By Cynthia Ramnarace
When we're too busy (or tired) to make dinner, Chinese food is the go-to takeout food, but do know which choices are the healthiest.
Egg Roll vs. Fried Wonton
Can you think about Chinese takeout food without visualizing an egg roll? But those deep-fried pork wontons are just as crispy and delicious. Which is worse?
While the egg roll is mostly filled with vegetables, it is much larger and therefore has more surface area to fry. That explains why it contains four times as many calories as one fried wonton -- 220 versus 55. "If you want to nibble on something fried, you're better off nibbling on a fried wonton," says Penelope Klatell , Ph.D., certified health, life and wellness coach from New Canaan , Conn. If you can't stop at just one wonton, even two or three will yield fewer calories than an entire egg roll. Eat more than four and you might as well just have the egg roll.
Egg Drop Soup vs. Sweet and Sour Soup
With the egg drop soup, you get cholesterol and saturated fat from the eggs in high-sodium chicken broth. The hot and sour soup has tofu and vegetables, but is loaded with sodium-rich soy sauce. Which is worse?
Koki Iino/Getty Images; Melanie Acevedo/FoodPix/Getty ImagesAnswer: Both
At about 100 calories per cup, "calorically, they're okay," says Klatell. "But the sodium stinks." Both come in at around 1,000 milligrams of sodium in one cup of soup, nearly half of the recommended allowance of sodium a day. If you do go for soup, don't add fried noodles. One package has 180 calories, 8 grams of fat and 420 milligrams of sodium.
Scallion Pancakes vs. Sesame Noodles
These savory pancakes are pan-fried in oil yet the noodles are coated with high-sodium soy sauce. So which is worse?
A scallion pancake is about 100 calories. A full serving of sesame noodles comes in at more than 200 calories. And then there's the sodium: One pancake has about 30 milligrams, compared to more than 400 milligrams in a helping of sesame noodles. (The pasta is a sponge for that high-sodium soy sauce). If you've got to have your noodles, ask that they be cooked in low-sodium soy sauce, says Klatell.
Crab Rangoon vs. Shrimp Toast
The crab rangoon is stuffed with cream cheese and crab, while the shrimp toast gets its irresistible crispness from deep frying. Which is worse?
Answer: Shrimp Toast"Just half a slice of shrimp toast has 148 calories and 9 grams of fat. That's little more than a nibble, and that's the problem," says Klatell. And if you nibble on something else as well, you'll keep boosting your caloric intake before your main course even arrives. If you hold yourself to one crab Rangoon , you'll consume half the fat and calories.
Pork Buns vs. Pork Dumplings
Should you choose barbecued pork baked inside a roll or steamed pork dumpling? Which is worse?
Answer: Pork Dumplings If the pork bun is steamed, it will yield less than 200 calories. A full six-dumpling serving of steamed pork dumplings, however, yields 500 calories according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Even if you split the dumplings with a friend, you'd still do better to order a pork bun -- it's a smaller serving of food with a lot fewer calories. And remember: Skip the thick sauces, like sweet and sour, which are loaded with sugar and calories.
Wonton Soup vs. Chicken Noodle Soup
Wonton soup is essentially a pork dumpling in chicken broth. Chicken noodle is exactly as it sounds -- noodles and some chicken. Which is worse?
Both average around 100-150 calories per cup, and both have more sodium than you want in any one dish. So order what you like, eat the good stuff but then leave the broth behind to save you from unnecessary blood pressure-boosting sodium.
Lemon Chicken vs. Beef and Broccoli
Chicken or beef -- which is healthier? The lemon chicken is breaded and deep fried, but the beef is known for its saturated fat. Both come with white rice. Which is worse?
Answer: Lemon Chicken
"Don't let this chicken dish fool you," says Constance Brown-Riggs, American Dietetic Association spokesperson and author of The African-American Guide to Living Well with Diabetes. "It has 500 more calories than the beef and broccoli and is very high in saturated fat." The high fat content comes from the way it's cooked: breaded and then deep fried. If this is your must-have dish, Riggs recommends pairing it with a side of steamed vegetables and only eating half the chicken. The beef and broccoli is also high in calories (1,100), but can be reduced by ordering the sauce on the side.
Chicken with Black Bean Sauce vs. Chicken Chow Fun
The black bean sauce is notoriously salty, but does that make it worse than the chow fun noodles that soak up soy sauce and oil? Which is worse?
Answer: Chicken Chow Fun
The sodium on both dishes is comparably horrible -- about 3,500 milligrams, but chicken with black bean sauce and one cup of white rice comes in at about 900 calories and 5 grams of saturated fat. The chicken chow fun is 1,200 calories and 7 grams of saturated fat per serving, says Riggs. To improve the black bean sauce dish, Riggs suggests you eat it with chopsticks (to eat less sauce) and forgo the rice, which not only adds calories but sops up that sauce.
Pepper Steak vs. Moo Goo Gai Pan
It's got a fancy name, but Moo Goo Gai Pan is a simple combination of chicken, vegetables and broth. Pepper steak combines steak, peppers and onions cooked in soy sauce and ginger. Which is worse?
Answer: Pepper Steak
"Moo Goo Gai Pan is one of the best choices you can make from the Chinese take-out menu," says Klatell. One cup has only 272 calories, 18 grams of fat and 305 mg of sodium. "Ask them to put in extra stir-fried vegetables and you're right in line with the new Food Plate," she adds. Beef, on the other hand, brings with it a lot of artery-clogging saturated fat. Considering that the chicken is stir fried, it's a healthier choice than steak.
Beef and Broccoli vs. Pork Fried Rice
Is the nutrient-packed broccoli enough to redeem the beef with its high saturated fat? Or does it lose the battle to rice stir fried with soy sauce and pork? Which is worse?
Answer: Pork Fried Rice
The broccoli, with its vitamin C, does save the day here. But the beef isn't all bad: It brings more protein, which will leave you fuller longer. "With pork fried rice, there's not a lot to it," Hartley says. "It's rice, oil and vegetables. The beef and broccoli has more nutrients and so is much healthier." Calorically, the beef and broccoli is also victor: The four or five cup serving of fried rice has about 1,000 calories, compared to the beef and broccoli with 900 calories, according to Center for Science in the Public Interest. Skip the white rice and you'll not only save calories and carbs, you'll also avoid calories from the sauce.
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