While many dishes at your typical Chinese restaurant in the United States are loaded with fat and calories, you can enjoy a take-out meal without blowing the whole day's calories if you know which foods to choose. You'll also need to watch your portion sizes, since the portions served at these restaurants are usually more than one serving.
Skip the fried egg rolls and crab rangoon and opt for a broth-based soup to start off your meal. Egg drop soup, miso soup, hot and sour soup or wonton soup are all relatively low in calories and fat. An egg roll contains about 222 calories and 10.6 grams of fat, while a cup of wonton soup will set you back only 71 calories and 0.6 gram of fat. Starting your meal off with a soup like this will help fill you up with fewer calories so you eat less of your main dish, which is bound to be higher in fat and calories. If you aren't a soup fan, a green salad, steamed dumplings or spring rolls are nutritious, low-fat ways to start off your meal.
Avoid any main dishes that contain breaded meat or seafood, since the breading soaks up fat and makes these dishes fat and calorie bombs. It probably goes without saying that you should avoid deep-fried dishes. Look for dishes that contain lots of vegetables rather than those based mainly on meat, and avoid dishes that contain heavier sauces, such as sweet and sour or hoisin sauce. Stir-fried or steamed vegetables with chicken, tofu or seafood make delicious low-calorie options. If the restaurant offers one, order off of the diet section of the menu, which usually includes steamed dishes with a light wine sauce. An order of sweet and sour chicken contains a whopping 1,765 calories and 89.3 grams of fat. Shrimp and vegetables is a much healthier option, with 469 calories and 24.3 grams of fat per order.
Don't be tempted by the fried rice if you are trying to minimize calories -- it contains about 13 to 20 grams more fat than steamed rice. The calories from steamed rice can also add up though, since each cup contains about 225 calories. Make your side even healthier by opting for brown rice, which is higher in fiber than white rice. Another option that is even lower in calories is ordering a side of steamed or lightly stir-fried vegetables and skipping the rice altogether.
The lowest calorie Chinese dishes are those you make yourself, since you can control the ingredients, using only the minimum amount of oil and increasing the proportion of vegetables to meat. Making special requests during ordering, such as asking for your food to be lightly stir-fried with the minimum amount of oil or for the sauce to be served on the side instead of mixed into the dish can make it easier to get a low-calorie Chinese dish at a restaurant. Eating with chopsticks will help keep you from gulping down food until you are overstuffed, since it will slow down the eating process.
- Good Housekeeping: Healthy Chinese Food?
- Help Guide: Healthy Fast Food
- American Cancer Society: Restaurant Eating Tips
- MedlinePlus: Eating Out
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Restaurant, Chinese, Sweet and Sour Chicken
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Restaurant, Chinese, Shrimp and Vegetables
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Restaurant, Chinese, Egg Rolls, Assorted
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Soup, Wonton, Chinese Restaurant
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.