Here are some phrases to look for:
- Zheng: steamed
- Jum: poached
- Kao: roasted
- Shao: barbecued
Appetizers and Soups
Soups, including hot and sour, egg drop and wonton, are typically among the lower calorie choices on this part of the menu. If you’re keeping an eye on sodium, though, soups aren’t the way to go (most can run around 800 milligrams per serving). As for other first courses, steamed spring rolls or steamed pork or vegetable dumplings are (not surprisingly) better picks than their fried counterparts. But the dough in dumplings can bring up the calories, so stick to one or two per meal.
There are plenty of healthier protein options including fish and seafood, lean beef, chicken breast and tofu. But what makes something a better-for-you choice is how the dish is cooked. Steamed, broiled, roasted, poached, grilled and sauteed tend to be healthier cooking methods. And it’s not a bad idea to order your dish with the sauce on the side (2 to 3 tablespoons is plenty).
These less-than-healthy options should be a once-in-a-while indulgence. Better yet, split them with a friend.
Appetizers and Soups
Fried appetizers like dumplings and egg rolls are usually brimming with calories. And if those crispy wonton strips are your weakness, tell the restaurant not to include them in your takeout order. An appetizer containing four barbecue spare ribs racks up 600 calories and – that’s before you dig into your main dish!
Everyone’s favorite noodle dishes, including lo mein and chow mein, are not only high in calories, they’re also brimming with sodium.
Restaurant portions of General Tso’s chicken come in at around 1,300 calories and 3,200 milligrams of sodium (about 1½ times the daily recommendation for the latter). Coming in with a similar nutrition profile are deep-fried saucy items such as sesame chicken, lemon chicken and sweet and sour chicken (or pork).
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.