(Photo: Elena Yeryomenko / 500px via Getty Images)
We’ve all got our favorite American adaptations of Chinese cuisine, even though they’re often far removed from the authentic dishes found overseas. Menu items in the U.S., like General Tso’s chicken, chop suey and fortune cookies, are still beloved by many because — no surprise — they taste so darn good.
“Chinese American food is comforting, consistent, affordable and filling,” said Rebecca Valdez, who is a registered dietitian nutritionist, or RDN.
Still, anyone looking to eat healthfully would be better off following traditional Chinese ways of eating, not American ones.
“It’s a common misconception that Chinese food is heavy and greasy and that the portions are oversized,” said Valdez, who is Taiwanese American. “This may be true for Chinese American takeout, but Chinese people don’t eat this way. We eat small amounts of rice from palm-sized bowls, lots of vegetables and a little bit of meat. Most of our food is not deep-fried or even cooked in a lot of oil.”
Sherene Chou, a Chinese American dietician, said establishments serving these cuisines have a positive impact in the U.S.
“While they’re often demonized for serving so-called unhealthy foods, I see Chinese restaurants as a celebration and an introduction to sharing Chinese flavors and dishes with white American culture,” she said. “Our foods can be a bridge to diving deeper into authentic Chinese regional cuisines.”
And even though the American version is not always authentic, it can still be enjoyed as a blast from your past. RDN Sherry Lin grew up as a self-described “restaurant kid” in a town 30 minutes outside Chicago.
“We served all the American Chinese food classics, including chop suey, egg foo young and crab Rangoon, which were things I never saw or ate growing up in Taiwan in my early childhood,” she said. “Now as an adult, I sometimes crave an egg foo young patty for nostalgia.”
Breana Lai Killeen,a Chinese American registered dietician, said diners should be aware of how Chinese cuisine is meant to be ordered and enjoyed.
“Food is typically shared,” she said. “That’s why I always suggest getting a balance of dishes for the table. This way you can — and should — enjoy the dishes that might be fried or heavier alongside lighter dishes of vegetables and items that are steamed.”
Vicki Shanta Retelny, an RDN and the host of the podcast ”Nourishing Notes,” agreed that healthier choices are always possible at a Chinese restaurant.
“Many of the dishes are made with vegetables and lean proteins, and you can order them with whole-grain brown rice,” she said. “Since the sauces often are high in salt and sugar, order them on the side and drizzle them on yourself. Choose low-sodium soy sauce, too.”
RDN Amanda Frankeny had some tips as well. “Regardless of what you choose on the menu, it’s always smart to stick with a side of vegetables,” she said. “Or try vegetable bao, a steamed bun with a stack of veg sandwiched in between the pillowy bread.”
But you need to listen to yourself too, the experts added.
“Your best choice is whatever you’re craving, what’s filling and what hits the spot,” Valdez said.
“If you order your favorite dish, sink your teeth into every bit and don’t look back,” Frankeny said.
We asked nutritionists to weigh in with their top picks among the most popular dishes found in the U.S., along with ordering suggestions.
Beef with broccoli: “I love the broccoli in this dish,” Retelny said. “I always recommend eating more cruciferous veggies.”
“Beef is a tasty, nutrient-dense meat that’s higher in fat than the lean alternatives like chicken, shrimp or tofu,” Frankeny said. ”But it definitely fits into a healthful diet, so mixing it with broccoli and a handful of brown or white rice makes the dish that balanced plate that every dietitian dreams of.”
Dumplings: RDN Amy Gorin suggested vegetable dumplings as a great option for vegan and vegetarian eaters.
“Overall, dumpling ingredients are relatively healthy,” Frankeny said. “Each bite is often a mix of protein, fiber, fat, possibly some vegetables and grains. You can also dip them in chili sauce instead of soy, and you’ll cut back on sodium.”
(Photo: LauriPatterson via Getty Images)
Hot-and-sour soup: “I grew up on hot-and-sour soup, and it’s still one of the things I reach for when I want a comforting meal or when I’m feeling under the weather,” Gorin said.
“Broth-based soups like this one go down easy, provide some nutrients, hydration and a feeling of fullness,” Frankeny said.
Scallion pancakes: “They’re a source of carbohydrates, which are energy-giving,” Frankeny said. “Balance them with a meal packed with vegetables and protein.”
“These were one of my favorite dishes growing up,” Gorin said. “They’re typically paired with a soy dipping sauce, so I like to keep reduced-sodium soy sauce at home and use that when I order takeout.”
Wonton soup: “This broth-based soup is low in fat and calories, but can be high in sodium,” Retelny warned. “Order a small bowl before the meal and share the wontons with your table.”
What do professional healthy eaters order for themselves at Chinese restaurants? Their answers may surprise you.
“It depends on my mood,” Gorin said. “Often, I’ll order steamed tofu and broccoli, with the sauce on the side. But I also love anything with rice noodles, and I almost always order a side of steamed or sauteed greens or veggies. I’m also a sucker for really good hot-and-sour soup.”
“I order items that I can’t easily make at home,” Valdez said. “So my top picks are egg rolls, because I love the crispy skin and cabbage or pork filling; ho fun, a stir-fried rice noodle dish that’s very comforting; and cashew chicken, because I like the sweet-savory combo.”
“I love ordering vegetarian mapo tofu, because it reminds me of my family,” Chou said. “It’s a traditional Sichuan dish, and that’s where my grandparents are from. The numbing Sichuan peppercorns and chili oil are what make the dish unique. I can eat it with rice every day.”
Mapo tofu is a spicy dish flavored with Sichuan peppercorns that make your mouth tingle. (Photo: DigiPub via Getty Images)
“I love to order steamed chicken and vegetables with brown rice and sauce on the side, or moo shu chicken with plum sauce on the side,” Retelny said.
Killeen’s order “depends on how many people are at the table,” she said. But she added that her family typically gets pan-fried pork dumplings, spareribs, stir-fried Chinese vegetables like choy sum, mapo tofu, black bean clams, salt-and-pepper shrimp, beef chow fun and Singapore noodles.
While many still villainize MSG, which is commonly used in Chinese food, recent years have seen significant pushback against this impulse. Some people report short-term reactions like flushing, sweating and headaches after consuming the flavor enhancer, but researchers question the supposed link to MSG.
Valdez pointed to one major reason behind some people’s fear: “It’s racist,” she said, directing curious readers to a 2021 journal article titled “MSG Is A-OK: Exploring the Xenophobic History of and Best Practices for Consuming Monosodium Glutamate.”
“The science is pretty clear,” Killeen said. “Research fails to support the link between MSG and the side effects reported as ‘Chinese restaurant syndrome.’”
“The reason why the MSG controversy persists is solely because of xenophobia,” Lin said, “and a society that would rather blame and pinpoint a marginalized group for its problems or ailments, rather than look at updated facts.”
Chou agreed. “Nutrition information is shared through a Western lens, which often demonizes cultural foods,” she said.
“MSG is not demonized as an ingredient when used in common ‘American’ foods, but when you pair it with Chinese food, it becomes a dirty additive. It’s easy to demonize a people and culture when these narratives are associated. When we focus on just the ingredient and take out the racism, it’s a flavor enhancer that provides umami that many brands and companies use to build flavor.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.
Why We Need To Address Mental Health If We Want To Fight Anti-Asian Hate
Grace Young: Most People Have No Idea How Much Chinatowns Are Hurting
Justin Lee Is Using Food To Redefine What It Means To Be Asian American
"The warmth of the spices and the sweetness of the topping should almost give the fruit what it didn’t know it was missing!" says the Alex vs America star
Routinely eating breakfast while on the go can quickly derail your weight loss efforts. Options available at most coffee shops and fast-food restaurants are typically high in carbs, fat, and sugar. However, if you make a stop at Starbucks, there are plenty of healthy breakfast options you can order to keep you on track with your weight loss goals. Best of all, you can plan your breakfast order ahead of time by checking out their nutrition facts."The great thing about chain restaurants, fast-food
Wendy's has quietly become the number two hamburger chain in the United States. What Wendy's has accomplished is impressive and it reached these heights with a simple formula. Wendy's built its menu around its "fresh, never frozen" hamburger patties.
Last week, some fans of McDonald's hash browns and hotcakes may have inadvertently help spread some fake news — despite a viral tweet saying otherwise (which has since been deleted), the fast-food chain has no plans to bring back all-day breakfast this fall. A restaurant representative confirmed that the menu announcing that all-day breakfast would be served from Oct. 5 was from 2015, when the chain first launched its all-day breakfast menu. In the following seven years, McDonald's breakfast availability has gone through endless tweaks and changes.
Autumn is just around the corner, and we are so excited for all the pumpkin-themed things. But in between pumpkin carving and baking with pumpkins, Aldi has the most delicious treat you have to try — which will take your Pumpkin Spice Latte (or regular coffee) to the next level. Aldi is selling fall-inspired whipped […]
Chicken soup is a warm, cozy dish that's perfect for chilly days, and we have all the recipes you'll need. These soups can be made with rotisserie chicken, so they're easy to pull together on any weeknight. You can also sub in shredded or chopped cooked chicken if you have leftovers on hand.
Crock-Pot chili recipes are delicious, hearty, economical and perfect for sweater season. The best part? These 50 recipes are so simple to make and will definitely feed a crowd! Just put all of the ingredients in your Crock Pot in the morning and let it slow cook for 4-6 hours on the LOW setting or …
Only the rarest whiskies go into this luxury blended scotch.
This lemon pound cake is the perfect dessert for your sweet tooth and lemon craving! The post If you love lemon then this is the perfect cake for you appeared first on In The Know.
This #TastyTuesday we're bringing you gooey, cheesy and tasty enchiladas the entire familia will love.
What you need to know about the filling, crust, chilling, and more.
Angela Hartnett, a Michelin-starred chef and Gordon Ramsay protegee, cracked the roast chicken code in her new cookbook "The Weekend Cook."
Whether they're big or super simple, we wanna hear 'em all!View Entire Post ›
From a "game-changer" egg cooker to a meat thermometer with 108,000 reviews, these Amazon gadgets are about to elevate your kitchen.
SNAP gives eligible low-income households extra food-purchasing assistance to supplement food budgets. Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered at the state level, SNAP benefits…
When you get home after a huge grocery haul and put everything away, the last thing you have the energy for is cooking. Yet, you’re usually starving which brings out the temptation to order a mea so you don’t have to cook. Then, you feel guilty for ordering food when there’s a fridge full of newly purchased food meant to steer you away from ordering out. It becomes a never-ending cycle of completing your to-do list and feeling like you deserve a reward but at the same time not wanting to undo yo
To eat like an athlete or a fit celebrity, stock up on eggs, oats, and fruit to whip up delicious and nutritious breakfasts.
Including a pumpkin-spiced yogurt with 12 grams of protein per serving!
Make coffee the old-fashioned way and discover all the flavors you've been missing out on.
When it comes to parties and potlucks, you can never have too many salads or desserts. These easy recipes offer major flavor with minimal effort.
(Photo: Elena Yeryomenko / 500px via Getty Images)