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The Most Unhealthy Restaurant Chinese Foods: Part One

The other day, out of the blue, I was having a bit of a craving for Chinese food. This is unusual for me, but I was thinking of indulging myself. Then I read a nutritional dissection of the cuisine in Newsweek by Jayne Hurley and Bonnie Liebman, the authors of Chinese Restaurant Food: Wok Carefully. Their take on the most unhealthy Chinese food menu items certainly had me rethinking my decision to indulge – or at least stick to steamed meals with sauces on the side. Here are highlights:

  • Fried rice and lo mein: "Those dishes are basically three quarters of a day's calories, and you're just getting four or five cups of white rice or white noodles with oil and a sprinkling of vegetables," Hurley says. They're especially dangerous because they're often served alongside people's main orders, she says, and deliver "not much more than a smattering of vegetables or protein from the meat."
  • Chow fun: This dish is made of wider rice noodles and might taste more healthy than lo mein, but it's not. "The noodles are thicker, but they're going to do the same damage to your belly and blood pressure as the lo mein," Hurley says.
  • Crispy (orange) beef: Many meat-based menu items simply offer "hunks of fried meat," Hurley says. "What you're getting is three quarters of a pound of deep-fried meat, garnished with vegetables," she says. The same goes for sweet and sour pork.

So there you have it. This is not to say that you shouldn’t eat Chinese food, because sometimes you need some take-out and a fortune cookie. Just try steer clear of the high-calorie, high-sodium, high-fat items like those listed above.


Join The Conversation
YaoMing YaoMing 9 years
Nope - Panda Express is just like mom used to make....
msjean msjean 9 years
I ditto the comments to please specify this is TAKEOUT food, or Chinese fast food. Please don't just call it Chinese Food, which encompasses hundreds of regional cuisines, none of which are represented in the fast fried, short order, takeout menus (that were created for American fried-loving palates) and which are actually Very Healthy when eaten in the traditional context and diet.
ilanac13 ilanac13 9 years
i love steamed veggies w/ the sauce on the side- so i guess i'm doing ok with that one right? i used to love veggie fried rice, but now i think that i'll just pass on it. lately i've been on an anti-rice kick anyway.
porkypocky porkypocky 9 years
hahahahahahaha, fitsugar this is not chinese food. this is american food. real chinese food is not this fatty or the obesity problem would be prevalent in china, not here. if you really want to eat like people in asia, chow fun, lo mein and fried rice are meant to be eaten as separate dishes. eating them with the side dishes is just weird. you eat plain rice with those but only so it fills you up. also, nobody fries their general tso's orange chicken crap in their own kitchens, everything is sauteed(usually with garlic, ginger or scallions) and marinated. aside from katsu and eggrolls, i can't think of much else that is fried like that. we think it's pretty nasty. anyway, as a tip from my roommate who used to work at panda express: if you want a healthy choice, go with the steamed vegetables and the chicken and mushrooms. there's a reason you don't see the workers eating the orange chicken everyday...
andreal9 andreal9 9 years
this is all Chinese TAKEOUT food. it's not genuine chinese food/cuisine. it's just fast food. I wish you would add that to your title label. after all, it's not as if you title your posts on hamburgers, unhealthy American food, or you posts on pizza, unhealthy Italian food. bottom line every cuisine has its unhealthy spinoffs. you're just presenting a very limited myopic perspective on what we might as well call Americanized Chinese food.
Spectra Spectra 9 years
I always order from the same restaurant and they have a health food menu. I always order the "Steamed Mixed Vegetables with Shrimp" or "Steamed Mixed Vegetables with Chicken". The meat is steamed and so are the oil or sauce. I make my own brown rice to eat with them so I don't eat the white stuff they always pack with the order. So yeah, Chinese food doesn't HAVE to be unhealthy. My husband, however, LOVES General Tso's chicken, which is probably one of the most unhealthy things on the menu. It's deep fried chicken in a sweet/sour sauce. He usually eats that with fried rice and an eggroll. Probably not the healthiest option, that's for sure.
s3ungxr1 s3ungxr1 9 years
urgh that cut off. Even the "yu cai" (green vegetables) are covered in oil because it retains the vibrant green colour better than if they had just blanched it.
s3ungxr1 s3ungxr1 9 years
Even the
emalove emalove 9 years
Hmmm...I somehow doubt that any type of "American Chinese food" is particularly healthy! I like lo mein best :)
hkmarks hkmarks 9 years
I love Chinese food, but I bought a "Combo for 2" the other day that was enough food for 5 meals. Usually I just buy the entree & egg rolls, then make my own veggies and rice. Aside from egg rolls, battered meat, and dim sum, it's mostly pretty easy to make at home. A lot of Chinese foods are really, really salty though, and that bothers me more than a little extra fat.
ChrissyBaby ChrissyBaby 9 years
This article might just send me over the edge. I love chinese food! I guess I will have to find some healthier choices on the menu.
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
Pork fried rice is one of my favs but I don't feel guilty since I maybe eat this kind of junk 2x a year.
cvandoorn cvandoorn 9 years
It sucks how American-Chinese food makes you fat. In Singapore, Hong Kong and Jakarta, people get fat from eating fast food like McDonalds and Burger King, not from their local noodles and fried rice. I've seen girls who are size sub-zero down huge bowls of noodles and rice. How come they're not getting fat?
toodledoo toodledoo 9 years
Good advice, Berlin, on the sauteed orange chicken. It's one of my favorites but I haven't had it in ages because of the fried breading. I'm going to try that!
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
really if you *think* that chinese food is a better choice your delusional. Just because it has some green or orange veggies in it doesnt make it a healther option, because usually those veggies are swimming in oil, or noodles or rice. I cant even eat the stuff because i have gone so long without it, that one whiff makes me gag. I do know that some places have "diet" options, like steamed veggies, white meat chicken, but alot of those are made in the same pan as the bad stuff.
mwjank mwjank 9 years
I do like fried rice, but I make my own with leftover brown rice, a tsp. of canola oil, an egg (or even egg subst), a bit of soy sauce and a ton of veggies. It is super-quick and tasty. The restaurant version tastes too greasy to me now.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 9 years
Sad! Lo Mein is totally my favorite, especially the next morning, cold, for breakfast. Yum.
Kristen927 Kristen927 9 years
I eat chinese food at least once every two weeks. I get it from this amazing take out place called Happy Dragon and I always order either Chicken w/ Mixed Vegetables, or Shrimp w/ Mixed Vegetables from their extensive diet menu. It comes with steamed brown rice and dark sauce on the side. It's incredible! I am sooo lucky there is a chinese place around here that offers some healthy options, because I could never give it up!
Berlin Berlin 9 years
A really great option is to ask for your meet sauteed and NOT deep fried! I ask for this every time I go to get my Chinese Take-Out at my fav chicken sauteed, don't fry me:) Then you aren't stuck with ick fried food or loads of breading all over your lean chicken meat!
SublimeChica SublimeChica 9 years
Blech! To think I used to get lo mein as my "healthier" option. This is why I try to avoid Americanized-Chinese food all together. Most everything is terrible for you!
Renees3 Renees3 9 years
Coulda used this last night!!!! I had beef and broccoli. I ate mostly broccoli hoping it was better haha
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