Ellen recently requested tips for making healthy choices when ordering Chinese food. As a general rule, I suggest sticking to vegetable dishes, but if you're really craving meat, choose a combination like beef and broccoli; some veggies are better than none! Here are some other tips for navigating a takeout menu:
1. Always ask for steamed brown rice. White rice has the same food value as white bread. Simple carbohydrates never did nothin' good for NOBODY.
2. Ask for your sauce on the side, and only use as much as it takes to add some flavour to your dish. In some cases, you can cut the fat, calorie and sodium content of your meal in half by doing this (and by the way, always ask for reduced-sodium soy sauce.)
3. Don't be afraid to request cooking specifications; as long as you're polite, restaurant staff shouldn't mind if you ask that your meal be cooked in little or no oil or in broth. You should definitely consider making such a request if you're ordering a noodle dish; these are usually served dripping with oil.
4. If you're getting an appetizer, soup is probably the healthiest choice. Eating a cup of miso or chicken soup before your meal will help curb your appetite (steer clear of those devilish crunchy noodles, though!)
5. If you're ordering spring rolls or dumplings, make sure you do not order a crispy (read: deep-fried) version. Avoid egg rolls; if you're really craving one, split it with your dining buddy.
6. If your dish comes with nuts, ask for them on the side. Using a couple of tablespoons of nuts is fine, but more than that makes your meal excessively fatty.
7. Most menus have a section devoted to lighter options, but I suggest maintaining an investigatory attitude. Just because a dish is listed under this heading doesn't necessarily mean it's good for you, or that it couldn't be prepared in a more healthful manner.
Terms to look for (if you can't find them, you can always make a request!): steamed, roasted, boiled.
The following terms are NOT your friends: crispy, crunchy, creamy, fried, coconut (often included in curry sauce; make sure you ask for the sauce on the side) sweet & sour, General Tso's, Kung Pao.