Eating out in Chinese restaurants can pose a challenge to those interested in healthy food choices, as many of the tempting options available contain large amounts of salt, fat, sugar and carbohydrates. However, armed with some knowledge, you can easily tailor a healthy, eating out diet plan.
Chinese cuisine is traditionally very healthy, with a large emphasis on a wide range of vegetables, combined with small amounts of meat and oil. Unfortunately, modern Chinese food restaurants have been Westernized to place more emphasis on deep fried, battered and oily foods, often covered in thick, sugary or salty sauces. There are, however, still some very healthy choices available.
The Preparation Method
Many of the choices in Chinese restaurants have two alternatives, they can either be served fried or steamed. Always chose the steamed option, as it will contain much less fat. Some examples of this include steamed dumplings or steamed spring rolls as starters, or steamed vegetables or rice in an entree. Foods that have been roasted or broiled are also good options. If in doubt about the method of preparation, ask your server.
Stir-frying is a good option if it applies to vegetables, as little oil is used, and the vegetables don't really soak it up. However, stir-fried rice or noodles use much more oil, as well as unrefined carbs, and should be avoided. Any dish that adds a battered food like chicken or pork to a stir-fry is also going to absorb a lot of oil.
There are many healthy ingredients available in Chinese restaurants, including a wide variety of different vegetables. Try not to order a meal that consists of only one or two ingredients, such General Tso's Chicken, or if you must, then order an extra plate of stir-fried or steamed vegetables to go with it. If you are ordering soups for starters, broth-based soup is the healthiest option, particularly egg-drop or hot and sour soup.
Chinese restaurants often have a very good green or white tea, and this makes an excellent, healthful alternative to sugar filled soda. Chicken and prawns or seafood are good alternatives to fattier pork and duck, when you are given the option. Anything that is labeled battered, deep-fried, or crispy is going to have large amounts of carbs and fats, so try to avoid it, or eat it in tiny portions.
If you want to have rice, ask if they have brown rice available, as it is a much healthier option. Similarly, if you want a meal that comes with a thick, sugary or carb filled sauce, such as sweet and sour, ask for it on the side, or for none at all. Asking for chopsticks is a way to cut down on your food intake. You will eat slower and give your body time to feel satiated. The meal portions are likely to be far too big, so don't be afraid to ask for a carry away bag as well.
Chinese food restaurants have a lot to offer when eating out on a healthy diet. Choose meals that are nutritious, and have been prepared in a healthy way, and enjoy.