Welcome to our new “Ask an Expert” series: our monthly column where we feature expert tips on all things money, health and life. In this month’s piece, we ask a nutritionist how we can keep our physical (and mental) health in check this Chinese New Year.
Otherwise known as the “Spring Festival”, Chinese New Year is one of the most important events in the lunar calendar. Traditionally celebrated to mark the first days of spring and the start of a new year, it is also a time associated with respecting your elders, feasting, and plenty of merry-making. While there are many amazing traditions such as the visiting of relatives and indulging in all the yummy snacks, these festivities can sometimes lead to less than stellar physical and emotional health.
Below, Nutritionist Sarah Widjaja (@thenourished_co) share five steps you can take to remain healthy during Chinese New Year – without having to miss out on all the fun. After all, life is about balance!
1. Focus your meals around protein and veggies before diving into CNY treats
We all love our Chinese New Year snacks, but they are often very calorie-dense foods that add up over the day. The fact that we only get them once a year can lead to a scarcity mindset, resulting in bingeing on these foods to “make the most of it”. Eating proper, regular meals full of lean protein and vegetables can help you feel more satiated, and allow you to still enjoy your favourite CNY treats without feeling the need to go overboard.
2. Incorporate movement through the day
With a busy schedule full of get-togethers, house visits, and festivities, we may find it difficult to stick to our normal exercise routines. Remember, though, that movement doesn’t necessarily have to mean a full gym workout. Add more movement to your day by inviting your family members to take walks outside after a meal, playing with the kids, or engaging in games that get you on your feet. There are plenty of ways to spend time with your loved ones that don’t just involve gathering around food.
Also read: How much physical activity do you need?
3. Offer to help cook
One of the best ways to get in touch with your heritage and spend time with the older generations in your family is to offer to help cook festive meals. By doing so, you not only get to learn about family traditions, but you also have more control over the ingredients that go into the dishes if you want to stay conscious about what you’re consuming. You can even play around with your own recipes and start some traditions of your own! We never have to shun our cultural heritage for the sake of health – this is a beautiful way of combining the two.
Image credit: Melanie Lim (via Unsplash)
4. Carve out time and space for yourself
With so many social events around CNY, we often forget to take time out just for ourselves. This can often mean giving out lots of energy with little opportunity to recharge, which can lead to burnout and fatigue. (Yes, holiday burnout is a thing.) If you find yourself feeling drained, remember that it’s completely okay to excuse yourself from gatherings and say no to social requests.
5. Set boundaries
It’s also important to set boundaries in social settings. You have no obligation to stay in situations that make you feel uncomfortable – this applies to obligatory eating or drinking, social interactions with certain people, staying up late. or spending out of your budget.
Remember, just be polite about declining, but be firm with your decisions. If you feel pressured to do certain things or are probed with questions, then simply explaining that it makes you uncomfortable should be more than enough of a reason for others to accept. If it continues beyond this, then removing yourself from the situation is probably your best bet to protect and prioritise your well-being.
Also read: Beat burnout: 5 Low-cost ways to take care of your mental health
Hero image by Chuttersnap (via Unsplash)
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