Across China: More Chinese turn to light meals to stay healthy
Interior designer Jiang Lele, 33, has recently abandoned her favorite oily, salty and spicy dishes to turn to light meals mainly comprised of vegetables.
"I feel like I'm a rabbit, eating grass. The food is really bland," Jiang said. "But it's nutritious and healthy."
After eating healthy meals with ingredients like lettuce, steamed pumpkin, fish and dragon fruit for more than 20 days, Jiang's weight and body fat have both fallen.
"For office workers who spend a long time sitting and have no time for sports, light meals are a good choice to stay healthy and fit," said Jiang.
Jiang lives in Yinchuan, capital of northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. People in the northwestern region are known for having heavy tastes, favoring oily and salty foods. But recently, light meals have become popular there.
Ma Rui, who runs a restaurant in Yinchuan, goes to the local market to buy the freshest produce every morning to prepare over 20 set light meals that she sells in her restaurant.
The restaurant also offers online takeaway services. On the busiest days, it handles over 170 orders, and receives over 3,000 orders each month.
"The ingredients often run short before the restaurant closes," Ma said.
A report released by major Chinese food delivery platform Meituan Waimai shows that in the first nine months of 2019, light food orders on the platform increased by 98 percent year on year.
The new trend stands in contrast to the established eating habits of Chinese people -- large quantities of meat and carbohydrates are generally favored at tables.
In 1961, China's daily per capita caloric intake was less than 1,500 kilocalories. An adult male needs about 2,000 kilocalories a day as suggested by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Yinchuan resident Liu Dong, 43, remembers that during his childhood, even eating a cookie was a luxury. Vegetables and meat were scarce, and the family ate pickles and steamed buns almost every day in the winter.
"My father's generation experienced famine, and often talked about the severe food shortage in their childhoods. They dug up grass and picked bark for food. Who would be fat in those days?" Liu said.
However, with the quality of life improving over the decades, many Chinese are now able to satisfy their previously unmet cravings for meat and carbohydrates, and obesity has become an increasingly challenging issue.
According to an official report on Chinese residents' nutrition and chronic diseases published in December last year, the overweight and obesity rates of Chinese residents aged 18 and above are 34.3 percent and 16.4 percent, respectively.
"Nowadays, there's a fancy meal at every get-together," Liu said. "And people's weight and blood fat are surging."
Being aware of the problem, Liu signed up as a member of Ma's light meal restaurant. Whenever he feels uncomfortable after eating too much oily food or whenever he finds that his blood fats are too high, Liu turns to light meals for a while.
Ma noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has further increased people's awareness of their health, as more are starting to adopt self-disciplined lifestyles.
In the six months following the containment of the virus in China, Ma's sales reached the whole-year level of 2019. She expects the demand for light meals to grow further after the Spring Festival.