Chinese takeout is delicious but not always the healthiest choice, as it’s typically loaded with salt, sugar, oil, and processed additives.
Luckily, there are some healthier takeout options if you’re craving Chinese food.
Here are the 12 healthiest Chinese takeout options, along with tips to choose healthier entrées, side items, and sauces.
Egg foo young is a Chinese omelet made with eggs and chopped vegetables. It may also contain meat, such as beef, pork, chicken, or shrimp.
Egg foo young also contains vegetables like onions, carrots, and peas, which increase the fiber and nutrient content of the dish.
To make it even healthier, inquire whether your egg foo young can be lightly fried instead of deep fried, and avoid the salty brown sauce that’s often served with it.
Chinese dumplings are pockets of dough filled with seasoned meat and vegetables, usually pork and cabbage.
They are often fried, but you can choose steamed dumplings to cut down on calories and fat. One medium steamed dumpling is only 40 calories (2).
Although the soy-sauce-based dipping sauce is low in calories, it’s high in sodium, so try to limit how much sauce you use if you are salt-sensitive.
Spring rolls are made of shrimp and vegetables wrapped in thin rice paper. Although some are fried, they’re often served steamed with shrimp, thinly sliced vegetables like cabbage, lettuce, cucumber, and carrots, as well as herbs like cilantro.
As such, spring rolls are low in calories and high in fiber, making them an excellent choice. Three steamed spring rolls with dipping sauce have only 100 calories (3).
However, you should be careful with the dipping sauce they are served with, as it may be high in salt or sugar.
Hot and sour soup is made with mushrooms, bamboo shoots, eggs, and ginger in chicken broth. It also contains vinegar and spices, which add the hot and sour components to the dish.
On the other hand, egg drop soup is made simply with ribbons of cooked egg in chicken broth. However, takeout versions may be highly processed and contain additives.
Both soups are low in calories — containing only 65–90 calories per 1 cup (240 mL) serving — and you can make them even healthier by avoiding the fried lo mein noodles that are often offered as a topping (4, 5).
Moo goo gai pan is a lightly sauced chicken and vegetable stir-fry containing mushrooms, broccoli, carrots, and water chestnuts.
Because it’s full of vegetables and lean chicken, it’s relatively low in calories. However, the chicken provides plenty of protein, making it a filling dish. One cup (216 grams) contains only 160 calories while offering 15 grams of protein (6).
Be sure to ask for light sauce, as the sauce is likely to be high in salt and sugar.
Beef and broccoli is a simple dish of stir-fried beef and broccoli in a light sauce.
It’s a relatively healthy dish, low in carbs, and high in protein. However, it’s often made with inexpensive, fatty cuts of beef. One cup (217 grams) contains 336 calories, 23 grams of fat, and 23 grams of protein (7).
Like moo goo gai pan, its sauce may be high in salt and sugar, so you should opt for light sauce.
Chop suey is another stir-fry dish made from meat, eggs, and thinly sliced vegetables in a light sauce. It’s often made with pork.
Like other stir-fries, it’s a healthier choice because it’s made from a protein source and vegetables. One cup of pork chop suey with no noodles contains 216 calories and provides 23 grams of protein (8).
However, you should choose light sauce to further limit the salt and sugar content.
Chicken and broccoli is similar to beef and broccoli, consisting of chicken and broccoli stir-fried in a light sauce.
However, it’s a leaner option than beef and broccoli that still offers plenty of protein. One cup (153 grams) provides 13 grams of protein and only 145 calories (9).
If possible, choose to go easy on the sauce to limit the sodium, sugar, and calories in this dish.
Seafood delight is a combination of steamed shrimp, crab, and vegetables in a butter and white wine sauce.
However, you should opt for light sauce if you’re able to, as the sauce can be rich in fat and calories.
Many Chinese restaurants offer a baked salmon option, which is a great choice.
Baked salmon is high in protein, rich in healthy omega-3 fats, and contains no carbs. A 3-ounce (85-gram) portion cooked with butter contains 156 calories, 21 grams of protein, and 7 grams of fat (11).
Paired with a side of steamed vegetables, baked salmon is a perfect entrée for low carb or keto dieters.
Happy family, or triple delight, is a stir-fry made from meat, such as chicken or pork, seafood, and vegetables.
It’s served in a thick brown sauce, usually over rice. Although its exact nutrition info is not available, happy family is high in protein because it contains both meat and seafood, while the vegetables add fiber.
Like other stir-fries, you should choose light sauce to limit the added calories, fat, sugar, and salt.
Buddha’s delight is a great option for vegans and vegetarians. It’s a stir-fry made with tofu and steamed vegetables like bok choy, cabbage, and broccoli in a light, savory sauce.
Because it’s completely plant-based, it contains some fiber, as well as protein from the tofu. One cup (217 grams) provides 193 calories and contains 3 grams of fiber and 9 grams of protein (12).
When trying to order healthier Chinese takeout foods, it’s important to be aware of the cooking method that’s used.
Many Chinese takeout entrées are battered and deep fried, and you should avoid these, as they are high in added fat, starch, and calories.
Others may be water-velveted, or coated in cornstarch, to provide the smooth, velvety texture of the meat in many stir-fries. Water-velveting is healthier than deep frying but still adds extra starchy carbs and calories.
Ideally, you should choose entrées that are baked, steamed, boiled, or sautéed in a small amount of oil.
Additionally, you should consider serving size. The typical serving size for a Chinese takeout entrée — especially stir-fries — is 1 cup (200–240 grams). Because Chinese takeout often comes in large portions, a single order could contain up to four servings.
To limit calories, make sure you measure out an appropriate portion size and save the rest for other meals.
You should try to choose entrées that are baked, steamed, boiled, or sautéed. Water-velveting adds some carbs and calories, while deep-fried entrées are much higher in fat, carbs, and calories.
Another important consideration when choosing healthier Chinese takeout is your side item.
Typical Chinese takeout sides like fried rice, lo mein noodles, crab rangoon, and egg rolls are high in calories, fat, and carbs.
Healthier choices include steamed brown rice, sautéed or steamed vegetables, spring rolls, or soups like egg drop soup or hot and sour soup.
Healthy Chinese takeout sides include steamed brown rice, sautéed or steamed vegetables, spring rolls, or soups.
Most Chinese takeout dishes are also served in some kind of sauce. Sauces can be a significant source of calories, fat, sugar, and salt in Chinese dishes — even if it doesn’t seem like there’s much sauce.
As a general rule of thumb, thicker and stickier sauces, such as General Tso’s, are higher in sugar and calories, while thinner sauces are lower in calories unless they are very oily.
Order your dish with light sauce or sauce on the side so you can control how much is added to your food.
Sauces can be a huge source of calories from sugar, fat, and salt. Try to choose light sauces or ask for the sauce on the side.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a controversial additive that’s found in many Chinese takeout dishes. It’s a concentrated source of salty and savory umami flavor and has a flavor profile reminiscent of soy sauce (14).
However, MSG has long been the subject of scientific controversy. Some people claim that it causes headaches, asthma, and weight gain, but there’s little evidence to support these claims (15, 16, 17).
Recent research has found that MSG presents little risk of harm to most people when consumed in moderate amounts (18).
Regardless, if you’re concerned about MSG in your food, be sure to ask your local Chinese restaurant if they use it. In light of the controversy surrounding the substance, some Chinese restaurants have chosen to stop using the additive.
MSG is a common but controversial ingredient in many Chinese takeout dishes. Still, this additive is safe to consume in normal amounts.
Although many Chinese takeout options are unhealthy, there are healthy choices as well.
Stir-fries are a great option because they contain protein from meat or tofu, as well as vegetables, which add fiber and nutrients.
You should also choose healthier cooking options and side dishes, and limit the amount of sauce on your food and your portion size.
With this guide, it’s easy to choose a healthier Chinese takeout option.