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Ordering Healthy Chinese Food

Ordering Healthy Chinese Food

In California we have our fair share of Chinese restaurants – whether Cantonese, Mandarin, Szechuan or perhaps a more “Americanized” version. The challenge for our patients – when they are ordering healthy Chinese food is to align with the JumpstartMD plan. The fact is, all variations of Chinese cuisine do offer healthy and low carb options, you just have to know how to find them! Take a look at this JumpstartMD general guide to eating at Chinese restaurants – even when in the Weight Loss Phase – along with some specific suggestions. And feel free to discuss more with your program counselor at your next visit.


  • First Course – clear thin soups (like egg drop or hot and sour) can make an excellent starter
    • Relatively low-carb and it has been shown that people who have soup as an appetizer tend to eat less for their main course
  • Main Course – for your entrée remember steamed foods, and foods with a thin savory sauce tend to be your best choices
    • Avoid rice, noodles, fried foods and sugary sauces (such as sweet and sour sauce, hoisin, plum sauce and oyster sauce)
    • If possible, ask for the sauce on the side – especially if you are uncertain what it contains, or request that they hold the cornstarch and sugar
    • Chinese mustard and plain soy sauce are great ways to spice things up without adding carbs

Some of the following dishes are lower carb options available at most Chinese restaurants:

  • Shrimp with lobster sauce (as long as the shrimp isn’t fried),
  • Meat/poultry/seafood with vegetables in black bean sauce
  • Mu Shu without the wrappers or plum sauce
  • Broccoli Beef/Chicken
  • Egg Foo Young
  • Peking Duck
  • Moo Goo Gai Pan

*Keep in mind restaurants have different variations of these dishes so you may want to double check the preparation method.

For general health keep in mind that Chinese food is often high in sodium and some includes MSG (monosodium glutamate). Try requesting no MSG and make sure the rest of the day is full of low sodium choices and lots of water and herbal tea. It’s never a good idea to show up at restaurant feeling extremely hungry, so try to eat regularly and sensibly throughout the day. A quick snack prior to heading out is always helpful.

Eating well at Chinese chain restaurants:

Here are some specific dishes that you can have “as is” from the two popular Chinese Chain Restaurants – PF Chang’s and Panda Express.

PF Chang’s (values for full dish):

  • Cup Hot & Sour Soup (1/2 Protein box + 1 Carb box)
  • Moo Goo Gai Pan with Chicken (5 Protein boxes + 1 Carb box)
  • Shanghai Shrimp with Garlic Sauce (3 Protein Boxes + 1 Carb box)
  • Buddha’s Feast Steamed (3 Protein boxes + 2 Carb Boxes)

Panda Express (per single serving):

  • Hot & Sour Soup (1/2 protein box + 1 Carb box
  • Mushroom Chicken (2 Protein boxes + 1 Carb Box)
  • Firecracker Chicken Breast (3 Protein boxes + 1 Carb Box)
  • Mixed Veggies (1/2 Protein Box + ½ Carb Box)
  • Broccoli Beef (1 Protein Box + 1 Carb Box)
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