Best and Worst Chinese Dishes for Your Health
Chinese food, including orange chicken, egg rolls, and General Tso’s can often contain high levels of fat, calories and sodium. But don’t despair: with mindful consumption you can still enjoy these dishes while finding healthier options to add variety to your meals.
Make an effort to choose steamed dishes such as chicken and mushroom soup or chow mein (with less sodium than traditional lo mein). Also try choosing low-cal options like Chinese broccoli, moo goo gai pan or steamed dumplings which offer nutritional value without adding to calories.
1. General Tso’s Chicken
Chinese takeout favorite Kung Pao Chicken or Mapo Tofu could provide healthier alternatives. Both dishes feature breaded, fried and coated in sugary sauce for an indulgent, unhealthy treat laden with sodium linked to high blood pressure, heart disease and more. If you want something healthier as an option try Kung Pao or Mapo instead!
Both dietitians suggest swapping out for a meal composed of steamed veggies like spinach or broccoli and lean proteins such as chicken breast or shrimp to complete your meal. Mushroom soup is another tasty, easy-to-make dish packed with nutrients such as immune-enhancing vitamin D and polysaccharides that regulate blood sugar levels – perfect for quick lunchtime snacks!
“Chinese meals can be high in calories, so it’s wise to limit portion sizes and opt for lower-cal dishes,” warn the Nutrition Twins Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CFT, CLT. Make your own General Tso’s at home using this recipe that uses cubed chicken lightly seasoned before being battered with flour, cornstarch and eggs before deep-frying for golden-brown results.
2. Sweet and Sour Chicken
Sweet and Sour Chicken is an iconic takeout dish consisting of deep-fried pork or chicken coated in a cornstarch batter and served alongside pineapple and bell peppers. The combination of flavors creates an irresistibly complex experience: sugar from ketchup, rice vinegar and soy sauce provide tart sourness while ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes add bite.
If you’re seeking a healthier meal option, swap out fried pork or chicken for steamed vegetables and hot soup – Boyd suggests comforting egg drop soup, Sichuan-style spicy noodle soup or chopped suey (an amalgamation of vegetables and protein).
Make this healthy version at home: First, cook the chicken until golden brown in a pan preheated over medium heat. Whisk eggs in a shallow bowl, dipping each piece of chicken in to coat it in egg mixture before transferring onto large baking sheet and baking at 400 degrees until cooked through. Mix sauce ingredients before pouring over cooked chicken, bell peppers and pineapple.
3. Egg Rolls
Egg rolls may be a popular Chinese-American takeout option, but they may not be the healthiest choice. Their fried wrappers and fillings contain high amounts of fat and salt content while being often served with sweet dipping sauces that add even more sugar into your meals, according to Keri Glassman, MS, RDN of Nutritious Life.
Making healthier egg rolls at home is simple by opting for low-sodium dipping sauce and swapping out pork for chicken as the filling source. When craving an egg roll, opt for one steamed rather than fried and include cabbage or leafy greens as fillers for maximum healthiness.
If you decide to fry your own, ensure you use high-grade canola cooking oil and an instant-read thermometer so your temperature remains accurate. Also remember to recycle any used oil properly so you keep both your home and the environment cleaner! Not to mention how delicious and low in calories this recipe can be!
4. Wonton Soup
One cup of Chinese wonton soup (Hun Tun or Yun Tun) provides ample amounts of protein, fiber and just under one gram of fat compared to many other Chinese dishes such as egg drop and hot and sour soup. Plus, studies show that starting your meal off right by starting off with broth-based soup can actually help decrease how much food is eaten later in the day!
Wonton wrappers are square-shaped sheets of wheat flour designed to seal parcels filled with fillings into sealed parcels, unlike the thinner rounded-edge wrappers used for Jiaozi/Jiao Zi or Shumai/Shao Mai dumplings.
Make this delicious homemade Chinese food recipe at home using frozen wontons, classic ingredients like bok choy and mushrooms and vegetable fillings instead of pork to create vegetarian wonton wrappers. Or for added ease, purchase pre-made wonton wrappers from your supermarket and simply boil them instead! For best results, bring broth ingredients to a boil first before gently dropping in wontons to create this quick recipe!