While the Lunar New Year is mainly celebrated by the Chinese population in Singapore, the holiday also serves as a timely reminder of the importance of health, hope, community, family, respect and many other core values in our daily lives. When applied on a broader and more inclusive level, these values can be applied to various contexts, including the workplace.
Although the usual workplace celebrations are no longer feasible during a pandemic, many of us are thinking outside the box and finding creative ways to celebrate with our co-workers this year. Food remains as one of our festivities' mainstays, though the options available to us may not necessarily be the healthiest. So if you are looking for suggestions on how you can plan for company-wide celebrations this year while tweaking them in favour of some overarching health goals, we have some ideas that may just be of help to you.
Celebrating as a company
Despite a loosening of Covid-19 restrictions due to the implementation of Phase 3, the fact remains that we still have to be cautious when it comes to our social interactions. As such, we are faced with the daunting challenges of figuring out how to celebrate while keeping employees safe. While nothing can fully replace an in-person experience, the following initiatives can give your employees a chance to bond and have a little fun, in the spirit of the Lunar New Year.
One possible activity is to organise virtual cooking sessions that are taught by fellow colleagues, which can allow and encourage employees to cook for their friends and families. Not only can this make the meals more meaningful, but it can also set a solid foundation for healthier food options during the holiday.
If your budget allows for it, you can also consider sending your employees festive gift boxes. These can include the ingredients for their hotpot or cooking sessions, as well as fruits and other healthy snacks to encourage them and their loved ones to be more health-conscious over the festive period.
Finally, you could also consider setting up online channels for colleagues to send well-wishes, recipes and even food recommendations to each other over the holiday period. This would allow them to show their appreciation to their colleagues and strengthen the bonds between each other.
Helping employees plan for healthier festive feasts
Beyond the virtual initiatives that we can take as a company to promote healthy eating during the Lunar New Year, employees can also be reminded of the various choices that they can opt for to reinforce it. The following are 5 easy tips that you can share to promote a healthier lifestyle this holiday period.
1. Opt for healthy, home-cooked food whenever possible
We mentioned earlier that organising virtual, peer-taught cooking sessions gives your employees a great start when it comes to accessing healthier food options. Studies have shown that people who cook more tend to have a much healthier diet as compared to people who regularly eat out1. Cooking at home gives us greater control over the ingredients, seasoning and cooking methods that we use, which allows us to actively opt for healthier choices along the way. In comparison, meals cooked by vendors and restaurants typically contain higher amounts of sodium, saturated fat, and total calories than home-cooked ones.
When it comes to the Lunar New Year celebrations, having hotpot is an excellent way to start, as compared to fried or overly oily food. More examples of healthier options include substituting meat for fish, using leaner cuts of meat instead of fattier cuts, using more vegetables, replacing white rice with brown rice and making soup with vegetables instead of instant stock.
2. Take note of the little things
Given the vast array of snack choices that are available during the Lunar New Year, it is important to keep in mind that these little bites can really add up over time. Instead of going for the usual bak kwa and pineapple tarts, consider switching it up with healthier options like fruits and nuts. Likewise, it is crucial to keep track of what we drink since alcohol and sugary drinks tend to be the norm during the festive period. Even seemingly minor things such as lo-hei and other dipping sauces can become major contributors of an unhealthy festive diet. By being more conscious of these seemingly negligible things, we can make a big difference in eating better.
3. Limit portion sizes
It can be easy to pile on more food when we are using larger bowls and plates, which is why swapping them out for smaller alternatives can help prevent us from overeating unknowingly. These simple visual changes have proven to be surprisingly effective in helping us control our portion sizes without compromising on taste or satiety2. On the flip side, eating too much can cause bloating, indigestion, blood sugar imbalance, and even result in diabetes and obesity in the long run.
4. Stay hydrated
Regularly drinking water and being well-hydrated is one of the best ways to help us distinguish between hunger and thirst, which in turn gives us a better understanding of how much we should eat. Research on this topic has shown that drinking water before a meal can reduce our voluntary food intake while also providing a greater sense of satiation3. When practised consistently, it can even result in lower calorie consumption and weight loss4. In this sense, drinking a glass of water up to 30 minutes before our reunion dinners and festive feasts can help keep us from overeating.
5. Create opportunities to be more active
As we know, the benefits of exercising are nearly endless. Other than burning off the extra calories and helping with our Whole Person Health, staying active can also enable us to make better choices when it comes to food. Plenty of research has suggested that exercise can affect our brain function by giving us the urge to eat better5. While this is certainly some great advice to adhere to in the long run, we can also use the Lunar New Year festivities as an opportunity to get started. For instance, helping out with spring cleaning efforts is an easy way to get moving, along with other activities such as running errands or shopping for decorations.
Over to you
With all that we have overcome in 2020, it has never been more important to take some time to celebrate our accomplishments together, no matter how big or small they may be. Festivities such as the Lunar New Year present us with opportunities to learn from traditional values and apply them in unique and creative ways that can benefit our teams. By celebrating as a company in a way that combines both health and camaraderie, we can continue furthering our goals even as we engage in the festivities.
1Wolfson, J., & Bleich, S. (2014). Is cooking at home associated with better diet quality or weight-loss intention?.
2Wansink, B., Painter, J., & North, J. (2005). Bottomless Bowls: Why Visual Cues of Portion Size May Influence Intake.
3Corney, R., Sunderland, C., & James, L. (2015). Immediate pre-meal water ingestion decreases voluntary food intake in lean young males.
4Dennis, E., Dengo, A., Comber, D., Flack, K., Savla, J., Davy, K., & Davy, B. (2010). Water Consumption Increases Weight Loss During a Hypocaloric Diet Intervention in Middle-aged and Older Adults.
5Ducharme, J. (2019). Exercising Might Help You Make Healthier Food Choices, Study Says. Time.