Healthy Options in Chinese Food

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Chomping down on Chinese food while watching the 2008 Summer Olympics at Beijing could seem like the ideal way to pay homage to the host country. Some Hakka Chow, Chilli Chicken, Schezwan Fried Rice and Veg Manchurian … fantastic deliciousness. But if you get on that diet, your body will look more like Mahesh Bhatt than Mahesh Bhupathi.

Nutrition analysis of Chinese dishes show that they are extremely high in calorific value, sodium content, high fat content and high in simple carbohydrates (which behave like sugar in your body). Many Chinese dishes are high on soy, which increases sodium content drastically in the food. Excess sodium leads to increase in blood pressure and retention of water, which increases your weight and makes you look bloated and fat.

So, whats a solution? Clearly, not eating Chinese food is a bad solution 🙂 But you can make healthy choices while ordering Chinese food.

Lets start with everyone’s favourite .. those little steamed eatables called Dim Sum- You think its healthy because its steamed. But Dim Sum is primarily made of maida (refined flour), which causes your blood sugar to spike (watch out diabetics) and promotes fat storage. For starters, go for stuff that’s stir fried, chicken satay, flavored veggies, or a clear soup with veggies and/or meat in it. Or you can skip the starters and go for the main course.

The main course is like a mine field of bad health bombs. Stir Fried dishes are good, since they are relatively low on sodium, are cooked fast and in lesser oil (since its not deep fried). Stay away from that Manchurian. First its wrapped in maida (refined flour), then its deep fried. Then its soaked in a high sodium sauce.

Is there a better way to spell HEALTH D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R. Basically, stay away from anything that’s served as dough wrapped balls in sauce. All sauces, from Black Bean to Sweet and Sour are drowning in sodium. And some of them have loads of sugar added, like Sweet and Sour or Garlic.

For your starch options, there’s another mine field. The noodles are all made from refined flour and then they are soaked in oil and flavouring (including soy)- you know what that does, so stay away from it. The fried rice is a slightly better option, since its rice based, but again, lots of oil and soy, since rice soaks both of them fast! The best option is steamed rice. Besides, the relatively lower calories, it reduces your sodium intake. Also, it gives you a chance to really taste the flavour of the dishes. Try jasmine rice, it smells fantastic.

In dessert, I’m yet to find a true Chinese dessert. All the standard Indian versions of Chinese dessert are pretty unhealthy- darsaan (fried dough with sugar), sugar coated walnuts, fried ice-cream. Do I even need to get into why these aren’t good choices. Chinese joints aren’t known for their chocolate based delicacies. Stay off it, even its on the menu 🙂

Our advice, go for the fresh fruits for a light and a sweet finish. Don’t forget to get some of that green tea or jasmine tea. You know, green tea is good for you.

It takes some questioning the wait staff, to solve the health mystery of a new dish. But don’t be shy – eat this way while watching the Olympics and you’ll be 1 step closer to looking like Michael Phelps. Have you seen the 60 pack he’s got?

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