One of the festivals that reunite families together in Hong Kong is the Mid-Autumn Festival which celebrates the full harvest moon.
Families used to spend more time moon watching but it’s not the main activity. However, small children are still seen bringing their colorful lanterns to places such as the park and beach.
But just as with any other occasion, commercialism also permeates into the Mid-Autumn Festival, otherwise known as Mooncake Festival. Moon cakes are becoming more associated with the holiday than any other symbol.
Moon cake is generally purchased as gifts rather than for personal consumption, just like those Danish biscuits wrapped in red during Chinese New Year festivities.
But while there are plenty of brands vying for the attention of the public, a few sought after ones — as far as we know — stand above the rest: those produced by Peninsula Hotel.
Nonetheless, mooncakes are generally made up of similar calorie-rich ingredients. For example, a plain baked mooncake with lotus seed paste has 716 calories. A plain snowskin mooncake with lotus paste has 983 calories, according to Singapore’s Health Promotion Board.
Cantonese style mooncake is among the most common with its sweet fillings of lotus seed or red bean paste encased in nuts and salted egg yolks, wrapped in oily dough. Other ingredients include flour, syrup, salt, baking soda and water. A 150-gram Cantonese mooncake with stuffed salted egg yolk and lotus seed filling registered 500 calories according to a Taiwan’s Health Promotion Administration (HPA) study in 2013. A 150-gram or 5.3-ounce Cantonese moon cake stuffed with date paste is even more potent at 620 calories.
The same HPA determined that Taiwanese mooncake consisting of rich dough wrap made from butter or pork fat, among other ingredients, carries 400 calories per 140-gram serving.
Indeed, calorie-conscious holidaymakers may want to stay away. But mooncakes have come a long way since they were first created, now offering a variety of flavors that they now include chocolate, ice cream, fruit, spices, tea or even infused with alcohol.
If you wish to try any mooncake for the sake of crossing out one off your bucket list, the traditional baked and snowskin types is among the healthier options.
Tips When Buying Healthy Mooncakes
- Check the ingredients and choose low-sugar or no-sugar mooncakes to be sure of getting ones with fewer calories on offer. Skip those that contain salted egg yolks to avoid excess sodium intake, an important consideration for people with diabetes, high cholesterol levels and overweight.
- The longer the shelf life of a mooncake, it is likely that it has higher amount of trans fat, sugar or preservatives, a no-no to good health.
- Look at samples if available. The smoother and softer texture may have more fat in it so you may skip on that one.
How Much Should I Eat?
You may buy the “healthiest” mooncake available, but you’ll defeat the calorie measurement if you do not control portions of what you eat. For snacks, consider limiting your intake to 100 calories, or a small fraction of an average mooncake — about one-eighth of its entire size. This is because a typical mooncake packs more than 700 calories and others even approach 1,000 calories.