For many of us, Chinese takeout has a regular spot in our dinner rotation. Yes, it’s delicious and convenient, but it doesn’t have the best reputation in the nutritional world. This is because the skyrocketing sodium count, hidden calories, processed additives, and mystery ingredients can really pack on the pounds.
Basically, it’s the opposite of healthy.
The Problem With Excess Sodium
Dietary guidelines advise that adults should consume about 2,300 milligrams of salt each day. While that number may seem high, it’s really not. On the other hand, Chinese takeout meals have more salt than that in just one serving. And those takeout portions are way more than a single serving.
As Eat This points out, excess sodium can cause some serious trouble. It’s not good for your heart or blood pressure. It can also cause problems for your skin, as well as your body weight.
But not all Chinese food is created equal. There are healthy dishes on that takeout menu—you just have to know what to look for.
Steamed Veggies, Shrimp, And Brown Rice Are Your Friend
According to nutritionist Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, you can incorporate Chinese takeout into a healthy diet with one specific order—a double portion of steamed vegetables with steamed shrimp and a side of brown rice.
While you’re waiting for the delivery driver, Sass says to make your own sauce at home. This is so you can avoid the sugar that comes in the starch-laden version you’ll get with your takeout.
“In a small bowl, stir together two tablespoons of unsweetened almond butter, a tablespoon of brown rice vinegar, and a teaspoon of honey,” Sass wrote at Health.com. “Add a half teaspoon each of freshly grated ginger and minced garlic and one-eighth teaspoon of crushed red pepper.”
When your dinner arrives, toss the veggies and shrimp in the mixture and coat well. Then, serve over a half cup of brown rice.
Other Healthy Chinese Takeout Options
There are other healthy options on your Chinese takeout menu. But as Sass says, you will always need to make your own sauce to avoid the sugar, salt, oil, and extra calories. Another option is to ask for light sauce or sauce on the side so you have control over how much is added to your food.
You should also be aware of the cooking method of your chosen dish. Which means avoiding battered and deep-fried choices because of the added fat, starch, and calories.
Ideally, you should choose entrées that are baked, steamed, boiled, or sautéed in a small amount of oil. A good choice is Egg Foo Young (a Chinese omelet made with eggs and chopped veggies). It’s rich in protein and low in calories because it features onions, carrots, and peas. Egg Foo Young also has a strong fiber and nutrient content.
Chicken and Broccoli is another great choice because it’s low in carbs and high in protein. Or, if your favorite Chinese restaurant offers Baked Salmon, pair it with a side of steamed veggies for the ultimate meal.
And don’t ignore the serving size of what you do decide to order. Chinese takeout often comes in large portions that can include up to four servings!
While many Chinese takeout options can be unhealthy, you can find high-protein and low-calorie options if you make a few tiny adjustments.