Chinese Food Nutrition Facts: Menu Choices and Calories

Steamed spring rolls
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Can you figure out the best healthy Chinese food options when you're at your favorite restaurant? Or perhaps you like to cook Chinese food at home. Do you know which Chinese food is healthiest to prepare? And what about Chinese food calories?

If you're on a diet to improve your health or lose weight, use this guide to choose low-calorie Chinese food at home or out on the town.

Analyzing the Chinese Menu

If you're at your local Chinese restaurant (or your nearest Panda Express), take some time to evaluate the menu before you order. There are often pages and pages of choices and the names of the foods are not always familiar. If you don't recognize certain ingredients or preparation methods, be sure to ask your server to get important nutritional information before you make your final decision.

You can also ask for your meal to be tailored to your dietary needs. Ask for entrees or appetizers to be customized to include more steamed vegetables or whole grains. Ask for sauces on the side or for high-fat, high-calorie side dishes to be replaced with fiber-rich veggies or lean protein.

If you are trying to choose healthier carbohydrates, ask for brown rice instead of white rice. Brown rice has significantly more fiber (about 3 grams per cup of cooked brown rice) because it is a whole grain. Brown rice also has fewer carbohydrates than white rice, at 50 grams per cup vs. about 53 grams.

Nutrition Facts

Chow mein is one of the most popular dishes on the menu at Chinese restaurants, especially in the United States. Chow mein is a fried egg noodle dish. Often, stir-fried meat or vegetables are added to the dish.

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for one full order (604g) of chicken chow mein as typically served in a restaurant with onions, cabbage, carrots and/or broccoli.

  • Calories: 513
  • Fat: 16.9
  • Sodium: 1880mg
  • Carbohydrates: 50g
  • Fiber: 6g
  • Sugars: 10.5g
  • Protein: 41g

The calories in chow mein are not very high for store-bought frozen chicken chow mein (about 300), but the serving size is less than half of what a typical restaurant order provides.

Egg rolls are another popular Chinese menu item. Nutrition for egg rolls will vary depending on how they are prepared. Fried egg rolls with pork or shrimp can provide 100-200 calories per roll. But steamed rice paper egg rolls are likely to provide less than 100 calories per roll.

Healthiest Options

Healthier Chinese food choices will include plenty of steamed vegetables, like broccoli or pea pods and broth. Some of the more popular healthy items on a Chinese menu include:

  • hot and sour soup
  • wonton soup
  • steamed spring roll
  • teriyaki chicken skewers
  • dishes made with steamed or boiled chicken or shrimp
  • steamed vegetables
  • vegetable, lean meat or fish stir-fry (request less oil to be used in preparation)
  • bok choy

Least Healthy Options

Even though many traditional Chinese foods are healthy, some are not. Foods that are fried or covered in sweet or creamy sauces are likely to be high in fat, high in sugar and high in calories. You can always order these foods and try to eat just a small portion, but that can be tricky in a Chinese restaurant because foods are often served family-style.

If you are trying to improve your diet or lose weight, you may want to limit or avoid these menu items:

  • battered or fried appetizers
  • traditional egg rolls that are fried
  • General Tso's chicken
  • Kung Pao chicken
  • duck dishes that are high in fat
  • dishes that are covered with rich sauces (like Hoisin or sweet and sour sauce)

If you are trying to limit your salt intake, you should also ask your server for recommendations. Many Chinese foods (especially Chinese take-out foods) are prepared with a lot of sodium.

Healthy Chinese Foods to Cook at Home

If you love Chinese food, you'll save calories and money if you cook it at home. When you choose a healthy Chinese food recipe, you can control the ingredients and even swap out ingredients to lower the fat and calorie content.

Try any of these recipes at home: brothy Chinese noodlesSzechuan tofu and green bean stir-fry,  sweet and sour chicken with brown rice or low-carb moo shu chicken.

A Word From Verywell

Remember that it doesn't matter where you choose to eat if you want to enjoy a healthy Chinese meal, portion control, and smart food choices make all the difference. Keep your Chinese food calories low by avoiding fried foods and choosing menu options with fresh or steamed vegetables for a boost of nutrition and satisfying flavor

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