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Healthy Menu Navigator: Chinese

What should you steer clear of besides the fried rice? Nutritionist Heather Bauer explains how to order healthy dishes at a Chinese restaurant.
Moo shoo chicken and vegetables
Moo shoo chicken is Bauer’s favorite dish. (Photo:


Even if you know to steer clear of the bread basket, it turns out the average restaurant meal clocks in at a whopping 1,128 calories—yep, 1,128—making it easy for even the most health-savvy among us to think we’re eating well while eating out, when we’re not.

HealthyMenuNavigatorFinalEnter nutritionist-author Heather Bauer, of Bread is the Devil and Bestowed fame—and our culinary compass. Each week, Bauer steers us toward the healthiest choices on restaurant menus of any type.

Last time, it was what to eat at a steakhouse. This week, it’s Chinese food! Grab those chopsticks, everyone.

Heather Bauer’s Chinese menu navigational nugget

When Chinese food’s in your dinner plans, it’s particularly important to make sure you’ve had your eight glasses of water so your body is prepped to handle the high sodium content. And be sure to drink another liter after you’ve eaten, Bauer says, to help flush your system.

As for her go-to dish? “I like to stick with moo shoo chicken—steamed. I love it. I love its heartiness more than your traditional steamed chicken and broccoli,” Bauer says. “I’ll even add a little soy sauce—I think it makes it wonderful.”

Remember: Use chopsticks. They force you to slow down just enough to recognize when you’re full.



1. A small (or cup-size) serving of hot-and-sour or egg-drop soup, but only if you’re not salt sensitive.

2. Steamed shrimp or veggie dumplings.

3. Egg foo young, a low-carb omelet dish (that’s sometimes made with meat, other times veggies), that provides protein, and doesn’t have a ton of sodium. Cut it into slices for sharing.


1. Any dish with a steamed protein and veggies. In many restaurants, you’re able to pick the vegetable, which means the options are endless. If you get tired of broccoli, for example, switch it out with bok choy! Just be sure to ask for the sauce on the side, and specify no sugar, cornstarch, or MSG.

2. Steamed moo shoo chicken—Bauer’s fave!

3. Sauteed green beans with minced pork—plenty of flavor…and fiber!


1. “Sweet-and-sour” protein choices, which are usually deep-fried and full of calories.

2. Egg rolls and crunchy noodles. More often than not they’re also fried and have basically zero nutritional value.

3. General Tso’s chicken (deep fried, yet again!) and “lo mein” anything. The noodles are slathered in sodium-heavy sauces.

4. Eggplant. Sure, it’s a veggie, but it soaks up a lot of oil, Bauer says, making it a stealth calorie bomb.

Hungry for more? Next week, Bauer’s spilling her secrets to ordering healthy American food. Or check out the previous guide to ordering at a steakhouse.