Is Chinese Food Bad for You?

Is Chinese food bad for you? Traditional Chinese food is a lot different than what you will find here in America. You can say it is the Americanized version of Chinese food. To make it appealing to more people, many foods offered as Chinese cuisine in America are mostly fried and loaded with fats, sugars and sodium. Here we are going to talk about whether or not Chinese food is bad for you by discussing the unhealthy foods that you should be avoiding and how to choose the healthier food options that are available to you.

Is Chinese Food Bad for You?

You will find that majority of American Chinese restaurants do not make food the traditional way and that is why it is full of fats, sugars and salts. This type of Chinese food is bad for you and is an equally harmful option as any other fast food option.

When we talk about healthy Chinese food, we are talking about the traditional cuisine that consists mainly of vegetables and only 20% of the diet uses meat. The cuisines include a lot of healthy options such as stir-fried vegetables, soy products, steamed or boiled rice, and many dishes include fresh ginger, garlic and bean curd. Most American Chinese food options are coated in heavy batter, covered in sugary sauces and deep fried, whereas traditional Chinese food is usually steamed, lightly fried in peanut oil or sometimes braised. This makes the food taste light and healthy.

Another problem is MSG (monosodium glutamate) that is added to enhance flavor in many Chinese dishes. Although this food ingredient has been classified as generally safe by FDA, its uses are still controversial and there are reports about people having adverse reactions after eating the food containing MSG. The symptoms include palpitations, chest pain, nausea, sweating, headache and weakness. 

Unhealthy Chinese Food to Avoid

Now that you know the answer to "is Chinese food bad for you", here is a list of very unhealthy Chinese foods you should not be ordering when you next visit a Chinese restaurant.

1. Fried Rice and Lo Mein

These dishes contain white rice or white noodles with lots of oil and very little vegetables. One serving of these dishes gives you three quarters of your daily calorie intake: that is how unhealthy they are.

2. Chow Fun

This dish is made from rice noodles and many people think that it is a better option than lo mein. But this serving of noodles is equally bad as it is difficult for your stomach to digest and adversely affects your blood pressure.

3. Crispy Beef

All meat based dishes are just big pieces of heavily fried meat. All that you are served with is almost a pound of heavy fried beef that is slightly garnished with vegetables.

4. Lemon Chicken

Eating one serving of lemon chicken is same as eating three McDonalds McChicken Sandwiches. One dish contains 1400 calories and two-thirds of the daily requirements of fat.

5. General Tso's Chicken

Many people think that chicken is a healthier option than beef and pork. Unfortunately, that is not always true. This dish is coated in bread crumbs, deep fried and covered in heavy sauce; one serving contains almost 1300 calories.

6. Barbequed Spare Ribs

Although this dish is qualified as an appetizer, it contains two-thirds of the daily recommended amounts of saturated fat and 600 calories. That is the same as eating two pork chops as an appetizer.

7. Crab Rangoon

This dish is also considered an appetizer but it contains a lot of fat. It has large amounts of cream cheese with only a little bit of crab meat that is deep fried and served in a heavy sauce that is full of sugars and sodium.

8. Fried Egg Rolls

This is the most commonly chosen appetizer but what people do not know is that one egg roll can have 200 to 300 calories. Most people eat more than one so you can imagine how many calories you are consuming by just one dish of appetizer.

Tips for Selecting Healthier Chinese Food

You may no longer want to step into any Chinese restaurants after knowing the answer to "is Chinese food bad for you". But since not every Chinese food is unhealthy, here you will find tips to increase the health value of your Chinese takeout meals.

1. Begin with a Light Appetizer

Starting off your meal with a light appetizer will help you avoid loading up on heavier main course meals. Start with a nice hot and sour soup or wontons. Avoid egg rolls, chicken wings or ribs and opt for the much healthier option of steamed dumplings instead.

2. Say No to the Fried Foods

Any type of fried food, such as fried rice and crispy egg rolls are an extremely unhealthy option. Instead of a fried egg roll, have rice paper spring roll that is full of vegetables. Go for the steamed ones instead of fried ones. Steamed vegetable dumplings are always a good choice. Opt for braised or stir fried dishes instead of the deep fried options.

3. Ask for a Light Menu

There are many Chinese restaurants that offer a lighter menu which includes options that are high on veggies and low on the oil. If the restaurant doesn't have a lighter menu, ask them to use less oil and increase the vegetables.

4. Go Veggie

Whenever ordering your meal, make sure there are lots of vegetables with it. Order beef with broccoli, or chicken with mushrooms. Ask the restaurant to cook your meal in a vegetable stock, which can reduce 100 to 200 calories in your dish. This way, you will be getting your meat in a much healthier option.

5. Opt for Brown Rice

Another great way of making your Chinese takeout much healthier is choosing brown rice over white rice which are full of carbs and increase your risk of diabetes.

6. Pick up the Chopsticks

Chopsticks are not only the traditional way of eating Chinese food, they also help in reducing the amount of oil that you'll be eating as most of it is left behind. They also slow you down, which helps to fill you up faster.

7. Skip Extra Sides

Stick with an appetizer and one main course dish. You will cut lots of calories by avoiding side dishes.

8. Control Your Portion

The worst part about unhealthy dishes is that they taste great. You can still enjoy them by limiting the amount that you eat.

9. Limit the Sauce

Most sauces use corn starch, sugar and flour. You should go for the healthier sauce options, such as hot mustard sauce, hoisin sauce and oyster sauce. Also, you can order half the sauce which will reduce the amount of calories in your foods.

10. Learn the Lingo

A great way to eating healthier in a Chinese restaurant is to learn the Chinese names of different types of dishes. Know that steamed, Jun (poached), Chu (broiled), Kow (roasted), Shu (barbequed), stir fried and braised are all healthy options you can go for.