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Jul 28, 2010

Eating for Your Health at a Chinese Restaurant | Country Cooking Recipes

Love Chinese food? Learn to make healthier choices at your favorite restaurant.


inese food is one of the most popular ethnic choices in the U.S. After all, who doesn't love a savory oriental dish topped off with a fortune cookie? But if you want to eat an occasional Chinese meal and still watch your waistline, you should know how to order wisely.
A plate may come loaded with veggies and lean shrimp or chicken. But when portions are too big or there is too much sauce, you can unknowingly be taking in more than half a day's worth of calories (as well as fat and ) sodium in just one meal.

Use the following tips to learn how to enjoy a good Chinese meal without feeling guilty about it afterwards.
Use discipline and plan carefully
Appetizers
Keep in mind that most full orders have enough calories to warrant an entire meal.
Think twice about:
  • Steamed and fried pork dumplings. One dumpling has about 85 calories and 170 mg of sodium.
  • Egg rolls and spare ribs have about 200 mg of sodium per piece, depending on how they're prepared. Egg rolls can also contain anywhere from 200 to 300 calories and 11 to 16 grams of fat.
  • A half cup of fried noodles has about 150 calories.
Instead, consider:
  • One spring roll (100 calories).
  • Soup (100 to 150 calories). Egg drop, wonton and hot and sour are low in fat, but have 1,000 mg of sodium.
  • Steamed veggie dumplings. One will cost you about 65 calories and 185 mg of sodium.
Vegetarian dishesThink twice about:
  • Eggplant in garlic sauce and stir-fried greens (1,000 calories and over 2,000 mg sodium each).
  • Any dish with deep-fried tofu.
Instead, consider:
  • Mixed vegetables or Szechuan string beans have almost half the calories of the above choices. Sodium will be the same.
  • Stir-fried tofu.
  • Steamed veggies, sauce on the side.
Meat and fish dishesThink twice about:
  • Items that are crispy, coated, marinated, twice-cooked or battered.
  • Anything deep-fried or heavy in beef or pork.
  • Lemon chicken (deep fried), General Tso's chicken, moo shoo pork, beef and broccoli, and orange crispy beef.
  • Dishes with nuts. Although healthy in moderation, restaurants sometimes use excess amounts.
Instead, consider:
  • Steamed dishes, especially if you have high blood pressure. Steamed chicken, shrimp or fish with steamed vegetables.
  • Any shrimp dish (not fried), Moo goo gai pan, chicken chow mein or chicken with black bean sauce. These range from 500 to 700 calories, although they carry over 2,000 mg of sodium.
Noodles and fried rice
These are often high in refined carbohydrates.
Think twice about:
  • Chicken chow mein and any lo mein dish. They have about 1100-1500 calories and 2700-3600 mg of sodium.
  • Fried rice - just one cup has 320 calories and 12 grams of fat.
Instead, consider:
  • One cup of steamed rice (200 calories, no fat or sodium). Brown is best.
Extra savvy strategies
  • Use chopsticks. Most of the fat and calories are actually found in the sauce. Pluck your food out with chopsticks and mix with steamed rice for extra savings. This also slows down your eating.
  • Go easy on dipping sauces, such as soy and duck sauce. Many are high in sodium and/or sugar.
  • Speak up! Most restaurants are happy to accommodate. Ask for extra veggies, less red meat and oil.
  • Share. Many main dishes and appetizers can feed two to three people. Or bring home a doggy bag.
  • Combine and conquerOrder one steamed dish and mix it with a non-fried dish and steamed rice. This will cut the fat, calories and sodium in half when you share it, while getting the flavor of the sauce.