How do you maintain a healthy lifestyle but also enjoy a healthy social life? You’re probably wondering how the two are related, right? What do my eating habits have anything to do with my friends? Most social interactions and outings involve food. We meet up at the coffee shop, where we’re faced with deliciously sweet frappachinos with triple shots of caramel and double the whipped cream. Or we’ll get lunch at the healthy vegetarian restaurant where we end up drowning our not so tasty oil free, sodium free, fat free chicken with extra dressing that has more calories in it than a whole chicken. So how do we enjoy a meal with friends but also avoid making ‘making’ mistakes or indulging in really unhealthy food choices?
Let’s take Chinese restaurants for example. They are notorious for having items that are battered and deep-fried, loaded with salty, sugary sauces. Many dishes feature hefty amounts of oily noodles or fried rice along with fatty meats. For example, some of the unhealthiest Chinese dishes include crab rangoon, fried egg rolls, fried rice, lo mein, sweet and sour chicken and general tso’s chicken. However, if you’re wanting to maintain a healthier lifestyle, while also enjoy the occasional Chinese dish, there are some lighter options and suggestions for you to pick from.
1. Fill up with soup
a. Most Chinese restaurants have delicious hot soups that you can start off with, and that will help fill you up. A cup of either hot and sour soup or wonton soup is generally around 80-100 calories. Research has found that if you eat a broth based soup before a meal, you end up eating less food total. So maybe skip the fried crab rangoons and have a cup of soup as appetizer instead.
2. But I really want that egg roll….
a. So if you are really, really craving a deep fried egg roll, and there is absolutely no talking you out of it, choose a spring roll instead. They’re lighter, and can have up to 60 calories less than an egg roll. If possible, and/or available at the restaurant, try to order a fresh summer roll with a rice paper wrapper instead.
3. Steamed Vegetable Dumplings
a. Always a good, light option. One steamed veggie dumpling contains around 40 calories, so you can definitely enjoy two before your main meal.
1. The Buddhas Delight
a. This is generally one of the lowest-calorie dishes you can get at a Chinese restaurant. It’s loaded with steamed veggies, has protein-packed tofu, and no rice, leaving you full and satisfied with as little as 200 calories.
2. Chicken with Broccoli
a. If you’re not a fan of tofu, you can always try this dish. One cup of chicken and broccoli has a reasonable 280 calories. To lower the calorie count even further, don’t feel shy about requesting the sauce on the side and only using a little of it. The broccoli is always a bonus.
3. Moo Goo Gai Pan
a. This super-tasty dish is made from lightly-sautéed vegetables, button mushrooms, spices and sliced/cubed chicken. A whole cup of this fiber-filled dish has about 275 calories. Even if you were hungry and ate two cups, you would still be only consuming 550 calories!
4. Shrimp with Garlic Sauce
a. While this can be a very healthy dish, you have to consume with caution. Garlic sauces are generally very high in fat and calories, and a full order of this dish can oush up to 700 calories, if not more. Ask for the sauce on the side and use sparingly.
5. Always choose steamed shrimp or chicken instead of deep-fried or breaded. Both shrimp and chicken are lean sources of high-quality protein and can help you stay full for longer.
6. Try substituting rice (even brown rice) for extra vegetables!
1. Unfortunately, healthy desserts are not an option here. BUT – never skip your fortune cookie (for only 30 calories)!
With all that being said, portion control is a huge factor here. Notice I suggested you eat 1-2 cups of your meal; most restaurants will give you much more than 2 servings of food, so be careful with that. Make wise choices and always be intentional about what you’re consuming.
By Nathalie Basma