A dietitian nutritionist explains which weird TikTok food trends are healthy and which ones could leave you in a pickle

  • Michelle Lau responds to some of the social media platform’s strangest food combinations, such as carrot bacon, feta pasta and cotton candy with pickles
  • Every week, Talking Points gives you a worksheet to practise your reading comprehension with questions and exercises about the story we’ve written
Doris Wai |

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Carrot bacon has been popularised on TikTok by US actress and vegan cook, Tabitha Brown

The internet is the go-to place for anything and everything, including recipes with weird food combinations.

TikTok, a short-form video platform that was the world’s most downloaded app last year, is famous for setting trends with videos featuring these eyebrow-raising dishes.

The app has been unavailable in Hong Kong since last year. But Young Post’s Doris Wai, based outside the city, takes a look at some of the wackiest recipes and asks Michelle Lau, a registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of nutrition consultancy Nutrilicious, whether the seemingly guilt-free recipes are really what they seem.

Cotton candy with pickles

Cotton candy with pickles is a fun but unhealthy treat. Photo: @creamberrylv / TikTok

TikTok users have picked up one of the most unexpected food pairings: pickles and cotton candy. Simply wrap a layer of cotton candy around a dill pickle, and take a bite.

Lau says: “No doubt, this is the worst recipe on the list. Dill pickles are high in salt – a large one alone exceeds two-thirds of an adult’s daily recommended sodium intake.

“And needless to say, cotton candy alone or in anything is just [too sugary]. I’d ditch this whole thing.”

Mustard on watermelon

In the last few years, this summer staple has been through quite a transformation. First was the mind-blowing watermelon steak, and then, watermelon sushi.

But this creative take on the juicy fruit involves a simple addition: mustard. Lau says this is a bit of a dubious dish.

There are better ways to add a zing to your watermelon than throwing mustard on top. Photo: @maxthemeatguy / TikTok

“Mustard is a processed condiment that is loaded with sodium and additives. You’re just cancelling out all the watermelon’s [health] benefits,” she points out.

To add an extra zing to your watermelon, she recommends having it with a squeeze of lime or some plain yogurt instead.

Carrot bacon

US actress and vegan cook Tabitha Brown has a viral take on vegan bacon using the humblest of ingredients – yes, carrots, it’s your turn to shine.

For this recipe, you need to marinate thinly sliced carrots in a sweet-salty mixture of maple syrup, soy sauce and liquid smoke. Then, you bake them until they become crispy “bacon strips”.

“Carrots are a particularly great source of fibre and beta carotene so that’s a plus,” Lau explains.

“It might be a good idea to cut down on the maple syrup though. Even though it has a lower glycemic index [a measure of how quickly a food causes our blood sugar levels to rise], too much of any sort of sugar is bad.”

Corn ribs

These are basically corn cobs that are sliced into long strips to make them look like pork or beef ribs. They are then seasoned and air-fried or baked. What you end up with: curled-up corn slices that resemble “riblets”.

“Corn is packed with fibre, vitamins and minerals so that’s great,” Lau says.

Corn ribs make a great vegan menu item for your next barbecue. Photo: @spicednice / TikTok

“There are a few variations for seasonings, and most include olive oil, garlic powder, chilli powder and smoked paprika. This is a pretty healthy dish as long as you go easy on the seasoning.”

Do watch out for how long you cook the corn riblets. Lau says the corn loses its vitamins when cooked at high temperature for too long. A recipe we found calls for placing the corn in an air fryer for 10 minutes at 200 degree Celsius, or about 20 minutes in an oven at 190 degree Celsius – Lau says both methods are fine.

Nature’s cereal

US singer Lizzo is a huge fan of nature’s cereal. Photo: @lizzo / TikTok

This recipe has even had US singer Lizzo gushing about how tasty it is. It involves filling a bowl with fresh mixed berries, pomegranate seeds, coconut water and ice.

“This is, in fact, an excellent snack. I wouldn’t really recommend it for breakfast though, as it lacks protein and healthy fats that [are] needed to keep you satiated until the next meal,” Lau says.

She adds that berries and pomegranate seeds are rich in vitamin C, vitamin K and potassium. Coconut water also replenishes your body’s electrolytes after exercise.

Feta pasta

This dish took the internet by storm earlier this year. This insanely delicious, low-effort recipe is every beginner cook’s dream.

Simply roast a bunch of cherry tomatoes with an entire block of feta cheese and herbs, and stir in your choice of cooked pasta.

Baked feta pasta is a healthy dish that is also easy for beginner cooks to whip up

Lau gives this recipe the thumbs up, and adds, “Feta is an excellent choice as it is lower in calories compared to other types of cheese”.

And if your nearest supermarket has run out of feta because everyone else is whipping up this dish, Lau says ricotta is a good alternative.

Click here to download a printable worksheet with questions and exercises about this story. Answers are on the second page of the document.

You can find Michelle Lau on Instagram (@nutriliciousss).

Michelle Lau is a registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of nutrition consultancy Nutrilicious. Photo: Michelle Lau
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