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Old 03-21-2007, 03:22 PM   #1  
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Chinese Restaurant Food Unhealthy

WASHINGTON (AP) - The typical Chinese restaurant menu is a sea of nutritional no-nos, a consumer group has found. A plate of General Tso's chicken, for example, is loaded with about 40 percent more sodium and more than half the calories an average adult needs for an entire day.

The battered, fried chicken dish with vegetables has 1,300 calories, 3,200 milligrams of sodium and 11 grams of saturated fat.

That's before the rice (200 calories a cup). And after the egg rolls (200 calories and 400 milligrams of sodium).

"I don't want to put all the blame on Chinese food," said Bonnie Liebman, nutrition director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which did a report released Tuesday.

"Across the board, American restaurants need to cut back on calories and salt, and in the meantime, people should think of each meal as not one, but two, and bring home half for tomorrow," Liebman said.

The average adult needs around 2,000 calories a day and 2,300 milligrams of salt, which is about one teaspoon of salt, according to government guidelines.

In some ways, Liebman said, Italian and Mexican restaurants are worse for your health, because their food is higher in saturated fat, which can increase the risk of heart disease.

While Chinese restaurant food is bad for your waistline and blood pressure - sodium contributes to hypertension - it does offer vegetable-rich dishes and the kind of fat that's not bad for the heart.

However - and this is a big however - the veggies aren't off the hook. A plate of stir-fried greens has 900 calories and 2,200 milligrams of sodium. And eggplant in garlic sauce has 1,000 calories and 2,000 milligrams of sodium.

"We were shocked. We assumed the vegetables were all low in calories," Liebman said.

Also surprising were some appetizers: An order of six steamed pork dumplings has 500 calories, and there's not much difference, about 10 calories per dumpling, if they're pan-fried.

The group found that not much has changed since it examined Chinese food 15 years ago. That's not all bad, Liebman said.

"We were glad not to find anything different," she said. "Some restaurant food has gotten a lot worse. Companies seem to pile on. Instead of just cheesecake, you get coconut chocolate chip cheesecake with a layer of chocolate cake, and lasagna with meatballs."

The group says there is no safe harbor from sodium on the Chinese restaurant menu, but it offers several tips for making a meal healthier:

_Look for dishes that feature vegetables instead of meat or noodles. Ask for extra broccoli, snow peas or other veggies.

_Steer clear of deep-fried meat, seafood or tofu. Order it stir-fried or braised.

_Hold the sauce, and eat with a fork or chopsticks to leave more sauce behind.

_Avoid salt, which means steering clear of the duck sauce, hot mustard, hoisin sauce and soy sauce.

_Share your meal or take half home for later.

_Ask for brown rice instead of white rice.


By the way, I don't know of one Chinese restaurant that serves brown rice. Do any of yours?
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Old 03-21-2007, 04:20 PM   #2  
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Actually ALL of the chinese restaurants (both take-out and upscale) in my area serve brown rice instead of white if you ask for it...but I think it's a new addition from the last year or so....and they do charge extra for brown.
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Old 03-21-2007, 04:28 PM   #3  
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The Chinese restaurants that I go to always have brown rice as an option.

I just read that article about an hour ago, and I couldn't help but roll my eyes while reading it. Yeah, Chinese food can be high in sodium and calories, but a lot of the dishes have been "Americanized" with higher calories and the likes. You would think that if the Chinese were eating food like there are in America's Chinese restaurants, they'd be the world's fattest country.
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Old 03-21-2007, 04:46 PM   #4  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marbleflys View Post
Actually ALL of the chinese restaurants (both take-out and upscale) in my area serve brown rice instead of white if you ask for it...but I think it's a new addition from the last year or so....and they do charge extra for brown.
Thanks, I'll ask next time I go in. I love brown rice!

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The Chinese restaurants that I go to always have brown rice as an option.

I just read that article about an hour ago, and I couldn't help but roll my eyes while reading it. Yeah, Chinese food can be high in sodium and calories, but a lot of the dishes have been "Americanized" with higher calories and the likes. You would think that if the Chinese were eating food like there are in America's Chinese restaurants, they'd be the world's fattest country.
That's exactly the problem. It's been Americanized.

Most Chinese food is horrible with the fat and calories. Although there are some decent options. The lesser of the evils, so to speak. You can also ask for everything to be steamed. I frequently get steamed chicken and shrimp with vegetables and rarely eat the rice. Not that I don't like rice, but it just adds so many extra calories and I'd rather fill up on the meat and veggies.
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Old 03-21-2007, 05:48 PM   #5  
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My husband and I were recently talking about this to the owners of a local chinese restaurant. They were a really small mom and pop restaurant, and we loved some of their signature dishes. They outgrew their location and moved downtown and we noticed that in the new location, some of our favorite dishes had changed dramatically, and we asked why. When they moved and began getting a larger and more wealthy clientelle, they also got a lot more complaints about their traditional dishes (poultry cut in small chinese cuts - too many bones, stir fries not containing enough meat, spicy dishes being too spicy...).

Now when I order my favorite beef and eggplant, I ask them to make it a little extra spicy with a lot more eggplant, and a lot less beef. I also do not put the stir fry over rice, but put about 1/4 - 1/3 cup rice on my plate and touch my forkful of stir fry to the rice so a few grains stick.
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Old 03-21-2007, 08:26 PM   #6  
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If you go to a more traditional chinese restaurant, then the food will be a bit healthier. I go to one that reminds me of my visit to China and I love it.
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Old 03-21-2007, 10:28 PM   #7  
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PF changs offers brown rice and they don't charge extra
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Old 03-21-2007, 10:30 PM   #8  
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Originally Posted by kaplods View Post
When they moved and began getting a larger and more wealthy clientelle, they also got a lot more complaints about their traditional dishes (poultry cut in small chinese cuts - too many bones, stir fries not containing enough meat, spicy dishes being too spicy...).

Now when I order my favorite beef and eggplant, I ask them to make it a little extra spicy with a lot more eggplant, and a lot less beef.
This happens at indian restaurants A LOT. We've noticed that the ones in upscale areas are blander. dh always orders at our favorite indian restaurant "the way the cook thinks it SHOULD be made"
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Old 03-22-2007, 02:37 AM   #9  
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Going on a tangent, I am still not quite sure why CSPI (the organization behind these "studies") are getting the media attention they do ~ most of their "what a shock at how many calories this contains!" (and they've conducted quite a few of those for various cuisines) is pretty much a no-brainer who's watchful of what they're eating.

But I guess reminding Americans of how to eat more healthfully is not THAT bad...
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Old 03-22-2007, 07:20 AM   #10  
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I'm not so sure why people/study groups are shocked either. You take a perfectly good vegetable, perfectly good chicken breasts and slather it in oil and sauces and duh - you've got high calorie/high sodium foods. What's shocking is just how ignorant people are, IMO.
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Old 03-22-2007, 09:30 AM   #11  
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I have to say just 6 months ago I had no concept of how many calories things contained. When I started to educate myself I completely understood how I got to be as heavy as I was and how I was EASILY eating 3000+ calories a day. It was a complete and total shock when I realized some of my favorite meals were 1000+ calories alone...by themselves with no friends. I could easily have gone out for Chinese ordered a chicken and vegetable dish and thought this is probably pretty healthy. I haven't had Chinese since I started losing weight.

I think people who bother to check the caloric and nutritional content of foods it is pretty obvious Chinese is pretty bad in that regard. I think for the average person who is trying to eat healthy and is assuming that the chicken and vegetable dish the ordered must be ok it is an eye opener. Also I think people assume its chinese, chinese people tend to be thinner, therefore chinese food will be better. I know it sounds silly, but I know more than a few people who make this assumption.

I also think the media group is good because it makes people think well if I thought chinese food was good what about applebees and chilis and all the other place that I haven't checked. Thats what happened with me. Now before I go anywhere I want to know what I is going in my mouth. I also make better choices since I know they are usually high calories Half a meal goes home, no dessert, no sugary soda or "juice".

I guess I have a question. I wasn't raised doing this. I decided I wanted to lose weight and be educated about what I ate to make better choices. For me the blinders about what I was eating came off about 6 months ago. When did the blinders come off for you?

Ok, Off the soapbox.
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Going on a tangent, I am still not quite sure why CSPI (the organization behind these "studies") are getting the media attention they do ~ most of their "what a shock at how many calories this contains!" (and they've conducted quite a few of those for various cuisines) is pretty much a no-brainer who's watchful of what they're eating.

But I guess reminding Americans of how to eat more healthfully is not THAT bad...
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Old 03-22-2007, 09:43 AM   #12  
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As far as blinders coming off of me ummm well I guess when I was 10 or so. I've been checking calories ever since I was being dragged from one doctor to another as a youngster trying to figure out why I was gaining weight. I always had a general idea of how many calories things going into my mouth were, even where restaurants didn't post information, I knew more or less.

The chinese food that chinese restaurants serve us, in general, isn't what they eat anyway. When I went to China, I was there for 2 weeks, eating tons of food (I know I know), even ice cream almost every day and I came back 6 lbs lighter in 2 weeks. The reason is they walk quite a bit and also because their food is quite different than ours. Not a lot of oil and such. And even then, we were being treated as guests and were told we were eating more meat and less rice than they normally would. I only saw one fried thing when I went to China and that was a fried rib (interesting concept) but that was only during 1 meal.

So I agree people should know how much calories are in things. Understand that our restaurant portions are out of control because americans like to eat big so we are being served big which makes us bigger in the long run. Portion control is something I fight with quite a bit but I understand that learning it and doing it will only help me in the end.
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Old 03-22-2007, 10:02 AM   #13  
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I have noticed that the Chinese restaurants in my neighborhood are often owned and operated by first-generation Asians, and there is often a language barrier that prevents them from understanding that I want brown rice, or that I want extra veggies in my food.

There was a place that we frequented a few years back, where the family ate together in the restaurant dining room. What they were eating was served family-style (in a large pot) and didn't look at all like the items offered on the menu.

How about Vietnamese food? I'm partial to phở ... if there ever was a comfort food, that's it!
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Old 03-22-2007, 10:20 AM   #14  
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If you can deal with the amount of salt, Korean can be really good too. I love the variety of all the little pickle/kimchi (banchan) dishes they serve and an order of bulgogi (marinated beef served with lettuce to wrap it in), skipping or going light on the rice, is one of my current favorites.

With Chinese, I almost only do steamed dim sum and watch my portions very carefully.
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Old 03-22-2007, 10:47 AM   #15  
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As far as the blinders coming off. I think I always knew how bad restaurants were. I knew they figured the more oil, the more butter, the more sodium, the better the stuff is gonna taste. I just didn't really care, sad, but true. I never stopped to figure out just how many calories were in say a General Tso's chicken (one of my favs), didn't know it was quite THAT bad, but I knew it was bad. I just chose to ignore it. I always knew brown rice was better then white, well at least for a bunch of years now, but it didn't make me switch over. My healthy was not a priority for me, pleasing my tastebuds were. Mindboggling now that I just put that in print. But unfortunately that's how it was. No wonder I was 287 lbs. I guess looking back I should be glad I wasn't 387 lbs.
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