Contribution from Cass Lam

If you had to choose one cuisine, what would it be? Growing up, I ate home-cooked Chinese food. Every morning, my mother would go to the market and buy the freshest meat and vegetables for dinner, then cooked everything from scratch. The Chinese version of Russian Borscht (cabbage potato soup), and sweet and sour pork were her specialities, while rice was an essential and compulsory part of the dining table.

In recent years, Chinese food, such as noodles, rice, dim sum, and char siu, have become synonymous with “fat” and “too much carbs”. We have been warned about staying away from carbs and meat due to misconceptions about mainstream diets, and compelled to consume mainly protein, green, and plant-based foods, regardless of individuals’ health conditions and lifestyles. As a result, more people are now suffering from food intolerance, allergies, and mental health problems. In fact, carbs are the most important macronutrient for our health, followed by protein and fat. Your body needs to be given enough energy derived from carbs if you exercise five days a week and have a high level of activity.

How do portions, eating routines & manners affect your diet?

food diet chinese bbq pork char siu
Is char siu with rice, a common lunch choice, good for your diet? (© cclickclick via Canva)

I have Chinese food three times a week. You might wonder what dishes I include in my meal plan. The main carbohydrate source of my meals is rice, noodles or starchy vegetables such as corn, lotus, or sweet potatoes; Then I add a palm-size portion of pork, salmon, chicken or goose to fulfil my protein requirement; Finally, a thumb-size portion of good fats such as cheese and nuts. (You can replace rice with brown rice and digestible starches such as steamed squash, tofu, and sweet potatoes if rice is not an option for you. Make sure your meals contain the right amount of good carbs and calories.)

The best way to avoid hunger is to fuel up every 3–4 hours, and eat 4–5 meals within a twelve-hour eating window, with fruit, egg tarts or a hot cocktail of Hong Kong-style milk-tea as a snack.

When it comes to yum cha, although it’s hard to resist the yummy food served in the steamy bamboo basket (not to mention counting calories), try eating slowly and chewing slowly so you don’t overindulge. And my portion is limited to 10 pieces. In general, I prefer high-protein meat dishes like shrimp dumplings and fish meat wrapped in bell peppers. A dipping sauce like vinegar or chilli is great if you enjoy a kick in your life! 

What are the best food sources of Chinese cuisine?

The essence of life is food. Knowing where your food comes from is therefore very important. The stir-fry of Chinese kale and eggplant with minced pork are two of my favourite dishes. In the right amounts, stir-fry dishes cooked in avocado, olive oil, butter, and limited sodium can be perfectly healthy.

Pork is high in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals. With slow cooking, you can pair lean pork loin or tenderloin with eggplants, which are usually less calories and juicier than pork belly.

What are the best Chinese food combinations?

chinese stir fry beef with gai lan
Stir-fry beef with gai lan is a perfect example of Proten + Green food combo (© Ailime via Canva)

Carbs + Green

Choosing your dishes wisely will optimize your digestion and leave you feeling energized after eating. Some foods pair well with each other, while others don’t. 

In Chinese cuisine, here are some tasty side dishes to accompany rice: 

  • Stir-Fried Cauliflower
  • Choy sum with Garlic Sauce
  • Stir-Fried Mushroom & Celery

Protein + Green

Ideally, protein and non-starchy green vegetables should go together in your meal. Avoid combining protein with rice or noodles. You might want to add a bit of boiled gai lan, broccoli or choy sum topped with oyster sauce or salt if your plate includes steamed chicken or char siu. Keep in mind green vegetables are a good friend with carbs and protein. 

  • Sweet and Sour Fish 
  • Tofu + Broccoli
  • Stir-Fried Eggs and Tomatoes 

In the case of a 5-course meal that includes soup — which I do not recommend — you should make other dish choices carefully to avoid bloating or gaining weight.

What is the best way to exercise?

cass lam fitness coach exercise
Find your favourite way to exercise to help maintain a healthy lifestyle (© Cass Lam)

In addition to a proper diet and behaviour change, maintaining a healthy and fit lifestyle requires regular exercise. Whether you aim to lose weight or gain muscle mass, you should perform moderate to high intensity training and anaerobic exercises three to five times a week.

Eating TOO MUCH of anything will always lead to weight gain and chronic disease development. A diet can be very stressful — whether it’s the Paleo Diet or Ketogenic Diet, etc. I have tried them all. It worked for me and changed my body composition, but it is not sustainable, and it is not suitable for everyone. As long as you stick to unprocessed foods and eat the right amount of carbs, protein, and fat at each meal, you can still enjoy what you crave (in my case, Chinese food).

See also
10 Best Restaurants For Yummy Cantonese Food In Hong Kong
cass lam fitness and nutrition coach

Cass Lam is a NASM and CrossFit-certified fitness & nutrition coach. Currently, she’s pursuing further studies in LIFESTYLE MEDICINE at Harvard Medicine School. An additional note, she’s a Sweaty Betty Ambassador to help increase its brand awareness and to bring the latest lifestyle / fashion / wellness trends to the HK community.

Follow Cass Lam’s health journey on her Instagram: @cassielammie

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of The HK HUB.

Header image credit: trusjom via Canva, Cass Lam

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