One of my warmest childhood memories is helping my grandmother prepare food for Chinese New Year. She would spend the weeks leading up to it preparing beautiful, traditional foods to offer our family and friends. As her helper, I looked forward to measuring ingredients and seeing all ‘our’ creations on the kitchen table, ready to be gifted or served.I eagerly anticipated the arrival of my cousins, aunts, and uncles. We would have an extravagant family dinner and celebrate the successes of the past year and share our goals for the coming New Year. Each dish my grandmother made had a special meaning. These dishes symbolize heath, prosperity, and happiness.
Different regions of Asia celebrate Chinese New Year with different traditions. My grandmother came from China and later moved to Southeast Asia, so our family celebrates with a mix of traditions from different regions. I invite you to use my family’s traditional foods in your own Chinese New Year celebrations:
- Chinese New Year salad (lo hei) is a mix of colorful shredded vegetables. Family members use chopsticks and toss it together while saying “lo hei”, meaning tossing luck. Try making this salad to celebrate luck for the upcoming year. Remember to fill half your plate with salad to help you meet your daily recommended intake of vegetables and fruit from Canada’s Food Guide.
- Fish is a symbol of abundance. Steam, bake, or broil fish and add flavour using spices such as ginger, five-spice powder, and lemon grass instead of salt or store-bought sauces. Fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids which helps prevent heart disease and is an important part of maintaining your overall health.
- Long leafy green vegetables such as Chinese broccoli (gai-lan) symbolize close family ties and longevity for parents. Health Canada recommends eating at least one dark green vegetable each day.
- Chicken is a symbol of wholeness and prosperity. Steam, bake, or broil your chicken and remove the skin before eating to make it a healthier option.
- Noodles are a symbol of longevity. The longer the noodles, the longer the lifespan! This year, why not try buckwheat or soba noodles? Using less sauce (or lower sodium options) is a great way to cut back your sodium intake. Check out Tips to Lower Sodium and Plan Low Sodium Meals articles to learn more.
- Dumplings symbolize prosperity and wealth because they look like little gold nuggets. Make a healthier choice by steaming or boiling as opposed to frying and choose vegetable dumplings instead of meat.
- Tangerine translated in Chinese means gold, symbolizing wealth and good luck. Finish your meal with tangerines for a healthy dessert that will add to your Food Guide Servings of vegetables and fruit.
With celebratory family meals we can easily forget about mindful eating and portion sizes. Remember to have healthful portions, slow down and enjoy your meal, and engage in conversations with loved ones while sharing the meal together. Learn more from our Dear Self blog. And use Canada’s Food Guide for recommendations on the number of servings per day from each of the four food groups.
Happy Chinese New Year! Gung Hei Fat Choy!