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5 Tips From Dr Leslie Tay To Gear Up for CNY!

For those who follow Dr Leslie Tay and his award-winning food blog “ieatishootipost”, his mantra of ‘Never waste calories on yucky food’ is a familiar one. As both a doctor and an expert on food, Dr Leslie knows the balance between health and food, and how to get the best of both. As Chinese New Year rolls around, getting the best of both is especially important if we want to avoid that guilty feeling after indulging in sumptuous reunion dinners and a whole line-up of CNY snacks.

We caught up with Dr Leslie to ask him about some of his personal tips and practices for CNY Feasting!

Tip 1: Save Up Your Calories Before CNY!

Save up on calories for spending during Chinese New Year, instead of working off the accumulated calories after. It’s a similar concept to credit cards. You save up to buy a new item instead of buying the item on credit first. Paying back is usually harder! You can also look at it as averaging your consumption over the whole month, so that it balances at the end of the month.

Dr Leslie:

How To Save Up Those Calories?

  1. Begin a few days to a week before your food consumption is expected to increase.
  2. Reduce your snacking and sweetened drinks
  3. Keep to your regular exercise schedule. If this is non-existent, engage in some activities to get yourself moving and burn off additional calories (Dr Leslie himself goes for runs and cycling sessions).
  4. Keep your meals light and simple.

Tip 2: Give Intermittent Fasting a try!

Intermittent fasting is a form of time-restricted eating, where eating times are restricted to 6 to 8 hours per day. Our bodies usually use carbohydrates, or sugars, to create energy. Excess sugars that are not used for energy are stored as fat. During intermittent fasting, the prolonged period without food allows your body to fully use up available sugars. This then triggers your body to burn fat as a source of energy.

An example of a schedule for intermittent fasting:

Eating Time: 6 hours a day
Fasting Time: 18 hours a day
12pm – 6pm: Consume food
6pm – 12pm: Fast (drink only water)

Intermittent fasting makes sense medically, and can be done a few times a week. Start with once a week and make sure that you don’t binge on food high in carbohydrates, fat, oil or sugar during the 6 hour window. You should just drink water during the 18 hour fasting period.

Dr Leslie:

Tip 3: Cut the Soft Drinks, Cut the Calories!

Sweet drinks and soft drinks are loaded with sugar, and can be tweaked or swapped for healthier options to save up your calories for investment elsewhere. Try these options instead:

  1. Go traditional with Chinese Tea (unsweetened)
  2. If soft drinks are a MUST to prevent any tantrums, go for “Light” or “Zero” versions to reduce sugar consumption
  3. Dr Leslie’s soft drink substitute: Soda water flavoured with fresh orange juice. Keeps the fizz with a bit of sweetness!

Juice squeezed from fresh fruits contains natural sugars instead of processed sugars, making it a healthier option. You could also cut sugar consumption by diluting soft drinks with soda water, for example 50-50, as soda water does not contain sugar.

Dr Leslie:

Tip 4: Choose Your Snacks Wisely! (i.e only eat the good stuff)

After all your hard work in saving those calories, invest them well in snacks that are worth it! If you’re like us and are completely clueless towards CNY snack selection, Dr Leslie tells us 3 simple steps he uses to select his favourite CNY snacks, Pineapple Tarts and Bakkwa.

Lesson 1: How to Choose Pineapple Tarts

  1. Look at the tarts. Are the patterns on the tarts all the same? Or are they slightly different and uneven? Machine-made tarts have the same uniform pattern, as they are mass-produced. Handmade tarts usually have more variations to them, and are also probably more worth your calories!
  2. Smell the tarts. Yes, you read that right! Pineapple tarts that are freshly made using butter can’t help but give off a fragrant, buttery aroma. Tarts that are made using margarine, vegetable shortening, or which have been kept for too long will not give off that enticing scent. Do practice polite sniffing etiquette though, and only take a whiff of your own tarts!
  3. Taste the tarts. If you’re doubting your other senses, your taste buds won’t lie to you. Pick a tart and take a bite. If it is anything less than stellar, stop eating and conserve your calories for other, more worthy snacks!

Biting into the pineapple tarts releases some of the oil in them, and you’ll be able to tell if they smell or taste “off”. Snacks are small, so there is leeway to try some first to see if they are good! Keep in mind, if the pineapple tarts were painstakingly made by your aunty especially for you, then show some respect and have a few to show your appreciation!

Dr Leslie:

Lesson 2: How to Choose Bakkwa

  1. Look at the bakkwa. Does it look juicy and dark red? Pass on bakkwa that looks dull and dry or more orangey than red.
  2. Smell the bakkwa. Fresh bakkwa should invite you in with a tang of the charcoal it has been grilled over.
  3. Taste the bakkwa. Before committing to a full slice of bakkwa, break a small piece off for sampling first. If the bakkwa is meaty, tender and full of smoky flavour, it’s a keeper!

Toasting your bakkwa is a way you can save on some calories as well. Heating up the bakkwa causes some of the fat to liquefy into oil. Dabbing the oil off the bakkwa slices means that you eventually take in a little less fat as well. In essence, be mindful and discerning when it comes to picking your CNY snacks. Also consider mixing in some healthier alternatives such as melon seeds, pumpkin seeds and baked nuts.

Dr Leslie:

Tip 5: Create Your Own Healthy Dishes!

For those of us looking to incorporate a simple, healthy dish for Chinese New Year, here are 2 ideas you can try!

1.Homemade Chicken Soup Base for Steamboat

This is a super easy recipe! Using a whole chicken, chop it up, remove the skin and boil once to remove impurities. Wash the chicken pieces, add fresh water, bring to boil and simmer for 2-3 hours. To make the soup base a little sweeter, add some radish and carrots.

Steamboats are a healthier option for CNY as everything is cooked by poaching. It's even better if homemade stock is used and served with plenty of fresh vegetables. To cut down on your carbohydrate intake, reduce the amount of rice you eat with the steamboat. You can also try substituting your white rice for brown rice, to get more fibre, vitamins and minerals in the same bowl. Take care about the sauces used for dipping. Choose sauces which are less oily and less sweet.

Dr Leslie:

2. Tea-Smoked Chicken

Mmmmmm! Enough said.
For the full step-by-step recipe:

This dish is one of my “So simple. So shiok” recipes. It is simple to prepare but very satisfying! If you want to make it healthier, you can also stick to salt and pepper for seasoning instead of using chicken powder.

Dr Leslie:

Have a Happy and Healthy Chinese New Year!

Armed with these 5 tips, it’s now up to you to put them in action! Stay vigilant in snack choices, get creative in the kitchen, and most importantly, have a great time celebrating with your loved ones!
For more inspiration for your dishes, head over to For more health tips, Follow us on Facebook or Instagram

From 20 Jan to 30 Jan, join in our CNY Snack Search on Instagram and Facebook as well for your chance to win an $88 Ang Bao! Have fun searching! Click here for the full Terms & Conditions:

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