From My Wok to Yours - Taking the Mystery Out of Everyday Dining and Meals!!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Chinese Fitness Foods

Michelle, one of my lifelong friends, is the owner of TeaMe Fitness and works as the fitness trainer with a goal of creating a fit body, healthy mind and lifestyle by using proven training methods.  The results have been remarkable for many of the people willing to subject themselves to the rigors of a good hard work out.
One of the primary reasons why I wanted to mention Michelle’s work is because she bases much of her training on the foundations of proper nutrition.  One could work out for HOURS but if their post work out meal is a Big Mac and Large Fries (especially the extra large Diet Coke) then they are not doing themselves much good.
I often surprise a lot of people by suggesting that Chinese food is a healthy option for a family. Some people will write Chinese food off as fatty and full of MSG (Mono Sodium Glutamate). Saturated fats and excess salts are considered bad for the heart and so it follows that Chinese food is unhealthy, right?

Wrong. Many Chinese dishes, corrupted to become popular to western palates, are breaded, fried, over-sauced and thus fit this bill. (I have written about this often…) Authentic Chinese food is not fatty, and MSG, if used at all, is used sparingly. In fact Chinese food has a long history of being directed towards promoting health; a much longer one than any local 'fad' in the west.

Food plays a central role in Chinese culture. Cooking healthy food for the family is a lifelong profession for most women. Children are brought up with some knowledge of the health properties of their food and dietary restrictions are commonly understood and observed. Eating healthily is almost an obsession and forms an unspoken bond between family members.

Traditionally, foods are classified in 4 groups:

Grains are for sustaining

vegetables for filling

fruits for supporting

meats for enhancing

Using modern terminology we can identify Grains as equivalent to carbohydrates, vegetables as roughage, fruits as vitamins and minerals and meats as protein.

A balance of 40:40:10:10 is considered ideal, with perhaps some variation in the balance between vegetables and meats.

Note that dairy products do not feature here. Most Chinese do not eat any dairy foods after childhood and, in fact, become intolerant to them as young adults.

Bearing just this little bit of knowledge in mind it is possible to order better and more healthy Chinese food. By definition that will also be more authentic Chinese food.

Steamed rice, preferably brown, is the staple of choice at any Chinese meal and if cooked properly should be tasty. Forget the various forms of fried rice and try it next time.

Avoid dishes in which meats have been coated and deep fried. The batter soaks up fat whereas fat used to stir fry meat and vegetables forms only a thin film. A little bit of fat is fine (and indeed necessary) but keep it reasonable.

Avoid dishes with sauces. These are laden with sugar and are often the culprits if excess MSG is being used.

Finally, watch what you are drinking. Boiled water and tea are traditional, though usually only before and after a meal not during the actual eating.
I look forward to collaborating with Michelle on some of her healthy eating efforts.
Take a look at the nutritional information provided for some of the more popular dishes.  It will definitely make you think twice before ordering everything off the menu.
Until then, Eat Well, Friends…

Appetizers & Soups


Egg Roll (1)
Calories: 200 Sat Fat: 2 grams Sodium: 400 mg
Spring Roll (1)
Calories: 100 Sat Fat: 1 gram Sodium: 300 mg
A thinner wrapper and smaller size give spring rolls fewer calories than egg rolls.
BBQ Spare Ribs (4)
Calories: 600 Sat Fat: 14 grams Sodium: 900 mg
An order is equal to two pork chops. Some appetizer.
Vegetable Dumplings (6 steamed)
Calories: 400 Sat Fat: 3 grams Sodium: 1,100 mg
Pork Dumplings (6 steamed)
Calories: 500 Sat Fat: 6 grams Sodium: 900 mg
Add just 10 calories per dumpling if you get them pan-fried. (All bets are off for calories in the deep-fried wonton appetizer.) Dipping sauce means even more sodium.
Egg Drop Soup
Calories: 100 Sat Fat: 0 grams Sodium: 900 mg
Hot & Sour Soup
Calories: 100 Sat Fat: 1 gram Sodium: 1,100 mg
Wonton Soup
Calories: 100 Sat Fat: 1 gram Sodium: 800 mg
Soups are bad for your blood pressure (but not your waistline). Think of every ½ cup of fried noodles as a small (150-calorie) bag of potato chips.
Stir-Fried Greens
Calories: 900 Sat Fat: 11 grams Sodium: 2,200 mg
Yikes! Spinach and other greens are packed with vitamins, but (thanks to the added oil and salt) your waist and blood pressure pay a price for them.
Eggplant in Garlic Sauce
Calories: 1,000 Sat Fat: 13 grams Sodium: 2,000 mg
Eggplant isn’t a vitamin-rich superstar, but it is a vegetable. It also really soaks up the oil, which boosts the calories and saturated fat.
Tofu & Mixed Vegetables (Homestyle Tofu)
Calories: 900 Sat Fat: 9 grams Sodium: 2,200 mg
Blame the deep-fried tofu (bean curd). Ask them to stir-fry it instead.
Szechuan String Beans
Calories: 600 Sat Fat: 6 grams Sodium: 2,700 mg
String beans in chili-pepper-garlic sauce don't sop up as much oil as spinach or eggplant, but the sodium is still ridiculous.
Stir-Fried Mixed Vegetables (Buddha's Delight)
Calories: 500 Sat Fat: 2 grams Sodium: 2,200 mg
A veggie lode. Mix it with a vegetable-poor dish to create two (or three) healthier meals.
Ma Po (Hunan) Tofu
Calories: 600 Sat Fat: 4 grams Sodium: 2,300 mg
A pound of soft tofu (bean curd) with scallions isn’t too bad if—like the samples we analyzed— it comes without the pork that some restaurants add.
Meat & Seafood
Chicken with Black Bean Sauce
Calories: 700 Sat Fat: 5 grams Sodium: 3,800 mg
Expect ½ to ¾ pound of sliced stir-fried chicken with chunks of green pepper and onion. If only it weren’t so high in sodium.
General Tso's Chicken
Calories: 1,300 Sat Fat: 11 grams Sodium: 3,200 mg
The name may sound exotic, but it’s essentially fried chicken with a smattering of vegetables.
Lemon Chicken
Calories: 1,400 Sat Fat: 13 grams Sodium: 700 mg
It’s like eating three McDonald’s McChicken sandwiches plus a 32-oz. Coke. The culprit? The deep-fried breading.
Kung Pao Chicken
Calories: 1,400 Sat Fat: 13 grams Sodium: 2,600 mg
The calories may be high (thanks to nuts). But at least you’re getting stir-fried (not battered and deep-fried) chicken and veggies.
Moo Goo Gai Pan
Calories: 600 Sat Fat: 4 grams Sodium: 1,800 mg
Stir-fried vegetables and chicken keep the calories and saturated fat (but not the sodium) relatively low.
Chicken Chow Mein (with crispy noodles)
Calories: 700 Sat Fat: 10 grams Sodium: 2,500 mg
Chow Mein varies. Our numbers are for vegetables and chicken served with rice (not soft noodles). Add 120 calories if you eat the thin, crispy fried noodles that come on the side.
Mu Shu Pork (without the pancakes)
Calories: 1,000 Sat Fat: 13 grams Sodium: 2,600 mg
Two-thirds of the dish is veggies. Add roughly 90 calories for each 8-inch pancake or 60 calories for each 6-inch pancake. Mu Shu Chicken cuts about 200 calories and 5 grams of sat fat.
Orange (Crispy) Beef
Calories: 1,500
Sat Fat:
11 grams Sodium: 3,100 mg
Orange (or Crispy) Beef has roughly ¾ pound of flour-coated, deep-fried meat that isn’t outweighed by the garnish of vegetables. Shrimp or chicken might trim the sat fat, but you’ll still be downing more than 1,000 calories and two days’ sodium.
Beef with Broccoli
Calories: 900 Sat Fat: 9 grams Sodium: 3,200 mg
Although more than half the dish is broccoli, the ½ pound of beef still packs half a day’s worth of saturated fat.
Sweet & Sour Pork
Calories: 1,300 Sat Fat: 13 grams Sodium: 800 mg
More sugar means less salt. Sweet & Sour Chicken may be slightly lower in calories and saturated fat. But either way, you’re eating more oil-soaked breading than meat.
Shrimp with Garlic Sauce
Calories: 700 Sat Fat: 4 grams Sodium: 3,000 mg
Shrimp stir-fried with veggies. The calories and saturated fat—but not the sodium—stay on the lowish side.
Shrimp with Lobster Sauce
Calories: 400 Sat Fat: 3 grams Sodium: 2,300 mg
Shrimp in wine sauce with a sprinkling of mushrooms, egg, and scallions isn’t quite as good as shrimp with snap peas, broccoli, or other veggies. But at least it won’t pad your midsection like battered, deep-fried dishes will.
Szechuan Shrimp
Calories: 700 Sat Fat: 2 grams Sodium: 2,500 mg
Shrimp stir-fried with vegetables in chili pepper-garlic sauce. It’s likely to be almost half vegetables, so the calories (though not the sodium) stay under control. If it’s breaded and deep-fried or contains nuts, the calories climb.


Rice & Noodles


Chicken Chow Foon
Calories: 1,200 Sat Fat: 7 grams Sodium: 3,400 mg
Like the thinner lo mein noodles, these soft, wide, rice noodles are a blow to your belly and blood pressure, and the veggies are still largely AWOL.
Combination (House) Fried Rice
Calories: 1,500 Sat Fat: 10 grams Sodium: 2,700 mg
Why blow three-quarters of a day’s calories on 4 or 5 cups of salted white rice, oil, and meat sprinkled with vegetable bits?
A single version (vegetable, shrimp, chicken, beef, or pork) still has at least 1,000 calories.
Combination (House) Lo Mein
Calories: 1,100 Sat Fat: 7 grams Sodium: 3,500 mg
Beef, chicken, pork, shrimp, vegetables, and oily noodles. Budget fewer calories for the solo chicken, shrimp, or vegetable version, but it’s still a load of greasy refined carbs.
Combination (House) Chow Mein (with soft noodles)
Calories: 1,200 Sat Fat: 9 grams Sodium: 3,600 mg
This version of chow mein features soft egg noodles stir-fried with beef, pork, chicken, shrimp, and a smattering of vegetables. It looks like lo mein on the plate...and on your hips and arteries. You can lose a few hundred calories by switching to a single version (chicken, shrimp, or vegetable).

Daily Limits (for a 2,000-calorie diet): Saturated Fat: 20 grams. Sodium: 1,500 milligrams.


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