Chinese food – bad for waist-line and blood pressure

Before you pick up that take-out menu, you might want to think again: a US watchdog says Chinese fare is loaded with sodium and calories.

Fast food isn’t the only cause of our nutritional woes, says a US consumer group.

Chinese food served in restaurants received a poor grade in nutrition in a recent report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). In fact, the average Chinese restaurant in the United States is loaded with both sodium and calories, the group said.

Consider these examples:

A plate of General Tso’s chicken contains about 40 per cent more sodium, and more than half the calories, needed for an entire day.

Lemon Chicken, which is battered, deep-fried, and served with a sugary sauce, has 1,400 calories and 13 grams of saturated fat. That’s like eating three fried McChicken sandwiches plus a 32-oz. coke at McDonald’s, according to the consumer group.

Chicken with Black Bean Sauce has half the calories (700) but more sodium (3,800 mg) than any other dish CSPI analyzed.

Orange (or Crispy) Beef has 1,500 calories, 11 grams of saturated fat, and 3,100 mg of sodium. If you have the beef un-fried and add a heaping portion of broccoli, and the dish loses more than a third of its calories.

And when you add rice, that’s another 200 calories per cup. An egg roll? About 200 calories and 400 milligrams of sodium. An order of six steamed pork dumplings has 500 calories, and there is little difference (about 10 calories per dumpling more) if they are pan-fried. The unhealthiest appetizer analyzed was BBQ Spare Ribs – an order of four contained 600 calories, 14 grams of saturated fat, and 900 mg of sodium.

“I don’t want to put all the blame on Chinese food,” said Bonnie Liebman, director of nutrition for CPSI.

“Across the board, American restaurants need to cut back on calories and salt, and in the meantime, people should think of each meal as not one, but two, and bring home half for tomorrow,” Liebman said.
The average person needs around 2,000 calories a day and 2,300 milligrams of salt, about one teaspoon of salt, according to US government guidelines.

Shrimp dishes healthiest
Shrimp dishes were found to be among the healthiest choices on Chinese restaurant menus. Szechuan Shrimp and Shrimp with Garlic Sauce each have about 700 calories, and Shrimp with Lobster Sauce has only 400. But like almost everything else on the menu, these dishes have too much sodium, ranging from 2,300 mg to 3,000 mg.

And while Chinese restaurants do offer a number of vegetable dishes and good fats, these veggie dishes are also high in calories and sodium. A plate of stir-fried greens has a whopping 900 calories and 2,200 milligrams of sodium. And Eggplant in Garlic Sauce has 1,000 calories and 2,000 milligrams of sodium.

Make your meal healthier
While it’s tough to avoid sodium on a Chinese restaurant menu, the group offers several tips for making your meal healthier: