When you have a hankering for some quality American-Chinese food takeout, it’s a hard craving to shake. The only solution is to break out that giant pile of Chinese food menus tucked away in your kitchen drawers, or scan the web until you find the perfect place to appease your appetite. However, if you’re trying to maintain a healthy diet, the prospect of placing a Chinese food order may lose its luster, as egg rolls, crab rangoons, sweet and sour chicken, and other deep-fried fare seem to dominate many menus.
“Chinese meals are notorious for being high in fat, calories, and sodium,” The Nutrition Twins, Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT, CLT, and Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT, CLT, tell Eat This, Not That!
As delicious as these caloric foods may be, you don’t have to succumb to this temptation to enjoy Chinese takeout, nor do you need to opt for a different kind of cuisine altogether. You just have to be able to identify those dishes that are a bit more nutritious than the rest, and also have a few healthy tricks up your sleeve that can help you manage the generous portion sizes of any dish you choose.
4 Healthiest Chinese Food Dishes
Below are a few examples of delicious, healthy Chinese food orders you can place along with advice on how to work any Chinese food order to your nutritional advantage, courtesy of The Nutrition Twins. Then, you can put these healthy eating best practices to the test after also reading The Best Chinese Takeout in Every State.
If you frequently find yourself debating whether or not it’s a good idea to start your meal with a soup course, do not let calorie concerns stop you from enjoying a warm, delicious bowl of either egg drop or wonton soup. According to Tthe Nutrition Twins are great low-calorie Chinese food menu options.
3 Tips to Make Any Chinese Food Order Healthier
“Broth-based soups like this are typically 60 to 100 calories per cup and take an edge off hunger, potentially helping you to eat less at the rest of the meal. They are typically high in sodium, so be aware of that.”
A stir-fry, moo goo gai pan is an Americanized take on a traditional Cantonese staple “móh-gū gāi-pin,” which literally translates to “mushrooms and chicken slices.” In addition to thinly-sliced chicken and button mushrooms, it often contains soy sauce, oyster sauce, cooking wine, and a medley of vegetables like bok choy, snow peas, water chestnuts, carrots, and bamboo shoots. This dish is also thickened with cornstarch and served with rice at most American-Chinese restaurants.
According to The Nutrition Twins, what makes this dish a healthy pick is that “it’s packed with antioxidant-rich vegetables and lean protein (chicken).”
“It’s lower in sugar and fat than many other dishes,” the Twins also add.
Though moo goo gai pan is generally considered a healthy Chinese food order, the Nutrition Twins suggest that you still be mindful of some of its less healthy recipe components, particularly the oil and cornstarch involved in the stir-frying process.
“Whenever possible request ‘light on the oil,’ the sauce on the side, or light on the sauce,” they advise.