Although Chinese food is thought of as healthy, there are dishes that should be eaten in moderation or eliminated altogether. It doesn’t matter if the following dishes are served in a fine restaurant or a fast food diner.
Of course, cooking at home allows one to adjust the dishes and prepare healthy foods.
The following is a list of five of the unhealthiest Chinese foods, and suggestions are given for healthier choices. If the restaurant will not accommodate your wishes, find another place to dine or buy cookbooks, take an Asian cooking course, and cook at home.
Dozens of Chinese dishes are served swimming in sauces. Hoisin sauce, soy sauce, duck sauce, and others are notoriously high in sodium. For anyone wanting to lower their sodium intake, ask for sauces served on the side or not at all. Dip the foods into the sauce only enough to obtain the taste of the sauce. Do not dunk it completely. Ask the waiter if there is a low-sodium version of the sauce.
Dumplings and Other Deep Fried Menu Items
Just as with Southern Cooking, batters tend to be high in sodium and the fat is shortening or animal fat. The fat has a higher cooking temperature than cooking oil. It doesn’t matter if meat or vegetables are battered and deep-fried- the result is high-fat food that consumers assume is healthy.
Ask what oil or fats are used in the fried foods. Be concerned with answers that try to steer you away from your question or the answer, “I don’t know.” Ask for dumplings and other items steamed instead of fried.
It seems that when fried rice is served with a dish, it covers two-thirds of the plate. The rice is plain white rice, stripped of the nutrients at the processing plant. Fried rice is full of fat, salt and not much else. A few vegetables and perhaps a shred or two of meat is added for flavoring.
This dish is full of empty calories, fat and salt. Eat only a half-cup serving and save the rest, or try to order a-la carte and leave it off.
Many dishes are available in pre-packaged serving containers. The container says to just add boiling water, add the sauce or “vegetables and meat” packet, and after a few minutes, you have a meal.
The problem is this isn’t food. The noodles are freeze-dried; the scant amount of any dehydrated vegetables or meat is nowhere near providing a serving of any real food item.
There is no nutritional value to these packages- there is a reason they are so cheap. Add real meat and vegetables to this to make any nutritional value a reality.
Lo mein consists of boiled noodles served with a brown sauce, a few vegetables and perhaps small pieces of meat. This is a plate-filler, just as the fried rice is. The brown sauce is full of fat and sodium. Often, the amount of vegetables or meat does not make a single serving.
This too, should be eaten sparingly or not at all. Ask for it on the side and try to find a restaurant that serves more food than fillers.
Although Msg- mono sodium glutamate- isn’t a food item, it is an additive found throughout Chinese restaurant food items. Many people have physical reactions to this additive. It is used as a preservative and a “flavor-enhancer.” Some menus state the customer must ask that it be excluded from their dishes or it will be served. Ask up front.
Source: Associated Press, “Chinese restaurant food unhealthy, study says” MSNBC Website, 21 March 2007
Source: Tina Peng, “Unhealthy Chinese-Food Choices,” Newsweek Website, 24 April 2008