Health & Wellness

The Healthiest Chinese Food For Your Next Takeout Order

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Chinese Takeout: The Foodie Call You Can’t Resist.

We’ve all been here before. You don’t feel like cooking, and the Chinese takeout menu is calling your name. But all that grease, sodium and sugar is bad for you. Very bad.

But, it tastes soooo good, and it is so convenient. Plus, you usually have some leftovers to munch on the next few days. We completely understand how easy it is to justify.

With some Chinese takeout restaurants, it’s challenging to even get a description of the food, let alone the caloric intake per item. Trust us, you don’t want to know how many calories most of your favorite items have inside that make them easy so good.

But not to worry, it is possible to order Chinese takeout without the heaping side of guilt.

If you’re trying to stay healthy, we’ve put together a list of the healthiest Chinese options for those nights when your fridge and your stomach feel like a giant void.

Here’s what to order and not to order when that takeout menu is calling your name.

The Healthiest (and Least Healthy) Chinese Appetizers

Appetizers You Should Not Hook Up With

You probably saw this coming, but egg rolls are not your friend.

Do they contain vegetables? Yes.

But at over 200 calories a pop, these greasy bad boys are the beginning of a shame spiral. Also on the no-no list, fried wontons and fried potstickers. Just stay away from anything fried, and your night will be off to a good start.

Appetizers You Can Hook Up With

  • Steamed Vegetables or Shrimp Dumplings – Steamed instead of fried, these appetizers will provide you with healthy veggies and a little low-cal protein without all the grease. Keep them on your call list.
  • Broth Based Soups – A small soup usually clocks in at less than 100 calories. So whether you like egg drop, sweet and sour or wonton, feel free to indulge. They can be high in sodium, but the smaller portion will help keep that in check.  Another plus: soups help you eat less later on.
  • Chicken Lettuce Wraps – They have protein with veggies, and they’re low carb. As a main dish or an appetizer, this option will keep you on a healthy roll.

The Healthiest (and Least Healthiest) Chinese Main Dishes

The main dishes are the stars of the show. And like any cast of characters, they can be broken into heroes and villains. So let’s see who you want to keep on your call list and who you want to boot off.

Do-Not-Call List

  • General Tso´s Chicken – It has a sauce made of cornstarch, orange juice and sugar. This evil general will march you closer to diabetes. Stay away.
  • Chicken Lo Mein – They seem like a harmless bunch of noodles. But lo mein, anything is just a bunch of low-down, greasy, refined carbs. Buh-Bye!
  • Sweet and Sour Chicken, Pork or any other meat– It sends ever so alluring mixed messages that keep you hanging. It’s sweet. It’s sour. It’s fried and has a goopy, sauce. Send it packing. 
  • Crispy Any Meat – It’s fried, breaded and comes in a syrupy, sweet sauce. This dish wants to be your sugar daddy. Don’t let it.
  • Fried Rice – If it starts with fried, do I really need to explain it? It doesn’t matter if it’s vegetable fried rice. Stop making excuses for it and quit calling this dish!

Do-Call-Again List

Sorry if some of your favs were on that list. But there are also a lot of tasty dishes out there that you should keep seeing. Try these the next time you want to cozy up and eat on your couch.

  • Chicken with Broccoli – Lean meat provides a healthier protein, and the broccoli is a cancer-fighting, cruciferous vegetable with folate and Vitamin C. This dish is your hero.
  • Buddha’s Delight – Packed with veggies, veggies and more veggies, this dish is one of the obvious good guys. To keep it interesting, try adding a little tofu for protein.
  • Moo-Shoo Chicken or Moo Shoo Vegetable – This is another dish loaded with veggies like carrots, mushrooms, bamboo shoots and water chestnuts. It’s served on a thin pancake with a tasty hoisin sauce and bursting with flavor from the garlic and ginger.  *To avoid a bit of sugar, ask them to go light on the sauce. You can also switch out the pancakes for lettuce wraps to cut carbs. Isn’t it nice to be involved with a dish you can change?
  • Shrimp In Lobster Sauce – It sounds fancy, but there’s usually no lobster in this dish. The sauce is also made with a lot less sugar than most Chinese food. Basically, it’s protein-packed shrimp with a chicken stock sauce flavored with ginger, garlic and black beans and finished with an egg. Sometimes it feels good to be good.
  • Chop Suey – This tasty stir fry comes with bean sprouts, celery, water chestnuts and cabbage. To keep it healthy, order it with chicken or shrimp and skip the pork. You wouldn’t want a good thing to go bad.
  • Moo Goo Gai Pan – I know. Moo Goo Pan, what? If you recognize the name but don’t know what’s in it, here’s the breakdown on this savory dish: Thinly sliced chicken breast, snow peas, mushrooms and water chestnuts in a simple and light sauce. A straight forward, honest kind of dish packed full of veggies. You can depend on it.

7 Other Ways to Stay in Control with Your Takeout Date

Switch White Rice to Brown Rice

Per cup, the caloric intake is around the same at 200, but brown rice has triple the fiber and a lower glycemic index. Not hard to spot the winner here.

Order the Sauce on the Side

The sauce is often the main culprit in Chinese dishes because they’re usually loaded with salt, grease and sugar. A little of this action on the side is okay, but keep it to a minimum. 

Have Some Tea

The green tea they serve in Chinese restaurants is full of antioxidants and also aids digestion. If they don’t offer it for takeout, brew some of your own. You can get 100 green tea bags for under $100.

Load up on the Veggies

You can always order a side of veggies. Throw them on top of a dish, eat them as an appetizer, if nothing else it will stretch the side of sauce you ordered a little further!

Dip It in Chili Sauce

Instead of using all that high sodium soy sauce, try dipping appetizers in chili sauce instead. Putting hot chili in foods makes you feel fuller faster. So go ahead and spice things up a bit.

Invite a Friend

Chinese dishes are always big enough to be shared. Inviting a friend over will up the fun factor and probably save you some calories.

One of those nights when everyone’s busy? Cut the dishes in half right away. You can save the rest for another night unless you’re one of those morning people.

Try Eating with Chopsticks

Not so good with chopsticks? That’s okay. Eating slower lets your brain to catch up with your stomach. That way, you know when you’re full and can bring your takeout date to an end.

These takeout tips should help bring a happier ending to your adventures in Chinese food. And for those nights when you can’t resist an egg roll, don’t feel too bad about yourself. Nobody’s perfect, just try not to make it a habit.

And hey, there’s good news at the end of this takeout affair. Fortune cookies only have 35 calories! So go ahead and see what your future has in store.

Hopefully, it’s fewer calories and a lot less bloating.

Sherry De Alba

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