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Shrimp and broccoli is a low-calorie alternative to beef and broccoli.
Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images
Not all Chinese food is created equal. Some dishes are dense with fresh vegetables and low in meat, but others are heavy on the oil and get their flavor from a coating of deep-fried batter. Sometimes, it can be tough to tell which is healthier, or lower in calories. According to registered dietitian Christy Maskeroni, writing for the BuiltLean website, a moderately sized meal consisting of a few egg rolls, a cup of wonton soup, fried rice and beef with broccoli can top 1,000 calories. Knowing your best low-calorie choices on the takeout menu can help you enjoy Chinese dishes without derailing your diet.
Opt for Veggie Dumplings
When it's time to order an appetizer, skip the egg rolls and fried wontons, advises Maskeroni. A single egg roll can top 170 calories. Instead, opt for steamed vegetable dumplings, which contain about 45 calories each. If possible, split the order with a friend to keep you from consuming too many calories before you've even begun your main entree. Beware of eating the dumplings with too much dipping sauce -- most sauces are high in both sodium and sugar.
Go Hot and Sour
While it's a good idea to eat soup before your main meal -- a study published in the journal "Appetite" in 2007 found that having soup as a first course can lower your overall caloric consumption per meal by as much as 20 percent -- it's best to pick a low-calorie choice. Wonton soup is one option, at 180 calories per 1-cup serving, but hot and sour soup is even better, with just 80 calories in a 1-cup serving.
Steam It Up
"Shape" magazine recommends choosing Buddha's Delight, a meat-free combination of steamed vegetables and tofu, as your main entree. Prepared without oil and high-sugar sauces, Buddha's Delight in a typical Chinese restaurant can have as few as 200 calories per dish. You can also opt for steamed chicken or fish served with no more than 1 cup of brown rice and the sauce served on the side. Instead of pouring the sauce on your meal, drizzle only a small amount or dip each forkful lightly in the mixture to limit the amount you consume.
Stick to Stir-Fry
Chicken or seafood stir-fried with vegetables such as snow peas or broccoli, or combined with mushrooms as in moo goo gai pan, typically contains between 250 and 600 calories, far less than the 800 calories in a dish like chicken with black bean sauce. Ask that your meal be prepared with as little oil as possible, and be sure to go easy on the noodles or rice, both of which can add hundreds of calories to your meal. If you want to have either with your stir-fry, try ordering an extra side of steamed vegetables and mix the two dishes together to keep the number of calories per serving low.