Chinese Restaurant Food Under Fire
Diners trying to cut calories may want to put down the chopsticks at their favorite Chinese restaurant, suggests an analysis by a consumer group.
WebMD News Archive
March 21, 2007 -- Diners trying to cut calories may want to put down the
chopsticks at their favorite Chinese restaurant, suggests an analysis by a
That's because though most Chinese restaurant food offers lots of
vegetables, it is often brimming with calories.
Americans on average get one-third of their calories outside of the house by
eating at restaurants, coffee shops, and street vendors, according The Center
for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).
The group says that Chinese restaurant food has many healthy traits. Few
restaurants offer as many vegetable choices as Chinese restaurants do, and the
food's fat content tends to be unsaturated, not the saturated form that wreaks
havoc on the cardiovascular system.
Still, Chinese entrées -- even the vegetarian ones -- frequently contain
upward of 1,000 calories. That's half of the calories recommended for the
average American adult.
"Dinner portions are still huge," says Michael Jacobson, MD, the
group's executive director. He also decries most Chinese restaurant dishes for
"artery-popping amounts of sodium."
The American Heart Association recommends that healthy adults consume no
more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. This is about 1 teaspoon of table
salt. Those with certain medical conditions should follow a stricter sodium
The group sent a selection of popular Chinese restaurant dishes for
laboratory analysis. Some of the worst offenders included:
- Orange Beef or Crispy Beef, with 1,500 calories and 3,100 milligrams of
- Lemon Chicken, with 1,400 calories and 700 milligrams of sodium.
- Sweet & Sour Pork, with 1,300 calories and 800 milligrams of
- Eggplant in garlic sauce, with 1,000 calories and 2,000 milligrams of
- Tofu and Mixed Vegetables, with 900 calories and 2,200 milligrams of
Bonnie Liebman, the group's director of nutrition, said diners can make their meals
healthier by requesting steaming instead of frying and asking for sauces on the
side. Most Chinese restaurants make a habit of responding to customer's special
requests, she says.
"If you know what you're doing you can really cut down on these
calories," she says. Liebman recommends Szechuan string beans as an
alternative to eggplant. While still high in sodium, string beans contain an
average of just 600 calories.