Top 6 CNY Snacks to Avoid if You Have Eczema (and 4 that are OK)

Warning: Depressing article if you are craving CNY snacks. But it may be good for your skin!

As we enter the festive period for Chinese New Year, there will be family gatherings, ang paus, and of course, lots of snacks!

As you visit your friends and relatives’ houses, you will definitely be offered all kinds of popular (and homemade) Chinese New Year goodies. They look irresistible, but remember that some snacks could make your eczema worse.

Here are a few Chinese New Year snacks that may trigger your skin to itch, so avoid them if you can!

Not OK: Bak Kwa

Bak kwa photo by Flickr/Danny Choo

Who doesn’t love this dried barbecued meat delicacy? We all grew up with it, and there are so many variations to try (i.e. coin bak kwa, chilli bak kwa, bak kwa rolls and more).

But, bak kwa may irritate your skin due to high sugar and MSG content. There is contradictory evidence surrounding sugar as a trigger for eczema. Some studies show it has no effect, while others share anecdotal evidence to avoid it, and eczema diet books also recommend to reduce consumption. As for MSG (monosodium glutamate), the reason to avoid is to lower your chemical load, and reduce inflammation.

Not OK: Spicy prawn rolls

Spicy prawn rolls. Photo: ProjectManhattan

Spicy prawn rolls or “hae bee hiam” rolls are another snack that is hard to stop at just one! But try and steer clear, as the spicy chilli aggravates inflammation and dried prawns contain preservatives.

Not OK: Peanut or almond cookies

Made with flour, sugar, and oil, and of course peanuts. Peanuts are a highly allergenic food, and coupled with the high sugar content, is one to avoid, especially for kids.

Not OK: Pineapple Tarts

Pineapple tarts. Photo: Alpha

We hate to break it to you, but your favourite pineapple tarts are also off limits if you suffer from eczema. The reason is due to the high amounts of processed and refined carbohydrates of wheat flour, as well as the high sugar content.

Not OK: Love Letters (Kuih Kapit)

Kueh kapit. Photo: Terence Ong

As with other cookies and snacks, eating love letters (or kueh kapit) is also discouraged due to its use of processed, refined carbs and sugar. Sigh.

Not OK: Mandarin Oranges

Photo by sonictk

Oranges can cause flare-ups in people with eczema, so it’s best to avoid eating too much of it during the festive season.

With so many snacks that are off-limits, it may be hard to explain to your relatives why you don’t want to indulge in their delicious goodies. Using the “I’m on a diet” excuse may not satisfy them, since they will then offer you mandarin oranges, which are also not good for eczema.

Instead, you can just tell them that you’re already full from the previous gathering, or that you’re already feeling ill from too many snacks. It’s a white lie, but it may get you out of an awkward situation.

That being said, there ARE some snacks that are ok to eat (in moderation). Many will also contain lots of sugar, but will have less refined carbohydrates or preservatives. Here are some examples:

OK: Kueh Bangkit

Kueh bangkit. Photo: Terence Ong

Kueh bangkit is mainly made from tapioca flour (instead of wheat flour) and coconut milk. Tapioca flour is popular as a gluten-free alternative to wheat flour to reduce food intolerance, so it should be fine to snack on these.

OK: Sunflower and pumpkin seeds (Kuaci)

Sunflower seeds

Kuaci is the general term for this group of snacks made from sunflower, black melon or pumpkin seeds. They can be eaten raw (ideal), but are also found as roasted varieties, coated with salt or other flavourings (try to eat these in moderation). However, regardless of the variety, it should not cause your skin to flare up since they are so tiny and hard to open, it takes a long time to eat a lot of it anyway ­čÖé

OK: Nian Gao

Nian gao. Photo: ProjectManhattan

Nian gao is basically just steam glutinous rice. It is high in brown sugar, so you should eat it in moderation, but it does not have the common foods to avoid, namely wheat and dairy. However, try to avoid the sliced variety that is coated in batter and deep fried.

OK: Arrowroot chips

Arrowroot chips. Photo by sunset2712

Arrowroot (or nga ku) chips are made from the arrowroot tuber. It is similar to cassava chips, and are considered a gluten-free alternative to prawn crackers or other chips.

Have a Happy (Itch-free) Chinese New Year!

CNY is a great time to catch up with friends and family, but it’s also ok to celebrate without indulging in skin-triggering foods.

Everyone’s skin is different, so you may have different triggers. The best advice is to eat your CNY snacks in moderation, even if it’s in the “OK” list above. Choose your snacks wisely and keep to your skincare routine, and your skin will hopefully remain calm throughout the festive season.

If you have any concerns, talk to our eczema therapist who will be glad to help!

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