Can I eat that?

What’s Chinese New Year without yusheng, pineapple tarts and bak kwa? ELISA CHIA fi nds out what you can indulge in when pregnant.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

IT ALL ADDS UP This raw fish salad can be high in calories and sodium because of the added oil and plum sauce. One serving (390g or served on a 23cm-size plate) has about 560kcal, 42g fat, 650mg sodium and 12g of fibre. Nevertheless, it’s high in fibre, thanks to the assorted vegetables used.

YOUR EASY FIX Toss the salad for good luck and prosperity with the family, and leave the table discreetly while they’re eating it. Skip this dish because there’s a risk that harmful listeria bacteria may lurk in the raw ingredients. This infection can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth or preterm delivery. Eating raw fish, especially smoked fish, increases the risk of botulism (a food-borne disease caused by Clostridium botulinum) and paralyses muscles, among other symptoms.

Encourage your family to make this a healthier dish – opt for olive oil or pure peanut oil and use them sparingly. Substitute the sauces with fresh lemon juice, lime juice or balsamic vinegar. And why not consider adding cooked seafood instead of raw fish? Turn to page 98 for heathier yusheng options.



IT ALL ADDS UP Bak kwa is high in fat, sugar and sodium – which is why it tastes so good. One slice (60g) has 230kcal, 8g of fat, 25g sugar and 500mg of sodium.

YOUR EASY FIX Cut a big piece into quarters and indulge in small portions. You’ll want to limit sodium to reduce the risk of high blood pressure. If you had the condition before you got pregnant, you have a greater risk of pregnancyinduced hypertension. This can lead to pre-eclampsia, which is life- threatening if left unchecked. The Health Promotion Board (HPB) recommends no more than 2,000mg of sodium a day, which is about one teaspoon of salt.




IT ALL ADDS UP This addictive snack is deep-fried, which means it’s high in calories. One small bowl (40g) has approximately 200kcal, 14g of fat and 400mg of sodium.

YOUR EASY FIX Consider investing in an air-fryer to make healthier hae bee hiam at home. That will help you cut down on trans-fat, which raises your “bad” cholesterol and lowers “good” cholesterol; too much of it increases your risk of stroke and coronary heart disease. It’s also associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus.



IT ALL ADDS UP One small piece (75g) has about 90kcal, which is slightly more than the calories in a slice of bread. That doesn’t sound so bad, until you realise that the calories come mainly from the added sugar and fat, especially unhealthy trans-fat.

YOUR EASY FIX Savour each piece slowly to control your cravings. Eating too many will just add to your already expanding waistline, while excessive trans-fat won’t do your cholesterol levels any good. The American Heart Association recommends limiting trans-fat to less than 7 per cent of your total energy intake.



IT ALL ADDS UP Both are high in iron, magnesium and polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat, although pumpkin seeds are higher in fibre – 18g for every 100g, compared to 2g for melon seeds.

YOUR EASY FIX Make them a healthy snack beyond Chinese New Year. Polyunsaturated fat (omega 3) is important for Baby’s brain and eye development, and when you take enough fibre, it helps prevent constipation and overeating.



IT ALL ADDS UP Most sodas are high in refined sugar and contain up to eight teaspoons of sugar. Think that can of chrysanthemum tea is fairly healthy? It has up to four teaspoons of sugar. That’s not all. Don’t forget that most sodas contain caffeine – one can of cola has up to 80mg, while tea has about 50mg. Limit caffeine to no more than 300mg per day – overdosing can increase the risk of a miscarriage or a baby with low birth weight.

YOUR EASY FIX Ask your host for plain water instead – you should drink eight to 10 glasses daily. If you want to indulge in soft drinks, go for those with artificial sweeteners (such as diet sodas), or beverages with “no added sugar” or “less sugar”.



IT ALL ADDS UP This is high in fat, especially the saturated kind. One piece (8g) has 32kcal and 2.7g of fat.

YOUR EASY FIX Too much saturated fat increases your bad cholesterol levels. Trim off the fatty part or ask for lean meat.




IT ALL ADDS UP Most plant foods are low in calories. But these chips are deep-fried and a small bowl (35g) has about 140kcal. If they’re sprinkled with salt, that adds to your sodium intake.

YOUR EASY FIX Enjoy their natural sweetness – skip the salt if you’re making them at home.



IT ALL ADDS UP One medium-sized orange has 1.6g fibre and 24mg of vitamin C. YOUR EASY FIX Instead of having kueh lapis as an after-meal dessert, enjoy a mandarin orange or two instead. The vitamin C in fresh fruit helps enhance iron absorption. It’s also a good source of fibre, which helps ease constipation. This is a common woe during pregnancy, no thanks to the increase in the hormone progesterone, which slows down the digestive system and intestinal movement. The problem may worsen if you take iron supplements. HPB recommends two servings of fruit daily. But if you have gestational diabetes, consult your dietitian for specific advice.



IT ALL ADDS UP Made with sugar and coconut milk, one piece (13g) has about 56kcal, 1.5g of fat and minimal fibre.

YOUR EASY FIX It’s easy to overindulge in this snack because it’s so crunchy, flaky and light. Place a few pieces in a small plate or bowl instead of grabbing it straight from the box or bag, which often leads to overeating.



IT ALL ADDS UP This traditional sweet sticky cake is made with glutinous rice flour, sugar and water. One nian gao (420g) has 980kcal and 225g of carbohydrates.

YOUR EASY FIX Steam this delicacy rather than pan-fry it, but watch your portions – you don’t need a sugar high right now. If you have diabetes mellitus or gestational diabetes, watch your carbohydrate intake to keep your blood sugar levels in the safe range.



IT ALL ADDS UP The dish is usually served in a claypot, filled with braised ingredients such as abalone, mushrooms, pork belly, sea cucumbers and dried scallops. The gravy tends to be high in sodium from the sauces and seasoning.

YOUR EASY FIX Skip the gravy and cut back on the pork belly. Fill up with vegetables, such as broccoli, to increase your fibre levels.



IT ALL ADDS UP Traditionally, you dunk meats, such as sliced pork belly or beef into the hotpot, but these are high in saturated fat. If you add fishballs, crabsticks, meatballs and other processed food – and dip them in sauces – that adds way too much sodium.

YOUR EASY FIX Make your steamboat healthier: use natural ingredients, such as chicken bones, mushroom and fresh vegetables, to prepare the soup base. Choose lean meat and more vegetables, and resist dipping the meat in sauces to cut down on salt. The most important rule: Make sure the food is well cooked. Eating undercooked food may increase your risk of food-borne disease, such as listeriosis, that can harm you and your unborn baby. Use separate crockery and cutlery for raw and cooked food to prevent crosscontamination, as well.


Feasting right

Follow these tips to enjoy the festivities without compromising on your pregnancy nutrition, says Chow Li Ming from National Healthcare Group Polyclinics.

KICK-START YOUR DAY with a balanced breakfast, such as wholegrain bread, fruit, vegetables and calcium-enriched low-fat milk. This promotes your baby’s growth, and keeps you healthy and full so you can avoid festive binges. Don’t go housevisiting on an empty stomach.

SNACK IN SMALL PORTIONS Ask for a small bowl to keep track of how much you are eating.

EAT SLOWLY AND SAVOUR EACH MOUTHFUL This lets your body signal to your brain that you’ve eaten enough. The result: You’re sated, so you eat less.

STAY AWAY FROM THE SNACK TABLE while catching up with friends and family to avoid temptation.

CHOOSE FRESH FRUIT such as mandarin oranges and pomelo, or baked nuts, over deep-fried snacks and pastries that are high in fat, especially trans-fat.

STEER CLEAR OF ALCOHOL Frequent drinking during pregnancy can harm your unborn baby’s growth or increase the risk of miscarriage. While some may argue that the occasional drink is okay, it is not yet known exactly how much is harmful.


Chow Li Ming is a dietitian at National Healthcare Group Polyclinics.