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Five Hot Tips for Enjoying Zongzi without Gaining Weight

* The summer season is now upon us, and we are ready to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival. With the tantalizing aroma of zongzi wafting through the air, there lies plenty of hidden health risks due to the staggering fat, calorie, and salt content of most zongzi on the market. Zongzi goes against the modern belief of a low salt diet and eating more fruits and vegetables, therefore the Department of Health (DOH) has invited nutritionists from Taipei City Hospital to make improvements on traditional zongzi to prepare unique Rainbow Healthy Tofu Zongzi. DOH has provided several zongzi preparation tips for the citizens in this festive season, allowing them to enjoy the fun of hands-on experience in making healthy, scrumptious food.

  1. Enjoy zongzi in moderation: Traditional zongzi sold on the market weighs approximately 250g. Each serving contains more than 500 calories, equivalent to the calorie intake of one meal for an adult. It is recommended to substitute part of the meal with fruits and vegetables. People with high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol are reminded to monitor their diets.
  2. Low salt: Zongzi is a savory dish, so adding additional sauces is not recommended (such as soy sauce paste or sweet chili sauce). Rather, DOH suggests using extra spices when cooking (such as shallots, garlic, or pepper). In addition, one should choose fresh ingredients and refrain from using preserved foods such as pickles.
  3. Low sugar: Sweet zongzi is often served with dips or fillings produced from refined sugar. Although relatively smaller in size, each sweet zongzi contains approximately 20-30g of sugar – nearly half of the daily recommended sugar intake, therefore it is advised to enjoy zongzi in moderation. For example, sweet zongzi in this instance features adzuki bean filling with reduced sugar and oil to minimize sugar consumption.
  4. Low fat: The filling is made from poached low-fat pork loin, chicken breast or bean products instead of high fat pork belly.
  5. High fiber: When preparing zongzi, it is recommended to choose high fiber whole grains that are rich in vitamins and minerals (such as Chinese yam, brown rice, and oats) instead of sticky rice. For the filling, vegetables such as burdock, mushroom, and bamboo shoots can be used to increase fiber intake.
The DOH points out that many stores prepare food ingredients in advance for the festival; due to the increasingly higher temperatures, the ingredients are easily perishable, so it is advised to store the zongzi in the fridge after purchasing them. Additionally, when selecting food ingredients, it is imperative to check for mustiness in bamboo leaves, make sure that they have no pungent odor and smell fresh. Before using the leaves, wash the dirt off with water, soak them in water before wiping them dry with a cloth and allow to air dry. When shopping for sticky rice, make sure they are dry, and do not contain powder, foreign objects, or emit a musty odor. For dried mushrooms, choose ones with rich aroma, large and complete caps, and make sure they are fleshy and the cap edges are curled inwards. Before cooking the mushrooms, wash them with water and soak them in water to remove any powder, dust or pesticide residual. The public is advised to make use of nearby hiking trails, riverbank parks, and bike paths to conduct health walk or cycling exercises, thereby burning off the excess calorie intake from meal gatherings during the festival. For more information, please browse the agency’s website (https://health.gov.taipei/).