Is Chinese Food Fattening

Is Chinese Food Fattening?

At some point, most of us have asked ourselves is Chinese food fattening? This is usually a question that pops into one’s mind as they are browsing the menu of their favorite Chinese restaurant or surveying the wide selection of dishes at the local Chinese buffet. There is such a variety of dishes to choose from at the standard Chinese restaurant, and due to the fact that most of these meals contain vegetables, it can sometimes be confusing as to whether this food is good or bad for us.


So… Is Chinese food fattening or not?

Yes and No—Depending on How it is Prepared

In truth, it isn’t really fair to say yes all Chinese food is fattening or no, it is not. The main factor is that the way we western countries eat Chinese food is really different from traditional Chinese cooking. General Tso’s, sweet and sour pork, and banana fritters with syrup really are not considered to be traditional Chinese meals. In the traditional Chinese kitchen, one is more likely to find steamed, stewed, boiled, or baked foods rather than grease-laden fried foods. Noodles and rice are staple foods in this culture and frankly, they are both very starchy foods. This is similar to how Americans use the potato. Fresh vegetables and seafood or lean meats are also frequently found in meals. This sounds pretty healthy for the most part, right? The idea of balancing out starchy staple foods with good sources of protein and vitamins is done in nearly all cultures, but unfortunately this is not the motto of restaurant-style Chinese food.

The Secret’s in the Sauce…and the Sauce is Fattening!

Many of the sauces that Chinese food is so well known for contain a great deal of sugar and a substance called monosodium glutamate, or MSG for short. It is a very salty substance that is used to bring out the flavor of other ingredients, although it can be bad for those of us who need to watch our salt intake or who eat a lot of Chinese food. MSG is a main ingredient in soy sauce as well as plenty of meat and vegetable, noodle, and rice dishes. Unfortunately, even if one is lucky enough to come across a Chinese restaurant that doesn’t use MSG in their food, the sauces in most dishes will still be chock full of sugar and salt.

To Fry or Not to Fry

It is fair to say that most dishes found on the Chinese menu will be fried. Noodles, rice, meat—you name it! All of it can be fried in a pan/wok or deep fat fryer, which also happens to be the quickest ways to prepare the food and get it out to the customers. Noodles and rice are often prepared in a wok with plenty of oil, and because the oil is most likely not going to be a healthier oil such as olive oil, this adds extra fat to an already starchy dish. Yes, these are often tossed together with veggies, so some points can be given there, however noodles and rice usually have soy sauce, oyster sauce, or a similar sweet/salty liquid to give it plenty of flavor. They definitely taste yummy, but are not the best foods for someone who wants/needs to watch their weight.

Battered chicken and pork, such as one would have with sweet and sour sauce, is definitely on the list of higher calorie meals because the flour, sugar, and excess grease used to fry the meat alone makes it less healthy. Then once the syrupy sauce is added there is very little healthiness left in such a dish.

Most Chinese Food is Fattening, but Not All of It

Don’t let this discourage you from treating yourself to a nice Chinese meal once in a while. Instead of jumping toward the saucy, fried foods, try looking for the healthier alternatives. Most places will offer both fried rice and boiled rice with vegetables. Obviously the boiled rice, though a bit more bland in flavor, will be a much healthier alternative to its fried counterpart. Also see whether the restaurant does steamed vegetables sans sauce or steamed fish. They are prepared with little or no oil and because they are steamed they retain much of their original nutrients. As long as you steer clear of adding soy sauce and other liquids to your plate, you should feel satisfied knowing that you can enjoy a nice Chinese meal without the nagging question: is Chinese food fattening?