Gun Hay Fat Choy, everyone! This is the English translation for Happy Chinese New Year in Cantonese. Chinese food has always been my favorite type of ethnic food. As a child, when my mom asked where we wanted to go out to eat I always voted for the local Chinese restaurant. It’s flavorful and satisfying, and there’s such a variety of items from which to choose! It’s just all so good!
Well, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve had to be more careful about the choices I make at Chinese restaurants and in general. I want to share my healthy Chinese restaurant choices with you so that you can make good choices too.
1. Healthy appetizers- I always order the Egg Drop Soup instead of an egg roll or crab Rangoon. A cup of egg drop soup has about 50 calories but it contains protein from the egg contained in it. Refer to my past blog post, “An EGGceptional Protein” for more information about the health benefits of Egg Drop Soup, and other egg dishes. An egg roll doesn’t contain egg, but it does have 240 calories and 45 grams of carbs. Definitely not the way to start your meal. Also, one crab Rangoon has 67 calories and 4.2 carbs which doesn’t sound that bad but have you ever eaten just one of them? A usual order has 3-6 in it and eating at least 2 or 3 is pretty customary, which would be almost 200 calories and 12 grams of carbs. That’s just the START of your meal, too
2. Avoid thick sauces and breaded fried meat- When looking at the menu at a Chinese restaurant, it’s important to read the descriptions of the dishes before making your choice. Look for words like, “fried” “Coating” or “thick, glossy sauce”– these are words that mean your entrée is going to be breaded and fried, definite health no-no’s. Also, when dishes come in thick sweet/spicy sauces know they will contain SUGAR, which is another healthy no-no. My favorite dish to order is Moo Goo Gai Pan. It consists of chicken and vegetables in a light chicken broth. Even though the sauce is light it is very tasty and delicious. I add a bit of soy sauce to mine because I like that salty flavor, but you definitely don’t have to because it’s great either way. Another dish I like is either beef with mixed vegetables or pork with mixed vegetables. Both are similarly made with a beef broth, meat and vegetables. Again, no thick sauces, breading, or fried meats are present in these entrees. Again, both are flavorful without all the unhealthy ingredients that can exist in some dishes. And the calorie differences are considerable too. General Tso’s chicken has 414 calories per cup and Moo Goo Gai Pan has 272. It also doesn’t contain unhealthy ingredients so you know you’re providing your body with the fuel it needs to perform optimally.
3. Brown Rice- Choosing brown rice instead of white will not save calories, this decision is all about nutrition. Brown rice is a whole grain and has more fiber so it will take longer to digest thus making you feel more full, and it is more nutritious because of the whole grains. Where it will save you calorically is in comparison to fried rice. 1/2 cup of chicken fried rice has 200 calories versus a cup of brown rice which contains 218 calories. I prefer the nutty taste of brown rice over the bland white rice or the greasy fried rice. That’s an easy choice for me!
4. Don’t forget the tea- I spoke about the benefits of Match green tea in my post, “A Healthy Start for the New Year! Drink Matcha Green Tea!” but any tea has health benefits. Tea is full of antioxidants and vitamins, and it can fill you up too, so you don’t eat as much of your meal. Cheers!
5. As always, it’s about portion control- Remember, no matter how healthy the choices you make are, if you eat too much it will become an unhealthy meal. PAY ATTENTION TO PORTION SIZES! Most restaurants serve a tremendous amount of food, far more than any one person can eat. I usually portion off my meal when it comes to me, and know that I will only eat the portion I pulled to the side of my plate. I take the rest of it home and can enjoy it the next day for lunch, so it’s a win-win. Two meals for the price of one!
So that is how I eat in a healthy way at a Chinese restaurant. I love me some Chinese food and I have learned how to eat it and still stay on my lifelong health journey. Let me know what healthy choices you make when eating Chinese food! Eating healthy will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!