How to Order the Healthiest Chinese Food

What to look for, what to skip, and tips for placing a healthier order the next time you take out from a Chinese restaurant.

orange and soy-glazed beef stir-fryThe traditional Chinese diet is a healthy one, with lots of vegetables, stir-fries with small chunks of meat or fish, and soy foods. But that’s not evident in the typical fare in a Chinese restaurant here, where the meal is likely to be heavy on greasy meats and swimming in sauces with lots of calories. Even the vegetables are usually in a fatty, sugary sauce. If you’re looking to eat healthy, do you have to give up Chinese takeout? Of course not. Here’s how to order carefully.

1. Ask for brown rice. Most restaurants give you the option, and white rice is a blood-sugar disaster waiting to happen. Don’t eat the whole bowl or container of rice; spoon a half cup onto your plate and leave the rest. You can also do as a Chinese native would: Put a small amount of brown rice in a small bowl and hold the bowl up, using your chopsticks (or fork) to eat a little rice in between bites of your main dish. You can also skip the rice altogether, and fill up on fiber-friendly vegetables instead.

2. Start with soup. Wonton, egg drop, or hot-and-sour soup are good choices. A small bowl of soup will take the edge off your hunger and not make a big dent in your calorie intake. Another good appetizer choice is steamed vegetable dumplings—steer clear of pan-fried ones.

3. Look for light options. When it comes to entrées, order from the “health” menu. Here is where you’ll find steamed chicken and vegetables with sauce on the side and similar low-fat choices. Another good choice is moo goo gai pan (chicken with mushrooms). If you like stir-fries, ask the waitperson to have yours prepared with less oil and more veggies, and get the sauce on the side.

4. Make sure you order plenty of vegetables. If you really want to make the meal healthier, order a plate of steamed vegetables and add them to other dishes. Or ask for sautéed vegetables or Szechuan-style string beans.

5. Take advantage of the bean curd (tofu). Include a heart-healthy, low-GL dish like bean curd with sautéed Chinese mixed vegetables (ask for sautéed bean curd, not deep-fried).

6. Plan to take home leftovers. Portions are often large. Think of about a cup of a dish (without rice) as a serving.

7. Just Say No

  • Crispy noodles
  • Egg rolls
  • Fried wontons
  • Fried rice
  • Pan-fried noodles
  • Lo mein
  • Crispy beef or chicken
  • Sweet-and-sour pork, chicken, and other meat dishes
  • Szechuan spicy fish
  • General Tso’s chicken
  • Kung pao chicken
  • Spicy eggplant

See Also:

Want to stay smart and healthy?

Get our weekly Health Reads newsletter

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you this newsletter. For more information please read our privacy policy.

Funny Jokes

Some people like to travel by train because 
it combines the slowness of a car with the cramped public exposure of 
an airplane.

Dennis Miller

Funny Jokes

I think my pilot was a little inexperienced. We were sitting on the runway, and he said, “OK, folks, we’re gonna be taking off in a just few—whoa! Here we go.”

Kevin Nealon

Funny Jokes

“I can’t wait until your vacation is over.” 
—Everyone following you on Instagram


Funny Jokes

A man knocked on my door and asked for a donation toward the local swimming pool. So I gave him a glass of water.

Comedian Greg Davies

Funny Jokes

Just found the worst page in the entire dictionary. What I saw was disgraceful, disgusting, dishonest, and disingenuous.


Funny Jokes

Client: We need you to log in to the YouTube and make all our company videos viral.


Funny Jokes

My cat just walked up to the paper shredder and said, “Teach me 
everything you know.”


Funny Jokes

“Just because you can’t dance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance.” 

@yoyoha (Josh Hara)

Funny Jokes

My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned 60 and that’s the law.

—Jerry Seinfeld

Funny Jokes

Q: What do you call an Amish guy with his hand in a horse’s mouth?

A: A mechanic.