on May 02, 2019
Most Chinese food in America is, well, Americanized, which can present a big challenge for those following a keto lifestyle.
Traditional Chinese food is varied and nutritionally dense — with an emphasis on native Chinese vegetables, fresh seafood, and intricately prepared meats — while Americanized Chinese food has evolved into a separate concept entirely.
The widely-available and much-craved Americanized Chinese food can be a difficult target for those following a keto lifestyle. Here’s a short guide to help you get your Chinese take-out fix without falling out of ketosis.
Is Chinese food keto friendly? The answer depends on your definition of Chinese food.
Authentic Chinese cuisine uses traditional methods and ingredients native to China. You won’t find any crab rangoon or moo shu pork on these menus.
Traditional Chinese meals offer a balance of macronutrients in one delicious and nutritionally-dense package. Take mapo tofu for example: the dish combines pork and tofu in a spicy Sichuan pepper sauce. It’s low carb, packs a punch of heat, and balances meaty pork with creamy tofu, all in one humble dish.
There are many other keto-friendly dishes to be found in the world of traditional Chinese cooking. One style of cooking, Chinese Hot Pot, is said to have originated in Mongolia in the year 900 AD and is not making its way to the United States as the next big Chinese food trend.
Chinese Hot Pot is a keto-friendly option that allows diners to cook their meal to order right at their own table. Customers order meats, vegetables, and seafood to cook in a large pot full of broth situated in the middle of a table. With keto-friendly options like pork belly, lean cuts of meat, and green vegetables, it’s easy to hit the right balance without being afraid of falling out of ketosis.
Americanized Chinese restaurants are the restaurants that offer popular “chinese food” favorites like fried rice, stirfry, egg rolls, and various kinds of heavily-sauced proteins atop a bed of white rice.
Anytime you dine out on keto, you run the risk of accidentally eating something you shouldn’t. This is especially true for Americanized Chinese restaurants. Your go-to takeout may be sneaking sugar and carbs into food in ways you may not expect.
Dishes like kung pao chicken, beef and broccoli, and egg rolls have all strayed from their traditional Chinese roots — if they had any at all. These dishes have been altered to fit the American palate, which translates to being sweetened with sugar and thickened with cornstarch.
So, what’s a Chinese takeout-craving keto lover to do? If you’re going to order Chinese food from the typical neighborhood place, read on for tips on how to keep it keto.
It is possible to stay on track with keto while eating at your favorite Chinese restaurant. Avoid the following pitfalls, which make it all too easy to mess up your macros.
At all restaurants across the board, sauce is a synonym for sugar. Many of your favorite Chinese sauces, including duck sauce, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, and plum sauce all contain too many added sugars to be keto-safe.
Your best bet? Good old-fashioned soy sauce. Soy sauce only contains 0.8g of carbs per tablespoon, making it a good flavor enhancer for keto Chinese.
It’s always a good idea to ask for sauce served on the side. That way, you can check out the consistency, to see if it looks suspect before dousing your entire meal.
In addition to sugar, many of your favorite Chinese restaurant sauces use cornstarch as a thickener. At 6g of carbs per tablespoon, these sauces can quickly knock you out of ketosis.
Breaded meats are often the star of the stir-fry in many Chinese dishes. Coated in carbs and stir-fried with sauce, this category of keto-unfriendly foods contains popular dishes like sweet and sour pork, orange beef, General Tso's chicken, and more.
Keto dieters need not fear the Chinese restaurant, no matter if it’s authentic or Americanized. For the optimal keto dining experience at a Chinese restaurant, follow these tips to stay on track and in ketosis.
Chinese cooking includes a variety of ways to cook different foods, with one of the most popular being the simple method of steaming. Many Chinese restaurants offer this method of cooking as a healthy alternative to other popular dishes that are saucy and fried.
Often times meals that center around one cut or type of meat are the lowest carbohydrate options. Dishes like roast duck, spare ribs, and braised beef focus on quality meat cuts that don’t require the flavor-boost of a carb-dense sauce.
The best advice is to keep your proteins simple. Avoid sauces, avoid anything deep fried, and you’ll steer clear of unfriendly dishes.
Like many cuisines around the world, Chinese food has an inherent social element — it’s practically designed for sharing. One of the best tips for keto followers is to divvy up a mixed dish with your non-keto friends. You take the keto-friendly fats, they take the carb-heavy rice or noodles on the side, everybody wins.
Cooking your own takeout favorites at home means you can swap out non-keto ingredients for the ones that will help you hit your macros. Additionally, you can keep better control over sauces and avoid those sneaky carbs that find their way into meals prepared at restaurants. Conquer your Chinese-food cravings with these keto-friendly recipes from top keto recipe blogs.
This keto-friendly orange beef recipe satisfies that signature combination of salty, citrusy and sweet, thanks to low-carb stevia and orange zest.
By simply swapping cauliflower rice for regular white rice, you can get the texture and taste of this signature Chines side dish at home.
For a lighter meal, this salad captures the delicious taste of sesame oil and comes together quickly for a fast keto lunch or dinner when you need it.
For the dressing: