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Is chicken chow mein healthy from Chinese?


Chicken chow mein is a popular Chinese-American dish that consists of stir-fried noodles, chicken, vegetables, and sauce. It can be found on many Chinese takeout menus across the United States. But is this tasty dish actually healthy, or is it loaded with calories, fat, and sodium?

There are a few factors to consider when determining if chicken chow mein from a Chinese restaurant is a nutritious choice. In this article, we will explore the typical ingredients and nutrition information, discuss healthier preparation methods, and provide tips for making healthier choices when ordering chicken chow mein takeout.

Typical Ingredients

Chicken chow mein contains the following main ingredients:

– Noodles – Most often made from refined white flour. Rice noodles or noodles with some whole wheat are healthier options.

– Chicken – Lean chicken breast is the best choice. Chicken thigh or drumsticks have more fat and calories.

– Vegetables – Common choices are cabbage, bean sprouts, carrots, celery, onions, bamboo shoots. Vegetables provide vitamins, minerals and fiber.

– Sauce – Made with salty soy sauce, oyster sauce and sometimes MSG. Thickened with corn starch. Sweetened with sugar.

– Oil – Usually cooked with a large amount of canola or vegetable oil. Adds a lot of fat and calories.

Nutrition Information

The nutrition content of chicken chow mein can vary substantially depending on the specific ingredients used and cooking methods.

According to the USDA, a typical serving of chicken chow mein from a Chinese takeout restaurant contains:

– Calories: around 800kcal

– Protein: 25g

– Carbohydrates: 90g

– Fat: 40g

– Sodium: 1600mg

As you can see, a single serving provides nearly half of the recommended daily intake of sodium. It is also high in refined carbs from the noodles and sugar in the sauce. The cooking oil adds a lot of fat and calories as well.

Healthier Preparation Methods

There are some ways chicken chow mein can be prepared at Chinese restaurants to make it a healthier dish:

– Use brown rice noodles or noodles with whole wheat instead of refined white noodles

– Load up on extra vegetables like broccoli, bell peppers, mushrooms

– Cook with minimal oil – steam, boil or bake instead of deep frying

– Use lower sodium soy sauce in the sauce

– Offer a side of brown rice instead of fried rice

– Use leaner cuts of chicken, trim excess skin and fat

– Skip the MSG and limit added sugars in the sauce

– Portion sizes matter – share one entree between two people

Tips for Ordering Healthier Takeout

When ordering chicken chow mein for takeout, keep these tips in mind:

– Opt for brown rice or whole wheat noodles

– Ask for extra vegetables and minimal oil

– Request lean chicken breast meat rather than fatty cuts

– Ask for light or low sodium soy sauce

– Skip the fried rice side and order brown rice instead

– Request sauce and dressing on the side

– Share one entree between two people or take half home

– Enjoy a side salad instead of egg rolls

– Avoid sugary soda – opt for water instead

Following these simple tips can help reduce the calories, refined carbs, fat, and sodium in a takeout order of chicken chow mein.

Healthier Homemade Recipe

Making chicken chow mein at home allows you to control the ingredients and cooking methods. Here is a healthier recipe:

Ingredients

– 8 ounces whole wheat noodles

– 1 tablespoon sesame oil

– 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced

– 3 cloves garlic, minced

– 1 cup shredded cabbage

– 1 cup sliced mushrooms

– 1 cup bean sprouts

– 1 cup sliced carrots

– 1 cup broccoli florets

– 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce

– 1 tablespoon rice vinegar

– 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

Instructions

1. Cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

2. In a large skillet or wok, heat the sesame oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

3. Add the chicken and cook until no longer pink on the outside, about 5 minutes.

4. Add the vegetables and cook for 3-4 minutes until tender crisp.

5. In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, vinegar, ginger and 1/4 cup water.

6. Add the sauce to the skillet along with the cooked noodles. Toss everything to combine and cook for 2-3 minutes until heated through.

7. Serve the chicken chow mein warm, garnished with sliced scallions if desired. Enjoy!

As you can see, this homemade version uses lean protein, whole grains, and loads of vegetables. By controlling the ingredients and cooking methods, you can enjoy healthier chicken chow mein at home.

Healthier Frozen Chicken Chow Mein

Frozen chicken chow mein from the grocery store can also provide a convenient shortcut to healthier homemade. Look for options that:

– Use whole wheat noodles instead of refined

– Contain plenty of vegetables

– Use lean chicken instead of fatty cuts

– Have lower sodium soy sauce

– Avoid MSG, corn starch thickeners and added sugars

– Have 10g fat or less per serving

Carefully read nutrition labels and ingredients lists to find the healthiest frozen chicken chow mein. Then just heat and enjoy a fast meal that is lower in calories, refined carbs, and sodium compared to takeout.

Nutrition Comparison

Here is how the nutrition information typically compares between takeout, homemade, and frozen chicken chow mein:

Nutrition Facts Typical Takeout (1 serving) Healthy Homemade (1 serving) Healthier Frozen (1 serving)
Calories 800 400 300
Fat 40g 10g 5g
Carbs 90g 50g 45g
Protein 25g 30g 20g
Sodium 1600mg 500mg 600mg

As shown, homemade and healthier frozen options are significantly lower in calories, fat, carbs, and sodium compared to takeout.

Conclusion

Chicken chow mein from a Chinese takeout restaurant is typically high in refined carbs, sodium, and calories due to large amounts of oil and sugar-laden sauces. Preparing chicken chow mein at home allows you to control the ingredients and cooking methods to make it a healthier meal. Look for whole grain noodles, lean protein, lots of vegetables, and limit added oils, sugars, and sodium. Healthier frozen chicken chow mein can also provide a shortcut to a nutritious meal. In moderation, chicken chow mein can be part of an overall balanced diet, but homemade and healthier frozen options are your best bet for keeping this dish nutritious.