Healthier Dining Out: Chinese

by in Dining Out, March 23, 2009

Admit it, you’ve got the local Chinese restaurant on speed dial. Chinese tops many people’s favorite cuisine lists and it’s a common go-to when you don’t want to cook. Here are some tips on what to order next time you’re in the mood.

Order Less: Oily and Deep-Fried Foods
In the U.S., many Chinese menu favorites are battered, deep fried and coated in sweet and oily sauces. General Tso’s chicken is a perfect example — it clocks in at 1,300 calories, 11 grams of artery-clogging saturated fat and 3,200 milligrams of sodium (that’s a day and half’s worth)! Egg rolls, fried dumplings and crispy wonton strips are other fried foods to avoid.

Similar to some Japanese dishes, some Chinese menu items are drenched in oily sauces –- ask for your sauces on the side and dip lightly in a few tablespoons to keep calories under control.

Since soy sauce is a staple ingredient, sodium may be high in some dishes. If you have high blood pressure, keep this in mind or ask your server if they have a lower-sodium version.

As with many restaurants, portions can be out of control; when ordering Chinese, just plan on having half for lunch or dinner the next day or share with the group –- that’s a great way to save some cash, too!

Order More: Fresh, Steamed or Stir-Fried Dishes
Fresh vegetables, seafood, tofu and lean meats such as chicken and pork are main ingredients in many Chinese food options. Whole grain noodles and brown rice are also typically available. Cooking methods such as steaming and stir-fry help keep food light and fresh. Choose steamed dumplings or stir-fried veggie and meat dishes (it also never hurts to ask them to use less oil).

Start your meal with wonton soup or hot and sour soup rather than a greasy appetizer. Split an entrée with a friend (that also helps cut overindulgence). It’s never a bad idea to order an extra side of steamed mixed veggies, too — just to up the nutrients.

Wondering about the nutritional info on your Chinese food favorite? Look it up here.

TELL US: What’s your low-cal Chinese dish of choice?

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