Choosing Healthy Food at Asian Restaurants


Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

There are plenty of options for healthy Asian food when meals are served authentically. Traditional Chinese and Japanese food can be diet-friendly and quite nutritious. But not all Asian restaurant food is good for you. Make sure you make smart, healthy choices when you visit your favorite spot.

Healthy Asian Food at Chinese Restaurants

Do you know what to eat to keep your diet on track in a Chinese restaurant? There are plenty of good choices. But there are some less healthy options as well.

Healthy Chinese Food Choices

Broth-based soup is a great low-calorie appetizer and will help you keep your appetite in control. Egg drop, wonton or hot and sour soups are ideal alternatives to fried egg rolls or spare ribs.

When choosing your main meal, look for entrees that are steamed, roasted or broiled. Stir-fried and steamed dishes are ideal as well. Stir-fried dishes are cooked in only a small amount of oil and are usually full of healthy vegetables. Steamed dishes are prepared with water so they are naturally lower in fat and calories.

Less Healthy Chinese Food Choices

The least healthy Chinese dishes are usually made with large portions of noodles, white rice, or fried rice. Noodles and rice are sources of refined carbohydrates. They can be enjoyed in moderation, but are not the best choices for dieters because they are easy to overeat. So watch your portions or share them with someone else. You can also ask for healthier brown rice instead of white rice, fried rice or noodles

And lastly, avoid dishes prepared with heavy sauces, batter, or flour. You should also skip entrees that are deep-fried. Skip the dishes that are described with words like "crispy" or "battered" as these will be higher in fat and calories.

Healthy Asian Food at Japanese Restaurants

Traditional Japanese food includes seafood, vegetables, and noodle-based dishes. These are often nutritious and healthy choices. And to make your meal more healthy, it is acceptable in a Japanese restaurant to ask for your food to be cooked in wine or broth instead of oil.

Healthy Japanese Food Choices

Miso soup is an excellent choice as an appetizer. Miso is made from soybeans, making it a good protein source. It is naturally low in fat and highly flavorful. Su-udon (noodle soup) is also a good choice.

Other healthy Asian food choices include edamame, cucumber salad, and mixed veggies. You can also order a tossed salad with miso dressing at many Japanese restaurants.

When you order an entree, look for dishes that include as many vegetables as possible. Menus at Japanese restaurants usually include many choices with veggies. Seafood sunomono and mizutaki (chicken) both come with plenty of veggies.

Again, look for an entree that is described as steamed, grilled or roasted. It is also possible to request brown rice at Japanese restaurants. If you like sushi, you're in luck because maki sushi, salmon, and tuna sashimi are all excellent choices. To cut back on carbohydrates, choose sashimi. This is raw fish without the rice. 

An interesting and smart choice at a Japanese restaurant is to share shabu-shabu. This is a dish that multiple diners share by dipping meats and vegetables into a simmering broth. It's similar to eating fondue, but a lot less fattening since the broth takes the place of cheese. 

If you like the extra flavor on your Japanese food use diet-friendly sauces such as ponzu, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, wasabi, ginger, and mirin.

Less Healthy Japanese Food Choices

One vegetable dish to avoid is fried veggie dumplings. These are sometimes called potstickers. You should also skip tempura if you want to keep your diet on track. Tempura is a battered, deep-fried dish consisting of vegetables or seafood and a variety of dipping sauces. But the veggies are no longer a healthy choice when they are deep-fried.

More Healthy Asian Food

Japanese and Chinese restaurants are popular, but there are other healthy Asian food options. Try healthy Korean food, healthy Thai food, or healthy Vietnamese food. As always, check the menu online if possible to make diet-friendly choices before you go.

If you're interested in the true Asian dining experience, why not try chopsticks? Each time you take a bite, you eat less because you can't grasp as much food with chopsticks as you typically do with a fork or a spoon. You will automatically eat slowly which will help you eat less and enjoy your food more. You will also be more likely to realize when you are full and stop eating due to a slower pace.

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