How to Choose Healthy Chinese Takeout

Three Parts:Choosing Healthier Chinese TakeoutPicking Out Healthier Meal ItemsSticking to Healthy Eating

Chinese food has gotten a bad rap over the years for being an unhealthy option for takeout. It is frequently high in fat, sodium (especially MSG) and calories from the rich sauces and cooking methods.[1] However, occasionally ordering Chinese takeout and enjoying this type of cuisine doesn't have to ruin your diet or healthy eating plan. With a little extra time spent looking at the menu and controlling your portion sizes, you can get a fairly healthy Chinese takeout meal.

Part 1
Choosing Healthier Chinese Takeout

  1. Image titled Choose Healthy Chinese Takeout Step 1
    Check out multiple restaurant menus. If there are multiple Chinese restaurants around your area, take a look at each one of their menus. Although many items on the menu will be similar or even identical, you might find more healthy options at certain places.
    • Some restaurants may offer a wider selection of certain foods. Look for menus that have more steamed dishes, more vegetable dishes or are able to make changes or substitutions.
    • Also check for a "healthy" or "diet-friendly" section of the menu. Many restaurants now are catering to the large population of people looking to lose weight. They may offer things under a certain calorie limit or that are cooked a bit healthier.
  2. Image titled Choose Healthy Chinese Takeout Step 2
    Start with soup. Most Chinese restaurants offer a few different types of soup on their menu. Starting with a soup can help curb your appetite and total calorie intake.
    • Studies have shown that if you start a meal by consuming a low calorie soup, you end up eating less quantity and fewer calories overall.[2]
    • Try order a small or cup of wonton soup. This generally is about 100 calories and contains a dumpling or two, possibly some vegetables and broth.
    • Although the soup may be low in calorie, it's most likely still higher in sodium. Ask for a low-sodium option if available and plan on sticking to the small serving.
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    Go for steamed over fried. No matter what entree or side dish you're in the mood for, try to go for the steamed option over fried. This automatically cuts calories and fat.
    • If your order comes with the option of fried rice or steamed rice, always go for steamed. Fried rice has over 100 more calories per serving than steamed rice.[3]
    • Also go for steamed or stir-fried proteins. Things like General Tso's chicken are deep fried and higher in calories. Opt for a lower calorie option like chicken and broccoli.
    • For appetizers, skip the egg roll and fried dumplings and order spring rolls or steamed dumplings instead. Two steamed dumplings are only around 50 calories.[4]
  4. Image titled Choose Healthy Chinese Takeout Step 4
    Always order a vegetable. Adding an extra vegetables to any dish - takeout or homemade - can help decrease the overall calorie content of the meal and help you stick to a healthier, more nutritious meal.
    • Adding extra vegetables to your Chinese takeout meal will help provide bulk to your meal. That means you'll be eating the same quantity of foods, but filling up more on vegetables.
    • Since vegetables are low in calorie and high in fiber, you'll get full and feel satisfied on fewer calories.[5]
    • With any Chinese takeout dish, ask for extra vegetables. If it comes with peppers and onions, ask for a double amount. Or if you're ordering chicken and broccoli, ask for extra broccoli.
    • You can also ask for an order of plain steamed vegetables or a side order of steamed vegetables. Eat these in addition to your meal or toss them with your entree of choice.
  5. Image titled Choose Healthy Chinese Takeout Step 5
    Order brown rice. Another option to try is ordering brown rice. Again, many restaurants are catering to healthy eaters and may offer this nutritious side.
    • Brown rice is considered a 100% whole grain. It's less processed compared to white rice and is higher fiber, protein and other essential nutrients.[6]
    • Although brown rice is a more nutritious or nutrient dense choice, it will have the same or very similar amount of calories to steamed white rice. The benefit here is the added nutrition.
  6. Image titled Choose Healthy Chinese Takeout Step 6
    Make changes to the cooking methods. There are a variety of different meals and types of foods that you can order to make Chinese takeout more healthy. However, don't forget about how it's cooked and served.
    • Ask for sauce on the side. Many times, Chinese food is slathered and drowning in some sort of sauce. Although usually very tasty, the excess amount of sauce can add up to a lot of extra calories. Ask for the sauce to be served on the side and monitor how much you add.
    • Also ask if your foods can be prepared with less oil or butter. This can help cut down on fat and calories as well.[7]
    • Lastly, ask about reducing the amount of soy sauce, MSG or salt that's added to your foods during cooking.[8] Although these ingredients don't come with a calorie content, they can help cut down on the overall sodium content of your meal.

Part 2
Picking Out Healthier Meal Items

  1. Image titled Choose Healthy Chinese Takeout Step 7
    Choose a low-calorie appetizer. When you're ordering Chinese takeout, it may be tempting to order a few tasty appetizers as well. Although appetizers can add calories to your overall meal, if chosen wisely, they can actually prevent you from over eating. Here are your best bets:
    • Wonton soup. Order a small of this low-calorie soup. It'll help fill you up and possibly save you extra calories overall.
    • Hot and sour soup. Also a low-calorie soup, this tasty broth based appetizer is another option to help fill up your stomach without too many calories.
    • Steamed vegetable dumplings. Splitting an order of 4 or 6 won't push you too far over your calorie limit.
    • Spring rolls. These non-fried, vegetable filled rolls are the perfect low-calorie appetizer.
  2. Image titled Choose Healthy Chinese Takeout Step 8
    Stick to low-fat and low-calorie entree options. Chinese food entrees are known to be high in fat, sugar and sodium. Stick to these healthier options:
    • Buddha's delite. This common dish is filled with steamed vegetables and tofu and leaves out unwanted calories and fat.
    • Chicken and broccoli. This is another popular dish that is also naturally lower in calories. Ask for the sauce on the side to help control calories even more.
    • Moo goo gai pan. Similar to Buddha's delite, this dish is filled with vegetables and steamed chicken. It's low in calories, fat but high in fiber.
    • Shrimp with lobster sauce. A tasty seafood dish that's high in protein and moderately low in calories.
  3. Image titled Choose Healthy Chinese Takeout Step 9
    Limit unhealthy side dishes. Sometimes the side dishes of Chinese takeout are the tastiest part. However, they can pack on a significant amount of extra calories. Limit these:
    • Fried egg rolls. These large, deep fried rolls are high in calories and fat.
    • Crab rangoon. These little deep fried dumplings contain little filling and are mostly deep fried dough.
    • Fried rice. This side dish is re-fried, refined white rice. It has a ton of calories and fat.
    • BBQ spare ribs. Sometimes these are listed as an entree as well, but are incredibly high in saturated fat and calories.

Part 3
Sticking to Healthy Eating

  1. Image titled Choose Healthy Chinese Takeout Step 10
    Manage your hunger. Before you even get your Chinese takeout meal, make sure you're managing your hunger appropriately throughout the day.
    • If you go into a tasty Chinese takeout meal and you're starving, you're more likely to overeat. This means much larger portion sizes and more calories by the end of your meal.
    • To calm your hunger down before a meal, try having a large glass of water or flavored water. This can help fill your belly with a calorie free liquid and make your brain feel less hungry.[9]
    • Also don't skip meals throughout the day. Even though you know you're going to be indulging in a higher calorie meal, skipping meals can lead to increased hunger.[10]
    • Consider having a small snack about 2 hours before your takeout arrives. Including a small snack can help calm hunger and decrease the risk of overeating. Go for something like: a small piece of fruit, a low-fat cheese stick, a small cup of yogurt or a hard boiled egg.
  2. Image titled Choose Healthy Chinese Takeout Step 11
    Measure your portion sizes. Following the appropriate portion size when eating higher fat or higher calorie foods is key. Keeping portions in check will also help keep your overall calorie intake in check as well.
    • Many Chinese takeout entrees are large and can be split. Offer to split with your spouse, family member or friends.
    • You can also order a small or side orders instead of a large or entree sized meal.
    • When your takeout arrives, try immediately packing up half your entree or meal for lunch or dinner the next day. If it's out of sight, it's out of mind.
  3. Image titled Choose Healthy Chinese Takeout Step 12
    Hit the gym. If you're planning on a more indulgent meal during the day, make sure to make a pit stop at your gym or fit in a workout.
    • Although you won't be able to work off your entire meal, going to the gym can help burn a little extra calories to help keep your diet or weight in check.
    • Also, by going to the gym, you're doing something healthy and positive for yourself. This can help keep you in a "healthy mindset" while you're ordering and eating your takeout.
    • In addition, consider going for an extra walk after you're done eating your takeout. This can help boost your activity level and total calories burned.
  4. Image titled Choose Healthy Chinese Takeout Step 13
    Try recreating your favorite takeout recipes at home. If you love Chinese food and find yourself craving it or ordering it often, consider making some of your favorite recipes at home.
    • By making more food at home, you can control what goes in (or what stays out) of your foods. You can control the calories, fat, sugar and sodium content of your meals.
    • In addition, you can take charge of cooking foods in a more healthful or nutritious manner. You can bake foods or stir-fry in little added oil for a low-fat and low calorie version at home.
    • You can also serve more nutritious sides like brown rice and steamed vegetables.


  • Go easy on the sauces. They are often very thick and rich, which equals a high fat content.
  • Order brown rice over white or fried rice. The difference in calories isn't significant, but it provides additional fiber.
  • Avoid starters like Chinese noodles or fried wontons. While they may stave off hunger pangs while you wait to be served, it is an easy way to add hundreds of extra calories to your meal.

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Categories: Dining Out | Nutrition and Lifestyle Eating