Calories in Chinese Food

Chinese food is delicious and most people regard Chinese food as a healthy alternative to most other restaurant and take-away options. Most Chinese dishes are full of vegetables, are quickly cooked and many dishes are stir-fried rather than deep-fried. But you can easily be deceived and you need to learn how to avoid the menu choices that are laden with fat and calories. It partially depends on how the food is cooked in the restaurant, the ingredients used and the type of dish.

There are many low calorie choices if you know what to look for. On the other hand there are many high calorie choices you should avoid. I have reviewed the information and I provide a guide and tips for identifying the low calorie options. I also provide tables (below) which list various Chinese food dishes showing the number of calories, as well as fat and salt content.

The wide array of vegetables in most Chinese meals would appear to be healthy, but most are fried in oil and it depends on how much is used. Some vegetables such as eggplants, beans, snow peas can really soak up the oil. Sometimes various oil-laden sauces are added to the dishes. Fried rice is a favourite can be a real shocker depending on its ingredients and how it is prepared. One large portion of fried rice may even contain more than 500 calories and when combined with deep fried dishes the total calorie count for the meal may be worse than for many fast food items such as burgers and fries! However there are many low fat and low calorie dishes available if you know what to look for.

Appetizers

Spring rolls have less calories than egg rolls because they have thinner wrappers ( that soak up fat) and are smaller. Spring rolls are mostly are filled with rice and vegetables. The average spring roll amounts to about 125 calories and about 5g of fat. Steamed appetizers, such as wontons are a much healthier choice.

Most Chinese soups have few calories. One serving of hot and sour, wonton, or egg drop soup has about 95 calories and about 3g of fat. However, the fried noodles that often come with these soups should be avoided and watch out for pork slices that can be very fatty.

Entrées

Sweet and sour chicken or pork are a poor choice. Deep fried dishes such as chicken or crispy beef, and deep fried seafoods should be avoided. Also beware of large portion sizes mean a low-calorie entrée becomes a calorie-laden feast. Try dishes such as shrimp with lobster sauce which only contains about 390 calories. A meal with a tiny offering of meat or seafood meat and stir-fried vegetables is a good. Beef with Broccoli and mixed vegetables only contains about 225 calories and 6g of fat. Broccoli chicken contains 175 calories and just 9g fat. Tofu-based entrées can be a real trap because they sound healthy but are usually deep fried. Make sure you ask for the tofu to be stir-fried, not deep fried. A tofu entrée with vegetables contains about 215 calories and 6g of fat.

Vegetables

Many restaurants offer vegetable side dishes that can be either steamed or stir-fried. Choose the steamed option, which provides, on average, 200 calories and 1.5g fat. The stir-fried option provides 370 calories and 7g fat.

General Advice

In general, Cantonese style Chinese food is lower in calories and consists of lightly cooked meat and vegetable dishes. Stir-fried dishes with fish, other seafood or chicken and lots of vegetables are usually the best choices calorie-wise.

Calories In Chinese Food (per serve)

  • Hot & Sour soup – 90 calories
  • Spring Rolls - 95 calories for each roll
  • Crispy chicken noodles – 590 calories
  • Stir fried vegetables – more than 490 calories
  • Chicken and black bean sauce – about 700 calories
  • Deep fried tofu with vegetables – about 750 calories
  • Sweet & sour pork – 1200 calories
  • Mixed fried rice – little over 950 calories
  • Fried prawns with garlic sauce – 800 calories
  • Every cup of fried noodles is equivalent to a (300-calorie) bag of potato fries.
  • Eggplant can really soaks up the oil, which boosts the calories and saturated fat.
  • Shrimp with Lobster Sauce is a good choice with only about 400 calories and 3g of fat.

Some High Calorie Dishes to Avoid

  • Lemon Chicken contains a whopping 1,400 calories which is equivalent to the worst fast food meal The batter on the chicken soaks up the fat when deep fried.
  • Crispy Orange Beef and deep fried Chilli Beef both have about 1,500 calories per serve.
  • Sweet and Sour Pork has 1,300 Calories due to the batter covering the pork and the added sugar
  • Combination (House) Fried Rice has a huge number of calories (1500) and is laden with fat. This is equivalent to about 70% of a day’s calorie allowance in 4 to 5 cups of rice.
  • Combination (House) Chow Mein (with soft noodles) has 1,200 per serve.

Suggestions for Minimizing the Number of Calories in your Chinese Meal

  • Always start with a low calorie soup dish. Its only about 100 calories and will fill you up.
  • Always stick to steamed rice.
  • Stay away from deep fried and batter fried food items if you can.
  • Watch you portion size and avoid second helpings.

Some other Good and Bad Choices are shown below:

Low Calorie Foods
High Calorie Foods
Hot and sour soup
Barbecued Pork
Wonton soup
Egg rolls
Steamed dumplings (vegetable, chicken or seafood)
Fried dumplings
Stir-fried or steamed chicken and vegetables
Fried wontons
Stir-fried or steamed beef and vegetables
Fried rice
Stir-fried or steamed seafood and vegetables
Egg fu yung
Stir-fried or steamed tofu and vegetables
Cold noodles with sesame sauce
Steamed whole fish
Moo-shu pork
Moo-shu vegetables (with pankcake roll-ups)
Sweet and sour pork
Steamed brown or white rice
Fried chicken and seafood dishes
Fortune cookies
Seafood with lobster sauce
Lychee nuts
Spare ribs
Orange and pineapple slices
 

Calories and Fat Content of Chinese Dishes

Food (serving or 1 Cup)
Cal
Fat(g)
Sodium (mg)
Almond Chicken
281
14.7
 
Barbecued Pork
543
34.5
 
BBQ Spare Ribs (4)
600
14
900
Beef Chow Mein
320
19.5
 
Beef Teriyaki
150
10
 
Beef with Broccoli
900
9
3,200
Braised Beef with Vegetables
250
12
 
Broccoli In Garlic Sauce
150
6
 
Chicken & Corn Soup
160
4
 
Chicken and Broccoli
300
14
 
Chicken Balls With Sweet and Sour Sauce
162
1
 
Chicken BallServing Size
45
6.3
 
Chicken Chow Foon
1,200
7
3,400
Chicken Chow Mein
700
10
2,500
Chicken Congee
181
6
 
Chicken Curry
476
0
 
Chicken Egg Foo Yung
220
12
 
Chicken Fingers
58
3
 
Chicken Noodle Soup
245
4.3
 
Chicken with Black Bean Sauce
700
5
3,800
Chinese Sesame Chicken
415
17
 
Chinese Spring Roll (1)
115
0
 
Combination Chow Mein
1,200
9
3,600
Combination Fried Rice
1,500
10
2,700
Combination Lo Mein
1,100
7
3,500
Crab Rangoon
67
4.7
 
Crab Soup
160
4
 
Crispy Skin Chicken
408
22.9
 
Dim Sims, fried
100
4
 
Dim Sum
170
12
 
Egg Drop Soup
100
0
900
Egg Roll (1)
200
2
400
Eggplant in Garlic Sauce
1,000
13
2,000
Fish Steamed with Black Bean Sauce
46
2
 
Fried Rice
363
14
 
Fried Rice Broccoli Beef
109
5
 
Fried Tofu (Bean Curd)
77
5.7
 
General Tso's Chicken
310
5
 
General Tso's Tofu
534
17.2
 
Ha Gao, Money Bag, Dim Sum
44
1
 
Hot & Sour Soup
100
1
1,100
Kung Pao Chicken
432
30
 
Kung Pao Shrimp
345
19.9
 
Lemon Chicken
1,400
13
700
Ma Po (Hunan) Tofu
600
4
2,300
Moo Goo Gai Pan
600
4
1,800
Mu Shu Pork
1,000
13
2,600
Orange (Crispy) Beef
1,500
11
3,100
Pan Fried Tofu
251
20
 
Peking Duck
650
55
 
Pork Chop Suey
271
19.8
 
Pork Dumplings (6 steamed)
500
6
900
Pork with Fried Rice
335
13
 
Prawn Crackers, large
45
2
 
Roast Pork Egg Roll
113
6.2
 
Roasted Duck With Skin
36
2
 
Roasted Pork Belly
31
3
 
Seafood Delight
425
22
 
Shark's Fin Soup
220
10
 
Shrimp and Broccoli
498
11
 
Shrimp Lo Mein
512
20.8
 
Shrimp with Garlic Sauce
700
4
3,000
Shrimp with Lobster Sauce
400
3
2,300
Shrimp With Mixed Vegetables
159
6.9
 
Spring Roll Fried (1)
100
1
300
Steamed Chicken and Vegetables
120
2
 
Steamed Egg With Minced Pork
177
13
 
Steamed White Rice
187
0.3
 
Stir Fried Vegetables With Rice Vermicelli
450
15
 
Stir-Fried Greens
900
11
2,200
Stir-Fried Mixed Vegetables
500
2
2,200
Stir-Fried Udon Noodle With Diced Chicken
574.5
7.6
 
Sweet & Sour Pork
1,300
13
800
Sweet & Sour Prawn
257
8.8
 
Szechuan String Beans
600
6
2,700
Tang Su Yu
308
20
 
Terriyaki, Chicken
6.1
17.5
 
Tofu & Mixed Vegetables
900
9
2,200
Tso's Chicken
1,300
11
3,200
Vegetable Dumplings (6 steamed)
400
3
1,100
Vegetable Lo Mein
30
0
 
Wantons, Medium, fried
110
8
 
Wonton Soup
100
1
800

© 2011 Dr. John Anderson

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Comments 14 comments

thranax profile image

thranax 5 years ago from Rep Boston MA

Yup, I assume I eat on average 2200-3200 calories of Chinese food every time I eat Chinese food.

Thanks for sharing,

~thranax~


kerlynb profile image

kerlynb 5 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^

Thanks for your informative hub! I love Chinese foods and many of my country's dishes were influenced by Chinese cuisine. Hmm, some Chinese foods are sinful, but heavenly :D Guess I have to eat in moderation :)


PiaC profile image

PiaC 5 years ago from Oakland, CA

WOW!! This is so well researched. I had no idea that egg drop soup and fried rice had such high calories! i always order these two dishes :( Guess I'll have to make changes.


brennawelker profile image

brennawelker 5 years ago

Wonderful hub and informative!Thanks for sharing.


peti profile image

peti 5 years ago

Wow! There is so many surprising facts that I would not have guessed! Thank you for sharing!


eileen 4 years ago

why does chicken chow mein vary so much, 700 calories and 89 calories?


janderson99 profile image

janderson99 4 years ago from Australia on Planet Water Author

It depends on the amount of oil used in the cooking that can soak into the noodles.


Cathie 4 years ago

Ask your tofu to be deep fried? Does it understand then?


RicoShae profile image

RicoShae 4 years ago from Ballwin, mo

Wow, I figured it would be a lot.


TucsonFoodie 3 years ago

Great info...love all the food hubs but confused how you have Egg drop soup as HIGH calorie when you also have it listed as 100 calories as does Wonton soup which you say has low calories.


janderson99 profile image

janderson99 3 years ago from Australia on Planet Water Author

Thanks for that, I have amended the table.

Cheers,


Smireles profile image

Smireles 3 years ago from Texas

Found the hub helpful and informative. Unfortunately I am diabetic and looking for carb count. Good read.


Elias Zanetti profile image

Elias Zanetti 3 years ago from Athens, Greece

I've been wondering lately about the amount of calories contained in Chinese food and the article really comes in handy! Thanks for sharing! Voted up and useful!


iguidenetwork profile image

iguidenetwork 3 years ago from Austin, TX

"avoid second helpings"... yes, that's the worst thing I do whenever I eat. Especially when the foods are delicious!

Very informative and well-researched hub.

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    Dr. John Anderson (janderson99)753 Followers
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    John uses research skills in Biochemistry & Physiology (PhD) to develop authoritative reviews of calories in foods, calorie counting, diets



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