Chinese food is delicious, but it also tends to be high in calories, sodium, and unhealthy fats. However, by carefully choosing your dishes, you can enjoy your favorite Chinese cuisine while still sticking to a healthy diet.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the healthiest menu items to order at Chinese restaurants.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Steamed or stir-fried vegetables, steamed dumplings, brown rice, and dishes with lean protein like chicken or shrimp are some of the healthiest choices at Chinese restaurants.
We’ll start by going over general guidelines for eating healthy at Chinese restaurants. Then we’ll get into specific food suggestions, breaking it down by common menu categories like appetizers, soups, main entrees, and sides.
General Tips for Eating Healthy at Chinese Restaurants
Eating out at Chinese restaurants can be a delicious and satisfying experience, but it’s important to make healthy choices to ensure you’re fueling your body with nutritious foods. Here are some general tips to help you make healthier choices when dining at your favorite Chinese restaurant.
Avoid fried and heavily breaded dishes
While dishes like sweet and sour chicken or General Tso’s chicken may be popular choices, they are often deep-fried and coated in heavy breading. These dishes tend to be high in unhealthy fats and calories. Instead, opt for dishes that are steamed, grilled, or lightly sautéed.
These cooking methods help to retain the natural flavors and nutrients of the ingredients without adding excessive amounts of oil or breading.
Go for steamed, grilled, or lightly sautéed items
When browsing the menu, look for dishes that are labeled as steamed, grilled, or lightly sautéed. These cooking methods are typically healthier options as they require less oil and retain more of the natural flavors and nutrients of the ingredients.
Steamed dishes, such as steamed fish or vegetables, are great choices as they are low in calories and fat while still being flavorful.
Ask for sauces and dressings on the side
Chinese cuisine is known for its flavorful sauces and dressings, but many of them can be high in sodium, sugar, and unhealthy fats. To control the amount of sauce you consume, ask for them to be served on the side.
This way, you can add a small amount to your dish or use it as a dip, giving you more control over the flavor and portion size.
Watch your portion sizes
Chinese restaurants often serve generous portions, which can lead to overeating. To avoid consuming excess calories, try sharing dishes with your dining companions or ask for a smaller portion. Additionally, fill your plate with a variety of vegetables and lean protein options to help you feel satisfied without overindulging.
By following these general tips, you can make healthier choices when dining at Chinese restaurants without sacrificing taste or enjoyment. Remember, moderation is key, and it’s okay to indulge in your favorite dishes every now and then. Enjoy your meal!
When dining at a Chinese restaurant, it’s important to make smart choices when it comes to appetizers. While there may be tempting fried options on the menu, there are also plenty of healthier alternatives to choose from. Here are a few healthy appetizers to consider:
Steamed dumplings are a popular choice for those looking for a healthier appetizer option. These bite-sized treats are typically filled with vegetables and lean proteins such as chicken or shrimp. Steaming the dumplings instead of frying them helps to reduce the amount of oil and calories, making them a great choice for those watching their waistline.
Don’t forget to dip them in a small amount of soy sauce or a low-sodium alternative for added flavor!
Edamame, or steamed soybeans, is another healthy appetizer option commonly found at Chinese restaurants. Packed with protein, fiber, and essential nutrients, edamame is a nutritious and satisfying choice.
These little green pods are usually served lightly salted, making them a perfect finger food to enjoy while waiting for your main course. Plus, they’re fun to eat – just pop the beans out of the pod and enjoy!
Hot and Sour Soup
If you’re in the mood for something warm and comforting, hot and sour soup is a great choice. This traditional Chinese soup is typically made with a flavorful broth, mushrooms, tofu, and various seasonings. It’s low in calories and packed with nutrients, making it a healthy and delicious option.
The spiciness of the soup can also help to rev up your metabolism and aid in digestion. Just be mindful of the sodium content, as some versions of hot and sour soup can be high in salt.
Egg Drop Soup
Egg drop soup is another popular and healthy appetizer option at Chinese restaurants. Made with a simple combination of chicken or vegetable broth and beaten eggs, this soup is light and full of flavor.
It’s low in calories and can help to satisfy your hunger without filling you up before your main course. To add some extra nutrients, look for versions that include vegetables such as spinach or mushrooms.
Remember, when ordering appetizers at a Chinese restaurant, moderation is key. While these options are healthier choices, it’s still important to be mindful of portion sizes and overall calorie intake.
By making smart choices and enjoying these delicious appetizers in moderation, you can still have a satisfying and nutritious dining experience.
Stir-fried veggies with tofu or chicken
When looking for a healthy option at a Chinese restaurant, stir-fried vegetables with tofu or chicken is a great choice. This dish is packed with nutrients from the colorful assortment of vegetables, providing you with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Tofu or chicken adds lean protein to the meal, helping you feel satisfied and full. Additionally, stir-frying the vegetables ensures that they retain most of their nutrients, making it a healthier cooking method compared to deep-frying.
Steamed fish or shrimp
If you’re a seafood lover, steamed fish or shrimp is an excellent choice for a healthy entree. Steaming is a cooking method that requires little to no oil, keeping the dish low in calories and fat. Fish and shrimp are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for heart health.
The steaming process helps to preserve the delicate flavors and textures of the seafood, resulting in a light and delicious dish. Pair it with some steamed vegetables for a complete and nutritious meal.
Chicken and broccoli
Chicken and broccoli is a classic Chinese dish that can be a healthy option when dining out. It typically consists of lean chicken breast and nutrient-rich broccoli, both of which are low in calories and high in protein.
The dish is often stir-fried with minimal oil, making it a healthier choice than deep-fried options. The combination of protein from the chicken and fiber from the broccoli helps to keep you satisfied and promotes a feeling of fullness.
Opt for a sauce that is light on sodium, such as garlic sauce or ginger sauce, to keep the dish even healthier.
Brown rice or quinoa
When it comes to choosing a side dish, opt for brown rice or quinoa instead of white rice. Brown rice is a whole grain that retains its bran and germ, making it higher in fiber, vitamins, and minerals compared to white rice.
Quinoa is another nutritious option that is packed with protein, fiber, and essential amino acids. These alternatives provide more nutrients and can help regulate blood sugar levels better than white rice. Additionally, they have a nutty flavor that adds a delicious twist to your meal.
When it comes to ordering healthy sides at a Chinese restaurant, there are a few options that stand out. These sides are not only delicious but also packed with nutrients that will keep you feeling great. Here are some of the healthiest sides you can order:
Steamed rice is a staple at Chinese restaurants and can be a great choice for a healthy side. It is low in fat and cholesterol and provides a good source of carbohydrates for energy. Plus, it pairs well with many dishes and adds a satisfying element to your meal.
Just be mindful of portion sizes, as rice can be high in calories if consumed in large quantities.
Stir-fried veggies are another excellent option for a healthy side. They are typically cooked quickly in a small amount of oil, which helps to retain their nutrients. These colorful and crunchy vegetables provide a wide range of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
They can be a great way to add some extra fiber to your meal and contribute to your daily vegetable intake. Look for dishes that include a variety of vegetables like broccoli, bell peppers, snow peas, and mushrooms.
If you prefer your vegetables without any added oil, steamed veggies are a fantastic choice. Steaming vegetables helps to preserve their natural flavors and textures while retaining most of their nutrients. This cooking method also requires little to no added fat, making it a low-calorie option.
Some popular steamed vegetable options include bok choy, baby corn, and Chinese cabbage.
When ordering these sides, it’s always a good idea to ask the restaurant to go easy on the sodium and MSG. This way, you can enjoy the natural flavors of the ingredients without the excess salt or artificial additives.
For more information on the benefits of including veggies in your diet, you can visit ChooseMyPlate.gov.
By choosing wisely, you can enjoy your favorite Chinese dishes while still maintaining a nutritious diet. Focus on steamed, grilled, and lightly sautéed items over anything fried or breaded. Fill up on veggies and lean proteins like chicken, shrimp, and tofu.
Ask for sauces on the side and watch your portion sizes. With these simple tricks, you can savor Chinese food without sabotaging your health goals.