News Local

Chinese New Year foods for thought

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

An example of niangao — which can appear in different colours. 

An example of niangao — which can appear in different colours. Reuters

A dietician from Fraser Health is sharing a few tips on the dos and don’ts of health-conscious food options for Chinese New Year celebrations.

24 hours spoke with Joyce Wong, public health dietician with Fraser Health, on how to stay healthy while enjoying some good eats.


The traditional method of preparation requires steaming the fish, a healthy option unless mercury consumption — such as from tuna — is a concern, Wong said. Fresh is best and buying from live tanks will net the best options. Typically, the fish can be prepared with garlic, ginger and oil, with health benefits being protein and fatty omega acids.

Chinese broccoli

It doesn’t look much like broccoli. These leafy greens are supposed to signify a long healthy life for the parents, Wong said, but one concern is how the greens are often cooked with a thick sauce, such as oyster sauce, which could make an otherwise healthy option less so. Ask for sauce on the side.

Lettuce wraps

Not as healthy as the darker leafy vegetables, Wong said, but a great option to wrap with minced meat or barbequed duck — use the lettuce leaves like a piece of pita bread. As with the broccoli, avoid sauces or crispy-skinned meats.


Rice noodles are big but a healthier option are whole wheat — not a common practice among Asian households, Wong said. Cook it with soup or have it stirfried, and mix with healthy ingredients like veggies.


Like the fish, traditional Chinese can prefer chicken steamed and served with copious amounts of salt. There’s usually an emphasis on a fat layer of skin on the top, Wong said.


Like a grapefruit, but not. You can’t really go wrong with pomelo, Wong said, the fruit gives a lot of vitamin C and is sold in Vancouver.


A symbol of wealth and luck. Good to satiate that sweettooth without being unhealthy.


These can stand for prosperity and many families have a tradition of making dumplings together, Wong said. The healthiness of the dumpling can depend on what you put in it — most people prefer minced meat like chicken or pork. Steaming or boiling is healthier than frying.


A Chinese dessert that uses glutinous rice flour filled with sesame or bean paste — tastes sweet and is placed in a sweet broth. Not a food for everyday consumption due to the sugar levels, Wong said.


Known as a Chinese New Year cake, this treat also uses glutinous rice. It doesn’t hold a lot of nutritional value and is meant to be sliced up and shared — so go easy on these, Wong said.