Is Fried Rice Fattening?

Fried rice dishes are standard fare on Chinese food restaurant menus. The side dish comes in a variety of forms ranging from vegetarian preparations to more substantial protein-based options made with shrimp, chicken or beef, but each provide a significant amount of fried rice calories.

A 1-cup serving of fried rice contains a variable amount of fat, depending on what's it's cooked with. (Image: Nungning20/iStock/GettyImages)

The wide scope of forms of the traditional dish translates to an equally wide scope of nutritional values, but consistency among standard ingredients and methods of preparation create a general nutritional range for assessing fat content.

Tip

A 1-cup serving of fried rice contains a variable amount of fat, depending on what's it's cooked with. However, be aware of portion sizes — standard restaurant portions are often 4 cups, adding a significant amount of fat.

Fried Rice Calories and Fat

According to the USDA, a standard 1-cup serving of fried rice from a Chinese food restaurant contains 7 grams of fat and 180 calories.

Though the USDA nutrient values are considered a reputable authority of nutritional information, several other sources cite standard fat content as significantly higher than the USDA estimation. National Chinese restaurant chain Panda Express lists the total fat content of their fried rice side dish at 16 grams.

Consider Fat Contributors

Most fried rice dishes are prepared with similar ingredients in basically the same way. White rice is first steamed or boiled before it is then fried in hot vegetable oil. Additional ingredients, such as vegetables, soy sauce, eggs, meat and spices are stir fried with the rice to make the final dish. The amount of oil used for frying is a significant factor in determining final fat content.

Including higher-fat meats also increases fat content, especially if the meats have been deep-fried prior to stir frying. Fried rice dishes also may be made with additional sauces that are typically made with oil. Because of the range in preparations, ingredients and serving sizes, fat content can vary widely.

Watch the Fat and Salt

The Food and Drug Administration advises a daily intake of no more than 65 grams of fat, or less than 20 to 35 percent of the source of your total caloric intake. Depending on the precise ingredients and other ingredients in the fried rice dish, it may qualify by your dietary standards and needs as a high-fat dish.

According to the USDA, 1 cup of fried rice contains 460 milligrams of sodium. A standard restaurant serving of 4 cups adds up to a whopping 1,840 milligrams. According to the American Heart Association, a diet high in salt can lead to high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for other conditions such as heart attack or stroke.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams per day, but also states that less than 1,500 milligrams per day is ideal.

Make It Healthier

Simple adjustments in preparations lower the fat content to reflect your dietary needs. Cut back on the amount of oil used when frying your rice. Opt for lean meats and egg substitutes to reduce the fat content without sacrificing protein.

Limit additional sauces, such as oyster, fish and sweet-and-sour, to eliminate additional fat, calories and sodium as well. When ordering in a restaurant, ask the chef to use less oil, no butter and to hold any additional sauces or serve them on the side so you can control the content.

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