Indulge In Chinese Takeout Without The Guilt Thanks To These Healthy Hacks
Before I set the record straight about your next ‘Chinese’ take out order you should know it’s barely Chinese, it’s more like ‘Americanese’. [Usually dishes you see in China are filled with steamed or fried vegetables, a small serving of lean meat and rice to finish filling you up.
Sometimes what we call Chinese food is thought of as the healthier big brother to fast food. I’ve broken up with ‘healthy’. I hate labeling something as ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’ mostly because eating for your health isn’t black and white. I’ll refrain from going on a tangent but eating isn’t just about being healthy it’s also about enjoyment.
Chinese food is often thought of as a healthier version of fast food, but… really?
Chinese foods usually have been infused with the flavor trifecta; sugar, salt, and fat, if it doesn’t have one I bet it has the other two. Many popular dishes are deep fried then covered in a sauce brimming with flavor from added sugar and salt on a bed of rice or noodles. Or the dishes can be crammed with vegetables and lean meats and perfectly spiced with garlic, ginger, and Chinese 5-spice and let’s not forget those badass portions they serve up too.
Let’s call a spade a spade, is Chinese takeout really healthy?
But, I’m not saying don’t eat Chinese food, I’m just saying don’t trick yourself into thinking ordering Chinese takeout is equal to a home cooked meal. However, if you want to sit down and enjoy Chinese food I’ve devised a guideline to help you order with tips based on consuming more vegetables, minding your portions, using less cooking oil, less salt, and less sugar.
Aside from eating Chinese food on occasion I’m not any more an expert on this topic than most other dietitians, so, I reached out to two of my Chinese friends, who both lived in China, and are dietitians to make sure I wasn’t missing anything crucial before publishing this piece. You can follow both Vincci and Evelyn on social media.
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Once you’ve reviewed the menu and you know what you want to order, make notes! I find this helps me to remember all of my special requests, dish by dish.
- Ask for extra orders of vegetables.
- If you’re eating ‘in’ ask for a to-go box so you can pack up what you haven’t finished to take home. If you’re eating at home throw your leftovers in the fridge. No one said you need to eat it all in one sitting.
- Order only half the noodles or the rice. Sometimes combos or main dishes will come with a starch, ask for one or two servings of rice/noodles to be replaced with vegetables or protein.
- Ask for vegetables to be steamed or boiled instead of cooked in oil.
- Ask for your stir-fry to be cooked in less oil.
- Ask for steamed rice instead of fried rice OR eat/order less fried rice.
- There are so many mods for a spring roll that I can’t say choose one way or the other. If you want spring rolls or eggs rolls just get them. Will eating two eggrolls change the trajectory of your health? No. If you like them as un-fried fresh veggie rolls good for you, if you like meaty deep-fried egg rolls, good for you. I think a worthy piece of advice to consider is to try not to binge on them.
- Ask for the main dish sauces on the side. If you are ordering 5+ dishes I can see this getting complex, very quickly. Try asking for one meat and one vegetable dish with sauce on the side instead.
- Tofu is an excellent meat replacement.
- If you’re watching your salt intake you can:
- Ask them to use low sodium soy sauce when cooking your food.
- If you add soy sauce to your food try using low sodium soy sauce.
- Don’t drink all of the broth in your soup.
Have you ever tried ginger beef? Legend has it that this tasty combination on a nest of julienned carrots was originally made in Calgary, Canada in the 1970’s!
PS: MSG is not just an additive commonly thought of to "make you eat more." It can intensify food flavors by providing an umami taste.