How To: Order A Low-Cal Meal From An Asian Restaurant

by Charlene Flanagan
What do you do when you’re craving something tasty, but don’t want to spend too much time waiting for your food? That’s right, you order Asian takeout! There’s no doubt about it; Asian food—Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and even Thai—is the most comforting go-to option for anyone in the mood for something sweet, spicy, tangy but absolutely delicious. So what do you do when you’re on a weight loss program? How do you pick from these vast menus with dishes doused in cornflour, salt (sodium), MSG and thickening agents?

In the second part of our series “Order Takeout Like A Pro While On A Diet”, we help you make the right food choices, watch you calorie intake, and still satisfy those cravings. Here’s how you can make waistline-friendly choices from Asian cuisine menus:

When Ordering An Appetizer, Go Light

There’s no denying that dim sums, dumplings, momos, wontons and egg rolls are crowd pleasers. And while they do hit the spot, the fact remains, they’re loaded with carbs and sweet dipping sauces that will set you back a couple 100 calories. Pick a delicious soup instead. A hot and sour broth that’s packed with seafood and veggies will definitely prove to be a healthier alternative, and a delicious one at that!

Steer Clear Of Fried Foods

Everybody loves a serving of crispy chicken. What’s not to love, right? The problem with that dish though, is the fact that it’s fried to achieve its crispiness. It’s simple; fried foods = belly fat. And while you may think that’s limited to the fried wontons, fried rice, fried noodles and fried ice cream, words like 'crispy', 'tempura', and 'threaded' are interchangeably used to describe the same prep.

Lobster Cantonese, Spring Rolls, Pad Thai, Kung Pao Chicken, Sesame Chicken, Sweet and Sour Pork, Crab Rangoon, Thai Curry (or any coconut-based curry), and Egg Rolls are among the most calorie dense dishes on the menu.

Try Rice Paper Spring Rolls, steamed or braised dishes, broth-based curries, plum, hoisin or duck sauce, and stir-fry preps. Dishes like Buddha's Delight, Shrimp with Lobster sauce, Mongolian Hot Pot, Pla Koong Thai Salad, Edamame, Seaweed Wraps, Miso Soups and the likes should be your go-tos.

Glance At The Light Menu

Some Asian restaurants have a “health menu” that’s packed with plenty of dishes that give you a fix of lean protein and veggies, prepared in a lot less oil than the regular dishes. The best part, the sauces used would also contain lower sodium than most, making anything you choose from this menu your safest and healthiest bet. Remember, when choosing a dish, make sure you look at the name and read the ingredients carefully. This way, you’ll know what to expect and won't get calorically duped.

Pick Up Those Chopsticks

One way of making sure you stick to your daily calorie count is by eating with chopsticks over the regular fork and spoon. With chopsticks, you’re eating smaller bites, are most probably struggling just a tiny bit, and unintentionally exercising portion control. Besides, chopsticks slow you down. This means, you’re eating slower and feeling full faster.

Sharing Is Caring

When at an Asian restaurant, you’re invariably going to order at least one of your favorite dishes, even though it may not be recommended on your diet. That is perfectly okay, just as long as you remember to share it. If you must order the unhealthy dish, order it for the table. This way, you’re less likely to binge eat and get your fix in just the right amount. 

The fact remains, when ordering food—any food—you have to make smart choices. It’s okay to give in every now and then. This keeps your body guessing, and in all likelihood, burns more calories because your body is trying to process something it’s not used to by amping-up your metabolic rate. Making it a habit, on the other hand, will be your downfall. 

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