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Is Chinese Food Really Unhealthy?

April 30th, 2010 · 8 Comments ·


Having tasted different types of food, I will say Chinese food is still one of my favorites. In fact, it is also American’s number one option when it comes to eating out. Poultry, seafood, lots of vegetables and without cheese..looks healthy, but not really if you are not careful.

In a typical day, a healthy adult needs about:

  • 2000 – 3000 calories diet
  • 20 grams of saturated fat
  • 1500 – 2300 milligrams of sodium (salt)

Now, here are some of the nutrition facts of Chinese food served in restaurants:

    • 6 steamed pork dumplings – 500 calories, 6 g of saturated fat and 900 mg of sodium
    • 1 plate of Kung Pao chicken – 1,400 calories, 13 g of saturated fat and 1,800 mg of sodium. The calories are high because of the nuts. Fortunately, the chicken is stired fried and not deep fried.


  • 1 plate of Black Bean Sauce Chicken – 700 calories, 5 g of saturated fat and 3800 mg of sodium. The chicken is stired fried. But, the bean sauce is salty.
  • 1 plate of Stir-Fried Mixed Vegetables – 500 calories, 2 g of saturated fat and 2200 mg of sodium.
  • 1 plate of Ma Po Tofu – 600 calories, 4 g of saturated fat and 2300 mg of sodium. If pork is added in addition to the typical soft tofu (bean curd) and spring onion, the calories will be more.
  • 1 plate of Sweet and Sour Pork – 1300 calories, 13 g of saturated fat and 800 mg sodium. Less salt, but more sugar in this dish.
  • 1 plate of Sze Chuan Shrimp – 700 calories, 2 g of saturated fat, 2500 mg of sodium.
  • 1 plate of Chicken Chow Fun – 1200 calories, 7 g saturated fat, 3400 mg sodium
  • 1 plate of Fried Rice – 1,500 calories, 10 g saturated fat, 2700 mg sodium. Yes, fried rice is actually a fried version of salted fried rice, lots of oil and meat sprinkled with vegetables and shrimp.


  • 1 plate of Lo Mein – 1,100 calories, 7 g saturated fat, 3500 mg sodium.
  • 1 plate of Chow Mein – 1,200 calories, 9 g saturated fat, 3600 mg sodium. Egg noodles are stired fried with beef, prk, chicken, shrimp and some vegetables.

From the list:

  • You have probably noticed that fried rice actually provide you about three quarters a day’s need of calories.
  • Chinese restaurant food can be very salty and it gives high calories because of high amount of oil used.

The above dishes are served in restaurant or the typical Chinese takeaway order (tapao). Home cooked Chinese food is healthier with less oil and sodium.

However, for those who eat out in Chinese restaurant, here are some tips:

  1. Instead of deep friend, choose stirred fried Chinese food.
  2. Chinese invent chopsticks for a good reason.If you use spoon, you may scoop up too much sauce on the plate and end up with your rice. I feel guilty of doing soaking my rice with sauce.


  3. I have seen friends adding more salt into their Chinese food. Do not add more salt. Most Chinese food is already salty enough.
  4. Order vegetables. Do not just eat meat and rice. Ask for broccolis, spinach, peas and other veggies. Chinese always have creative ways in cooking these veges. If you are really health conscious, go for steamed version.
  5. Do not just eat rice. One bowl of white rice gives you about 200 calories whereas brown rice is slightly less. So, instead of adding another bowl of rice (which is very common among Chinese men), eat more veggies.  Check out my the other article on “Is Rice Fattening?

Chinese food is not necessary unhealthy. It depends how are they being prepared. In fact, in developed countries like Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan, people get fat from eating fast food like McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Burger King, and so much from their local noodles and fried rice.




Category: Nutrition

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8 responses so far ↓
  • khengsiong // Apr 30, 2010 at 10:53 AM

    Chinese food is rather oily. Drinking tea may help.
    But Americans tend to order soda in Chinese American restaurants.

  • shine // Apr 30, 2010 at 5:23 PM

    It’s difficult to categorize what is healthy or unhealthy, in general, when comes to food, anything will do but in MODERATION. That’s how it works for me. Of course, coupled with an active lifestyle.

  • Zee Mathews // Apr 30, 2010 at 6:43 PM

    Chinese food is my favorite! Thank you very much for taking the time to write this great content. I will try to follow your tips.

  • Lewis Lew // Apr 30, 2010 at 11:26 PM

    Yea, I agreed with khengsiong. Elders believed after a meal, drinking hot chinese tea or green tea will eventually neutralize or kind of like wash out the oily elements in our body . But not sure how accurate is that. I do believe in that though.

  • zol // May 1, 2010 at 3:33 PM

    It is not about food but what you eat..
    Some of Chinese food have more calories and fat..
    The important is how much to take.. That’s my opinion

  • Yusuf Lokhandwala // May 8, 2010 at 1:18 PM

    Thai and chinese cuisine, my all time fav. Being an hotel mgmt student, I learnt that authentic chinese cuisine is more healthier than any other cuisine in the world. And to justify my statement, the food prepared all stired fried and pan fried. Hence, all the veggies are just cooked by skin just enuf to me the food digestable with least amount of nutrients loss. All the food is normally boiled and steamed food cooked up with a stock.

  • Bruce // May 19, 2010 at 5:10 PM

    Yea, I agreed with khengsiong. Elders believed after a meal, drinking hot chinese tea or green tea will eventually neutralize or kind of like wash out the oily elements in our body . But not sure how accurate is that. I do believe in that though.

  • James // May 20, 2010 at 10:22 PM

    I agree with Yusuf that authentic chinese cuisine is actually healthy – Chinese food is oily and salty is just a stereotype. Having lived in Europe for more than 3 years, chinese food served in western countries is in fact too oily and salty for my taste, and the way they cook it is just different – to the point I reluctant to call it chinese food!

    Of course, there are many ways in food preparation in any culture, but use your common sense to justify what you should or should not eat too much.

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