Chinese New Year, or Lunar New Year, is coming up at the end of January. Like many celebrations where we end up with family, food has become a part of the tradition. Whether you’re celebrating just for fun, or it’s an important part of your culture, being on the keto diet while trying to celebrate can be challenging. I’ve put together some tips on how to ketofy your favorite Chinese foods.
What Do We Celebrate During Chinese New Year?
Chinese New Year is also called Spring Festival. It’s the traditional start of the year according to the ancient Chinese calendar. Traditionally, it’s a festival honoring deities, and getting together for a dinner the night before is the starting feature of this tradition! It’s also important to give the whole house a thorough cleaning, to sweep out any ill will or bad intentions. It seems like a great time to review your New Year’s promises if you’ve slacked a little bit.
Spring Festival Food
Ketofying the food that’s traditionally served during the Spring Festival can pose some challenges. Many of the dishes are comprised of foods that each have a specific symbolism. Dumplings, and an important part of the traditional meal in some regions of China, are probably going to have a carb count. However, they represent prosperity, so leaving them out of your celebration may not be an option. The same holds true for the many fruits that are supposed to be consumed during the reunion dinner. If you are able to pick and choose your foods, most vegetable dishes (with the exception of taro) and the meats should be okay. If you can’t avoid high-carb foods, then going off-plan for the day may be your best option.
Ketofying “North American” Chinese Foods
The Chinese food that we eat in North America is similar in many ways to what is served in China, but there are also a lot of differences. Popular Chinese food in North America can be ketofied fairly easily, although you may find that you need to avoid some sweet sauces or marinades. It’s much easier to ketofy the Chinese food that we eat in North America when you’re not worried about following tradition.
For meat dishes, you’ll want to avoid meats that were prepared with breading. Even if it’s just cornstarch and water breading, you’re still packing on the carbs. A tablespoon of cornstarch will have about eight carbs. Have a whole bunch of breaded chicken and your carb count will fly.
Cooking your chicken in sauce in a marinade is probably a better option. Kikkoman Teriyaki Sauce only has two carbs per serving. Soy sauce has less than one carb per serving. However, sweet and sour sauce can have up to thirteen carbs per serving, depending on how it’s prepared. Use the sauce as a marinade so that your meat and veggies have a better flavor.
When it comes to the rice, you’re better off omitting it altogether. One cup of fried rice has forty-three grams of carbs; that’s more than some people eat in an entire day! A better idea is to steam cauliflower rice, then fry with a bit of oil and soy sauce. You can finish with a bit of MCT oil (US | Canada) if it seems dry.
Use caution when you’re buying pre-made vegetable mixes to prepare (usually in the frozen section). Many of those mixes contain carrots, which have a high carb count. They’re cheap and freeze easily, which is one of the reasons they are included in so many veggie mixes. You can create your own stir fry mix with broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, green, red, and yellow peppers, and a bit of onion. Add them to your meat and sauce mixture near the end of cooking, and then serve over riced stir-fried cauliflower!
There are ways to enjoy your favorite Chinese foods while you’re doing keto. It may be more difficult to manage traditional meal ingredients when you’re eating for a celebration. In that case, use the day to alter your plan temporarily. Remember, going off plan for one day isn’t going to hurt in the long run. No one but you expects you to be perfect. You may want to limit how much you eat of some foods so that you don’t run into any digestive issues, but you’ll be managing your plan while honoring those important traditions!
Listen, we’ve all had moments where we wanted to stick to the plan at times when circumstances made it really hard. No one expects perfection, except maybe you. Are you looking for some helpful support while on your keto journey? Be sure to join my Intentionally Bare Facebook group, where you’ll be joining more than 15,000 others who are also reaping the benefits of the ketogenic diet. I can’t wait to meet you!
You got this!
~ Intentionally Bare
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