The Healthiest Chinese Takeout Menu Options, According To Nutritionists

We’ve all obtained our favourite American variations of Chinese delicacies, despite the fact that they’re typically far faraway from the genuine dishes discovered abroad. Menu gadgets within the U.S., like Normal Tso’s hen, chop suey and fortune cookies, are nonetheless beloved by many as a result of — no shock — they style so darn good.

“Chinese American food is comforting, consistent, affordable and filling,” mentioned Rebecca Valdez, who’s a registered dietitian nutritionist, or RDN.

Nonetheless, anybody seeking to eat healthfully can be higher off following conventional Chinese methods of consuming, not American ones.

“It’s a common misconception that Chinese food is heavy and greasy and that the portions are oversized,” mentioned Valdez, who’s Taiwanese American. “This may be true for Chinese American takeout, but Chinese people don’t eat this way. We eat small amounts of rice from palm-sized bowls, lots of vegetables and a little bit of meat. Most of our food is not deep-fried or even cooked in a lot of oil.”

Sherene Chou, a Chinese American dietician, mentioned institutions serving these cuisines have a optimistic impression within the U.S.

“While they’re often demonized for serving so-called unhealthy foods, I see Chinese restaurants as a celebration and an introduction to sharing Chinese flavors and dishes with white American culture,” she mentioned. “Our foods can be a bridge to diving deeper into authentic Chinese regional cuisines.”

And despite the fact that the American model isn’t all the time genuine, it might probably nonetheless be loved as a blast out of your previous. RDN Sherry Lin grew up as a self-described “restaurant kid” in a city half-hour exterior Chicago.

“We served all the American Chinese food classics, including chop suey, egg foo young and crab Rangoon, which were things I never saw or ate growing up in Taiwan in my early childhood,” she mentioned. “Now as an adult, I sometimes crave an egg foo young patty for nostalgia.”

How To Order A Higher-For-You Chinese Meal

Breana Lai Killeen, a Chinese American registered dietician, mentioned diners ought to concentrate on how Chinese delicacies is supposed to be ordered and loved.

“Food is typically shared,” she mentioned. “That’s why I always suggest getting a balance of dishes for the table. This way you can — and should — enjoy the dishes that might be fried or heavier alongside lighter dishes of vegetables and items that are steamed.”

Vicki Shanta Retelny, an RDN and the host of the podcast ”Nourishing Notes,” agreed that more healthy decisions are all the time attainable at a Chinese restaurant.

“Many of the dishes are made with vegetables and lean proteins, and you can order them with whole-grain brown rice,” she mentioned. “Since the sauces often are high in salt and sugar, order them on the side and drizzle them on yourself. Choose low-sodium soy sauce, too.”

RDN Amanda Frankeny had some suggestions as properly. “Regardless of what you choose on the menu, it’s always smart to stick with a side of vegetables,” she mentioned. “Or try vegetable bao, a steamed bun with a stack of veg sandwiched in between the pillowy bread.”

However you might want to hearken to your self too, the consultants added.

“Your best choice is whatever you’re craving, what’s filling and what hits the spot,” Valdez mentioned.

“If you order your favorite dish, sink your teeth into every bit and don’t look back,” Frankeny mentioned.

How Wholesome Are The Most Well-liked Dishes?

We requested nutritionists to weigh in with their high picks among the many hottest dishes discovered within the U.S., together with ordering ideas.

Beef with broccoli: “I love the broccoli in this dish,” Retelny mentioned. “I always recommend eating more cruciferous veggies.”

“Beef is a tasty, nutrient-dense meat that’s higher in fat than the lean alternatives like chicken, shrimp or tofu,” Frankeny mentioned. ”Nevertheless it undoubtedly suits right into a healthful food regimen, so mixing it with broccoli and a handful of brown or white rice makes the dish that balanced plate that each dietitian goals of.”

Dumplings: RDN Amy Gorin urged vegetable dumplings as an ideal possibility for vegan and vegetarian eaters.

“Overall, dumpling ingredients are relatively healthy,” Frankeny mentioned. “Each bite is often a mix of protein, fiber, fat, possibly some vegetables and grains. You can also dip them in chili sauce instead of soy, and you’ll cut back on sodium.”

LauriPatterson by way of Getty Photos

Scorching-and-sour soup: “I grew up on hot-and-sour soup, and it’s still one of the things I reach for when I want a comforting meal or when I’m feeling under the weather,” Gorin mentioned.

“Broth-based soups like this one go down easy, provide some nutrients, hydration and a feeling of fullness,” Frankeny mentioned.

Scallion pancakes: “They’re a source of carbohydrates, which are energy-giving,” Frankeny mentioned. “Balance them with a meal packed with vegetables and protein.”

“These were one of my favorite dishes growing up,” Gorin mentioned. “They’re typically paired with a soy dipping sauce, so I like to keep reduced-sodium soy sauce at home and use that when I order takeout.”

Wonton soup: “This broth-based soup is low in fat and calories, but can be high in sodium,” Retelny warned. “Order a small bowl before the meal and share the wontons with your table.”

Nutritionists Share Their Private Favorites

What do skilled wholesome eaters order for themselves at Chinese eating places? Their solutions could shock you.

“It depends on my mood,” Gorin mentioned. “Often, I’ll order steamed tofu and broccoli, with the sauce on the side. But I also love anything with rice noodles, and I almost always order a side of steamed or sauteed greens or veggies. I’m also a sucker for really good hot-and-sour soup.”

“I order items that I can’t easily make at home,” Valdez mentioned. “So my top picks are egg rolls, because I love the crispy skin and cabbage or pork filling; ho fun, a stir-fried rice noodle dish that’s very comforting; and cashew chicken, because I like the sweet-savory combo.”

“I love ordering vegetarian mapo tofu, because it reminds me of my family,” Chou mentioned. “It’s a traditional Sichuan dish, and that’s where my grandparents are from. The numbing Sichuan peppercorns and chili oil are what make the dish unique. I can eat it with rice every day.”

Mapo tofu is a spicy dish flavored with Sichuan peppercorns that make your mouth tingle.
Mapo tofu is a spicy dish flavored with Sichuan peppercorns that make your mouth tingle.

“I love to order steamed chicken and vegetables with brown rice and sauce on the side, or moo shu chicken with plum sauce on the side,” Retelny mentioned.

Killeen’s order “depends on how many people are at the table,” she mentioned. However she added that her household usually will get pan-fried pork dumplings, spareribs, stir-fried Chinese greens like choy sum, mapo tofu, black bean clams, salt-and-pepper shrimp, beef chow enjoyable and Singapore noodles.

What About MSG?

Whereas many nonetheless villainize MSG, which is often utilized in Chinese meals, current years have seen vital pushback in opposition to this impulse. Some individuals report short-term reactions like flushing, sweating and complications after consuming the flavour enhancer, however researchers query the supposed hyperlink to MSG.

Valdez pointed to at least one main motive behind some individuals’s worry: “It’s racist,” she mentioned, directing curious readers to a 2021 journal article titled “MSG Is A-OK: Exploring the Xenophobic History of and Best Practices for Consuming Monosodium Glutamate.”

“The science is pretty clear,” Killeen mentioned. “Research fails to support the link between MSG and the side effects reported as ‘Chinese restaurant syndrome.’”

“The reason why the MSG controversy persists is solely because of xenophobia,” Lin mentioned, “and a society that would rather blame and pinpoint a marginalized group for its problems or ailments, rather than look at updated facts.”

Chou agreed. “Nutrition information is shared through a Western lens, which often demonizes cultural foods,” she mentioned.

“MSG is not demonized as an ingredient when used in common ‘American’ foods, but when you pair it with Chinese food, it becomes a dirty additive. It’s easy to demonize a people and culture when these narratives are associated. When we focus on just the ingredient and take out the racism, it’s a flavor enhancer that provides umami that many brands and companies use to build flavor.”