Navigating Towards Healthier Festive Eating in Singapore


Singapore is a country with a diverse melting pot of different cultures, and we are fortunate to be blessed with multiple festive periods. These festive seasons are synonymous with vibrant celebrations, indulgent feasts and a myriad of treats. While it is tempting to throw caution to the wind in embracing various culinary delights during these festive celebrations, it is essential to strike a balance between indulgence and health. In this article, we explore how to savour the richness and diversity of Singaporean festive cuisine, while making mindful and nutritious choices at the same time.

When preparing to host a feast at home, experiment with healthier cooking methods like steaming, grilling or stir
frying as opposed to deep frying. Reduce oil in cooking and try to choose leaner cuts of meats, use whole grain alternatives, substitute coconut milk with low fat milk and exercise sugar control to prepare a healthier festive spread. Rather than relying heavily on salt to season your food, use a variety of locally sourced herbs and spices such as laksa leaves, turmeric, coriander, and tamarind to elevate the flavour profile. These creative substitutions can help to reduce excessive fat, sugars and sodium in your festive feast.


Gatherings are inevitable during special occasions like Christmas, New Year, weddings and birthdays, and feasting is common at these celebrations. In fact, in Chinese culture, it is believed that serving food in abundance during Chinese New Year will bring good fortune and bountiful luck. However, this does not mean that overindulging is the only option. Rather than overloading your plate, practise mindful eating and portion control to better savour the flavours of each individual dish. Enjoy small servings of your favourite dishes, and pay attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. Follow the practice of “hara hachi bu” – a Japanese term originating from Okinawa which means to eat until you are 80% full – to avoid overeating.


If you are in charge of cooking or planning a festive meal, planning ahead allows for a more balanced and healthy approach. Include a mix of vegetables, whole grains, proteins and healthy fats to ensure a well-rounded and balanced meal. Follow the “healthy plate” concept by beginning your meals with vegetables. Make sure that half of your plate is filled with a variety of colourful vegetables, a quarter is filled with lean protein, and the remaining quarter consists of whole grains or healthy carbohydrates.


Each Singaporean festival is usually characterised by a few iconic traditional dishes like bak kwa, pineapple tarts, yu sheng, rendang and murukku. If you are planning to indulge in these flavourful and oftentimes calorie-laden treats, consider opting for healthier versions or smaller portions. Festive gatherings and house visits often involve snacking at every household. Instead of indulging in these sinful treats, go for healthier options like nuts, seeds or fresh fruit. If you do consume sweet treats and calorie-laden snacks, ensure that the portion is limited to a single serving. By doing this, you can still satisfy your cravings without compromising your health.


Our bodies may sometimes confuse thirst with hunger. This can lead to unnecessary snacking. Limit the intake of sugary drinks and alcohol. If you consider plain water to be a “boring” beverage, opt for other natural hydrating choices like infused water and herbal teas to give a refreshing twist to your beverage choices. Remember to read the nutritional labels if you are offered pre-packaged or canned drinks so that you are able to opt for healthier choices.


Amidst the festivities, find opportunities to stay active. As far as possible, maintain your regular exercise routine or find creative ways to stay active during the festive season. Whether it is something as simple as a post-meal walk, incorporating a quick workout session or even dancing at gatherings, incorporating physical activity into your celebrations helps to balance your calorie intake and support overall well-being.


Many of us tend to think that since these festive seasons come only once a year, one should take the opportunity to indulge in traditional food and drinks during these “rare” occasions. However, these festive seasons may not be as infrequent as you think. If you consider the multiple festivals celebrated in Singapore such as Christmas, New Year, Chinese New Year, Hari Raya, and Deepavali (amongst others), along with special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries and wedding celebrations, you may end up indulging in feasts rather frequently! As such, you should still practise the concepts above to reduce the risk of unwanted weight gain.


Dining in a large group may alter our eating and drinking habits without us noticing it. Overeating can often happen as a result of social obligation. You may wish to share your health goals with supportive family members and friends to create a more encouraging environment during the festive period.


As we celebrate multiple festivals and joyous occasions, embracing healthy eating practices can become an important part of a joyful experience. Eating healthily and in moderation during the festive seasons is about finding a balance between enjoying the festivities, and taking care of your health and well-being.

By innovating traditional dishes with creative nutritional twists, planning ahead, making mindful choices with portion control, and prioritising nutrient-rich foods, you can enjoy the festivities while maintaining a healthy lifestyle!