their juice, in your salads instead of regular salad dressings.


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