If you're trying to make better food choices to improve your health, you may be wondering: What's the healthiest Chinese takeaway dish? While many Chinese favorites are high in calories, fat and sodium, you can find healthy options to meet your nutritional needs.
For healthy Chinese food, stick with dishes that are steamed or stir-fried in a small amount of oil and avoid fried dishes.
The Joys of Eating Out
If you're like most people, you love going out to eat, or just eating food prepared by someone else. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, most Americans eat nearly one-quarter of their meals outside the home.
In addition to eating many meals out, Americans are also choosing to eat more ethnic cuisine. According to a December 2013 review published in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, there are more than 43,000 Chinese restaurants in the United States, which is more than some of the most popular hamburger-based fast food restaurants.
According to the authors of the review, Americans enjoy eating at Chinese restaurants because the food consistently tastes good, it fits most budgets and the restaurants are convenient.
Traditional Chinese cuisine primarily consists of steamed vegetables with a smattering of lean proteins. That's why the Chinese have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes and obesity, according to Sutter Health. However, that's not the type of food most Americans eat when they dine at their favorite Chinese restaurant.
Beware of Chinese Food Favorites
If you're trying to eat better, and you're looking for healthy Chinese food options, you may need to steer clear of some of your favorites. Fried rice, egg rolls, General Tso's chicken and sweet and sour pork are high in fat, calories and sodium.
Battered, deep fried and covered in a heavy sauce, one order of General Tso's chicken may supply all your fat, protein and sodium needs for the day. According to data from the USDA, one order of this sweet-and-sour fried chicken dish (535 grams) has 1,580 calories, 69 grams of protein, 88 grams of total fat, 128 grams of protein and 2,330 milligrams of sodium.
While calories in Chinese food may vary from restaurant to restaurant, if you're trying to lose weight, one serving of General Tso's may meet all of your daily calorie needs.
If you like crab rangoon to start your meal, be aware that it has 210 calories per three-piece serving, according to the USDA. Those three pieces also have 9 grams of protein, 8 grams of total fat, 26 grams of carbohydrates and 390 milligrams of sodium.
Healthy Chinese Food
You may still be wondering: What's the healthiest Chinese takeaway dish, then? While some of your favorites may be off the menu, there are plenty of other healthy Chinese food options for you to choose from, such as:
- Wonton soup
- Steamed dumplings
- Shrimp and vegetable stir-fry
- Chicken and vegetable stir-fry
- Steamed dishes
- Steamed rice
Many Chinese food menus feature healthy Chinese food options. These dishes are usually steamed and filled with veggies and lean sources of protein, such as fish, shrimp or chicken. You can also ask to have the sauce on the side, which can save calories and sodium. Instead of pouring the sauce over your steamed meal, dip the tips of your chopsticks into the sauce and drizzle it over your food.
Cleveland Clinic suggests you ask your server if your food can be prepared with less oil and without MSG (monosodium glutamate). While this flavor-enhancer is generally recognized as safe (GRAS), MSG is a source of sodium and should be limited.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "7 Tips for Healthy Dining Out"
- Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety: "Popular Ethnic Foods in the United States: A Historical and Safety Perspective"
- Sutter Health: "Eating Healthy Chinese Food"
- HelpGuide.org: "Healthy Fast Food"
- USDA: "General Tso's Chicken"
- USDA: "Crab Rangoon"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Crave Chinese Food? Tips for Heart-Healthy Asian Cuisine"
- Mayo Clinic: "Monosodium Glutamate (MSG): Is it Harmful?"