When hunger pangs are at their peak, what comes first to your mind and on your tongue?
Take a guess.
Chinese Food, of course! Noodles, momos, fried rice and all food Chinese.
But how healthy is it? And how do you measure the calorie quotient in Chinese food?
I will tell you all, but slowly, so that you can easily understand, and imbibe it, not gulp it down and forget. Afterall, it’s not only about the taste, but calories too.
Let us find out what are the healthy Chinese food worth trying.
15 Best Healthiest Chinese food options
You see, when you go to a Chinese, most menus served are deep fried and loaded with “sauces” of all kinds, salty and sugary. The noodles are tossed in oil, and fried rice is also made through a similar process. Your mouth and nasal buds might get carried away, but not your health. It means you have to make a wise choice in deciding Chinese fare, or else it might end up spoiling your figure, given the hidden calorie content.
But the good news is –
There is health-driven Chinese fare which will happily please your waistline.
Here are those 15 best-rated food items in Chinese which you can make at home or order in a Chinese restaurant.
[Also Read: Important Foods for a Great Bowel Movement]
List of low-calorie Chinese Food
Unlike the traditional and greasy Punjabi and Mughlai food, Chinese food can be your “comfort food” provided you stay away from adding ingredients like MSG (Monosodium glutamate) which is a flavor enhancer added to the Chinese meals. With fried foods, you can expect acidity and a host of digestion related problems. Thankfully, the healthier food options listed below won’t leave you lying on the bed with a bag of hot water warming your belly.
1. Soup (Hot & Sour)
‘Wanton soup’ is the “Chinese” version of Hot & Sour.
Research states that if you start a meal with a broth-based you eat less food in total Yippee!
Even “Egg drop soup” satisfies you in the same bandwidth as hot & sour soup.
Calories Count: About 80-100
How healthy it is: The Hot & Sour soup works well as an “appetite squasher”. It means you end up eating less when you start a meal with Wanton soup, you know.
Now let us take a look at how at the nutrition value of Wanton soup.
One cup of Hot & Sour Soup has 91 calories, 6 gms protein, 10 gms carbohydrates and 3 gms fat. This makes it 4 percent of the daily value of fat, and therefore a low-fat appetizer you can consider including in your food chart.
2. Steamed Vegetable Dumplings
The dumpling left to itself is simple in nature, but chances are you are not going to pop a dumpling alone. You need an accompanying “sauce” (those red types). That is where the danger lies. The sauce you have with momos is full of calories, sodium and fat, which will defeat your very purpose of losing flab. Also, when you gobble a “fried dumpling”, you have lost out on the health game.
The rule of the game is that you have to have a steamed vegetable dumpling, not the one which has been soaked and dipped in oil.
Calories Count: 40 calories
How healthy it is: You will be happy to note that one steamed dumpling (whether it is filled with meat, poultry or seafood) gives you only around 40 calories. Plus it also delivers 0.98 g of fat, 3.54 g of carbohydrate, 0.2 g of fiber and 4.27 g of protein which delivers a bunch of protein and carbohydrates from the dumplings and other nutrients from the vegetable filling in it. This being the perfect balance in your diet.
3. The Buddha’s Delight
The good thing about this Chinese recipe is that it has two components: protein-packed tofu and steamed veggies. This makes it a low-calorie dish.
Calories Count: 200 – 300 calories
How healthy it is: Well, this particular Chinese dish provides you more veggie fare in terms of unexpected ingredients that add more flavour and texture, and tons of it.
One serving (say about 521 gm) of Buddha’s Delight gives you 200 calories, 14 gm of total fat and 2 gm of saturated fat, and the most interesting thing is that it has zero cholesterol. This guarantees a fiber packed meal with protein.
4. Spring Rolls
An average spring roll is a wrap loaded with vegetables. However, the only thing to be cautious of is the oil being used in frying spring oils.
Calories Count: 80 to 110 calories
How healthy it is: Vegetable spring rolls not only make for a light appetizer, but also the veggies in it keeps you feeling full.
But coming back to the veggie version of spring rolls, 1 small spring roll gives you just 25 calories, 0 gm fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 11 gm total carbs. On the vitamin side, it has vitamin A and C, and iron as well. The moderate sodium content limits the risk of heart diseases giving a balanced protein diet.
5. Chicken with Broccoli
This is a low fat and low carb Chinese recipe. It is easy to make. But then this particular recipe also boasts of protein and fiber (which is good news for those of you who want to go on the lean side)
Calories Count: One cup has 280 calories (which is reasonable)
How healthy it is: Chicken is a rich source of lean protein, while Broccoli is high in fiber, both helps combats hunger while keeping you feeling full post meal. Broccoli is a nutrient dense food supplying plenty of Vitamin A, C, fiber, and antioxidants.
If one were to take a look at the nutrition facts, 1 cup of this Chinese recipe gives you 18% Total Fat, 12% Dietary Fiber, 130% vitamin C, 20% vitamin A, 8% iron and 4% calcium.
Tip: Try and NOT opt for sauce with it, as sauces will only add on to the calories.
Okay, I know you don’t like much health talk. So here is this Cantonese recipe which will happily come in your good books.
6. Moo Goo Gai Pan
Moo Goo Gai Pan is a super tasty Chinese delight packed with lightly-sautéed vegetables, button mushrooms, spices and cubed or sliced chicken.
Already sounds yummy right?
But if you want to know the benefits part, it is not that high in sugars and fats like many other dishes.
Calories Count: When you eat up a whole and a full cup of the fiber filled dish of Moo Goo Gai Pan, you get 272 to 275 calories.
How healthy it is: The Moo Goo Gai Pan recipe is very much on the health page. As far as the fat component goes, it has the total fat of 19g and no artificial trans fats at all. A balanced meal with a light sauce, which contains relatively fewer calories even after a whole cup of it.
7. Shrimp with Lobster Sauce
Seafood, actually shrimp, in particular, throws a lot of surprises. It has super lean protein which not many know of. So when you go for steamed shrimp recipe, you will be adding loads of lean protein to your meal.
But if you happen to be a vegetarian, then you can make up for the loss of shrimp and lobsters by going for grilled tofu instead.
Calories Count: Lobster sauce has only 50 calories in one-fourth of a cup. Combine it with shrimps, and you get only 450 calories, which is not too shabby!
How healthy it is: This Chinese takeout-style dish scores on the health count but don’t fry the shrimp. Also, use the medium to large sized shrimps.
In terms of nutrition, 1 cup serving of shrimp with lobster sauce gives you 276 calories, 12 gm total fat, 32 gm protein, and sodium and potassium, as well. Not too many calories and shrimp being a super lean protein to your diet.
8. Shrimp with Garlic Sauce
This Chinese dish is very filling because it has a lot of fiber gained from the veggies, and lean protein from the shrimp.
Seafood, I tell you, is a boon in saving calories.
Calories Count: 700 calories
How healthy it is: The best way to eat shrimp and garlic sauce combo is when you split it into half meal for the next day. This way the calorie count gets reduced to 350.
On the nutritional side, you will be glad to note that shrimp taken with garlic sauce gives you just 175 calories and 0gm total fat. The lean protein from the shrimp and fiber from the veggies is where your healthiest routine will be back on track.
9. Steamed Vegetables and Lean Protein
When you eat any dish which has steamed veggies and lean protein (and there are so many dishes that give you lean protein like fish, shrimp, scallops, chicken, lean beef or tofu) then you are on the safer side in terms of calories.
The biggest advantage of having steamed vegetables in your diet is that it cuts down on the oil factor in the dish, which makes it lighter, in terms of digesting it and also lesser calories.
Calories Count: 55 calories on an average
How healthy it is: Steamed veggies, left to themselves, give you anywhere in between 10 to 45 calories.
3 ounces of breast meat (with the skin on) has only 167 calories. So this combo is well balanced in calorie intake.
Plus this Chinese dish has zero fat (which is news to the ears) and 2gm lean protein
10. Fortune Cookie
Hey, don’t forget to munch on the humble Fortune cookie when it comes to an after-meal treat. It is a perfect sweet ending to your Chinese meal.
Calories Count: It has a mere 25-30 calories (that’s all, you see).
How healthy it is: With no fat, no cholesterol, celebrate life without calories by eating Fortune cookie. This perfectly-proportioned, classic after the meal is a healthiest treat.
Always ask for accompanying sauces when you are in a mood to eat Chinese delicacies. The sauce should be on the side because that way you can control your eating pattern well.
Now how about getting to know the other side too – high-calorie Chinese diet
List of high-calorie Chinese food
So, when we want to satisfy our hunger, we ignore the calorie part. Did you know, there are some Chinese starters which even exceed 1000 calories?
It means you need to keep a track of the oils and spices that are going into your favorite Chinese recipe before eating them.
Here are some handpicked Chinese delicacies which will send you to a dietician looking at the calories they contain.
1. Fried Rice (1 Cup)
Why fried rice is high in calories is because the white rice used does not have that much fiber or protein which is filling and fulfilling. And on top it there is the oily sauce which supposedly adds the flavour.
Calories Count: Well, a cup or bowl of fried rice will cost you and your health dear by a whopping 1800 calories!
How healthy it is: Very unhealthy because the entire composition is mostly white starchy carbohydrates with no fiber, and calories more than 1800. The rice is void of nutrition. The better option is to eat boiled or steamed rice, not fried rice.
2. Egg Rolls
Yes, yes the long and sumptuous egg rolls from the very touch give one the impression of the amount of oil that has gone into its making. No amount of shredded cabbage inside can overcome the golden oil like texture that you see outside.
Calories Count: You will be shocked to find out that one egg roll delivers 200 calories, in addition to the cals that come in the sweet and syrupy dipping sauce.
How healthy it is: It is very unhealthy due to its deep fried routine, so baking the egg rolls instead could be a healthier option. Egg Rolls are a calorie catastrophe especially if you consume more than one egg roll.
3. Sweet and Sour Chicken
This Chinese meal gets you more than 50gm of sugar alone per serving. And then there is the battered and fried chicken which steeps the calorie count to tears.
Calories Count: From 800 to 1800 depending on the size of the chicken ball! And the sugariness of the gravy is extra.
How healthy it is: What makes this dish unhealthy is the overly sweetened sauce adding to the unhealthy batter around the chicken.
4. Pan-fried Pork Dumplings
Dumplings are not the problem area in this Chinese dish, it is the filling which plays the devil. Whenever you are choosing a pork dumpling, you are giving in to a temptation that will reflect in your cholesterol and health.
Calories Count: Each pork dumpling has around 100 calories. Now you are not going to stop short at eating only 1 dumpling. Which means the more you eat pork dumplings, say 6 of them, you have taken 600 calories + sauce calories extra…Aw!
How healthy it is: Given the fact that this particular Oriental snack is fried, can you guess the dollops of oil that will go into the making. The oil stuck onto your fingers is enough proof to the unhealthy statement of Pan-fried Pork Dumplings.
Steamed veggie dumplings are any day a better and healthier option to eating pan-fried texture coated Chinese fare.
5. General Tso’s Chicken
Your heart, and possibly mine might crave for deep fried food stuff. But never forget the pitfalls that come with it too. For example – General Tso’s Chicken which is fried to the hilt. As for coatings, there are oily and sugary sauces to add on to the damage.
Calories Count: 1600 calories per order (on an average) and 60gm of sugar.
How healthy it is: Since there are no veggies in this recipe, the calorie load will never get lightened. Besides being loaded with calories, it is breaded, deep-fried and cooked in a heavy sauce similar to sweet and sour chicken. The calorie it contains takes up more than half of your day’s allowance of heart-clogging fat.
I hope by now you have got a whiff of the efforts you need to make to identify low calorie and high-calorie Chinese foods, what works and what doesn’t in terms of taste and health.
Follow the tips and nutritional breakup shared with you and say goodbye to unwanted and unexpected flab. That’s why they say taste might “draw” you, but health might “knock” you on the wrong side.
So eat Chinese food well, but weigh out the gains and losses too.
Images Source: pinterest