Part of the problem with Chinese food that is available in fast food and buffet restaurants is that it isn’t truly Chinese food at all. While the ideas for these foods come from China, most are prepared in a highly Americanized manner. That means they are deep fried, light on vegetables, and heavy on starch and meat. The portion sizes are also larger than necessary.
The Important Health Benefits of Traditional Chinese Dishes
Traditional Chinese food differs from the Western version in three important ways. First, vegetables are the main attraction. In contrast, vegetables are more on the side with Western Chinese food. People consume more calories than they need because these dishes are loaded with meat and complex carbohydrates. Diners who are aiming for a healthier lifestyle should choose a Chinese dish with more vegetables than anything else. Vegetables are low in fat, high in fiber, and provide several essential vitamins in every serving.
A focus on healthy preparation is the second way that traditional Chinese food differs from that commonly made in the United States. Instead of being deep fried, real Chinese food is either baked, boiled, roasted, or steamed. It is best to avoid fried foods, wontons, and egg rolls as these dishes all have a high cholesterol content in addition to being high in fat.
The last way true Chinese dishes are different from fast food meals and buffets is that they are served in much smaller portions. Choosing soup as an accompaniment helps to keep the calories down as well. In fact, it may reduce the intake of food by as much as 20 percent. Using chopsticks instead of silverware also helps to reduce food intake. That is because it forces diners to take smaller bites and slows down the pace of the meal. This allows the body to receive the message that it is full much faster.
The Best Chinese Food Choices
Although many people enjoy the unique flavor of Chinese food, they lack the information to make the healthiest meal choices. Options that sound healthy, such as vegetable lo mein, actually have more calories than anyone needs from a single meal. It is important to figure in such things as sauce and noodles, which can add considerably to the calorie total. The following represent the best choices when it comes to traditional Chinese food:
- Beef with Broccoli: Meat is generally high in calories, so diners should be sure to split this dish. The good news is that broccoli is low calorie and one of the healthiest vegetables in existence.
- Buddha’s Delight: This contains several vegetables along with steamed tofu. Besides being delicious, it offers high protein and fiber counts necessary for good health. Better yet, a single serving is only around 200 calories.
- Chicken with Snow Peas: When stir-fried in peanut oil, this dish is right around 400 calories.
- Shrimp with Lobster Sauce: Shellfish is lean and high in protein if it is covered in a wine-based or broth type of sauce.
- Wonton Soup: Generally served as an appetizer, wonton soup has just 100 calories per serving. The dumplings are filling enough that most people eat less of the main meal.