There’s nothing quite like ordering Chinese food and curling up on bed with Netflix. It’s comforting to dig into the greasy noodles, bite onto spicy, fried chicken and those melt in the mouth dim sums. With all the gloom and uncertainty around, you need these delicacies more now than ever. And the most reassuring fact about Chinese food is that no matter, wherever you order from, the menu is mostly the same. So you know, what you want.
The downside to this is that Chinese food often contains a lot of salt, oil, chemicals and processed ingredients like MSG and you can’t skip the calories. “Authentic Chinese food is not high in calories and is healthy because of the large amount of vegetables used and lower amount of meat used. However as Chinese took this concept to the world and it entered the fast food space and the sauces got more sugary and salty,” says Ryan Fernando, celebrity nutritionist and founder of Qua Nutrition. However, there are ways in which you can still have your favourite food and avoid the unhealthy pitfalls. Read on and thank us later.
1. Choose clear soup
Clear soup is a healthier alternative as it does not have the calorie rich cornflour that gives a thick consistency to other soups. Ryan recommends ordering this and skipping the aperitifs. “We Indians while ordering in like to do the whole aperitifs, main course and dessert ritual. But if you are looking to lose weight, start with the soup and move on to a large main dish. Aperitifs or starters as many call them tend to be fried and are loaded with calories,” he says.
2. Pick steamed dumpling with thinner coatings
The fried dumplings are rich in oil and fat. A steamed dumpling would be down by 30-40 calories. “If you further want to cut down on calories, order a vegetable dumpling and skip the non-vegetarian ones,” says Lovneet Batra, clinical nutritionist and founder of Nutrition by Lovneet. She also recommends opting for dumplings with thinner coatings of potato and starch like the crystal dumplings over dim sums with thicker refined flour shell.
3. Choose brown rice over noodles
When it comes to picking your carbs, you usually need to decide between rice and noodles. Lovneet suggests, “Rice is a whole grain as opposed to noodles made with refined flour. It doesn’t bloat you. Steamed brown rice is your best option.”
4. Go for rice-based noodles, if you have to
If you do have noodle cravings, ask for rice-based noodles that have a low glycemic index compared to noodles made with flour. “You can make this healthier by asking the chef to increase the amount of vegetables in it. Make it 60 percent noodles and 40 percent vegetables,” advises Ryan.
5. Pick the sauces carefully
Request for soy or other sauces to be given in the side, you can toss some into your dish for flavoring. Also “choose black bean, chilli garlic and light soy over honey mustard or any sweet tasting sauces,” says Lovneet.
6. Load up on veggies
Chinese food is famous for black bean and buckchoy, which is like cabbage and has negative calorie, which means you need to expend more calories to burn it. Add more broccoli, bell peppers and beans to make the dish fibre-rich and filling. Opt for stir fried and claypot preparations as they have less oil. You can add tofu to the veggies to meet your protein target. Protein also generates a lasting satiety, which means you wouldn’t be hungry for long.
7. Order white meat
Chicken and fish are much lower in fat and therefore calories than pork. Avoid ordering anything that is deep fried, crispy or crusty. Braised chicken or fish is made with lesser oil and is healthier.
8. Go easy on the beverage
As Chinese food is salty, one tends to get the craving for a sugary drink. Do not gulp down a bottle of coke along with your meal. “Get a jasmine or green tea, add it to ice cold water and keep sipping. This will keep your cravings in check,” says Ryan. However, it’s essential to stay hydrated as the high salt content in Chinese food will lead to water retention and puffiness. Hydration will help you get rid of it.
9. Portion control
The servings are usually large, if you are eating alone, save some for the next meal. Do not finish the entire bowl in one go.