HBH Guide to Ethnic Cuisine: Asian

As the holidays approach, it becomes more common to eat out (at least I know it is for our family)! Whether it’s because our schedules become filled with events and a quick meal is needed or it is the focus of a social gathering, the amount of times we cook meals at home dwindles.  One of our goals of starting this blog was to provide our readers with the tools to eat healthier! Our Quick Bites posts that provide suggestions on foods to order while eating out at specific restaurants have been extremely popular. However, it may be hard to look up the nutritional facts of every restaurant you go to especially local places where they do not provide the facts. Instead, we wanted to provide some common tips on various cuisines so you can be prepared to choose healthier options. First up: Asian cuisine!

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When eating out at any Asian restaurant, fat and sodium content are going to be some of the larger issues to be aware of. Here are some tips for maneuvering these type of restaurants without sacrificing your healthy lifestyle.

Go for the veggies: Many of these establishments do not provide nutritional facts to look at (especially local places) but a general rule of thumb is to choose an entree that contains vegetables. The more that the dish is filled with colorful vegetables and less of fried protein and carbohydrates like large amounts of noodles, the healthier the dish likely is. And, are you a fan of edamame? Make sure to ask how it was prepared. Steamed with water is a much better option than cooked in oil!

  • Choose: Vegetable spring rolls, vegetable dumplings or Moo Goo Gai Pan for an alternative to other dishes.

Ask for sauce on the side or for less of it. When possible, choose steamed dishes with minimal sauces. If a sauce is included, ask for it on the side to prevent excess calories, fat and sodium.

  • Choose: Don’t be afraid to ask if your favorite dish could be steamed with sauce on the side. If you need more flavor, mix a small amount of the included sauce with a small amount of low sodium soy sauce! A perfect example of the nutritional difference between steamed and stir fried is at PF Changs – choose Buddha’s Feast Steamed for a healthier version (250 calories, 0 grams saturated fat, 300 mg sodium) over Buddha’s Feast Stir Fried (480 calories, 1 gram saturated fat, 3860 mg sodium!)

Go Whole: Choose whole grain carbohydrates when possible. As we have previously talked about, whole grains are filled with fiber which not only keep you fuller for longer, but also provide other health benefits.

  • Choose brown rice over fried rice or Lo mein noodles for a healthier option!

Watch portion size: Many of the portions provided at Asian restaurants are large enough for multiple people to enjoy! Try sharing with others you are dining with or ask for a to-go box when the entree is brought to you to prevent from over eating. For rice, try to not eat more than a fistful size at one sitting.

Have soup first. By having soup as an appetizer first, you are preventing yourself from eating more than you should later on.

  • Choose: Wonton, hot and sour, or egg drop soup for a broth based appetizer option that fills you up without excess calories.

Talk to us! What are some of your favorite healthier Asian dishes?

 

Meatless Monday – Quinoa Fried Rice

The recent World Health Organization report about the carcinogenic effects of processed meats puts them in the same category as cigarettes- a pretty bold statement! There has long been a correlation with red meat and processed meats and colon cancer, but this new report directly classifies processed meat as carcinogenic as there is significant evidence that consumption causes colorectal cancer (1). How much is too much? According to the report,  “each 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%” (1). 50 grams may seem like a lot, though it converts to ~0.1 pound- equivalent to a couple of thinly sliced pieces of deli meat. The next question commonly asked, what is considered processed meat? Processed meat includes all meat that has been cured, smoked, salted or processed in any way- think hot dogs, sausage, beef jerky, ham, pepperoni etc.

For me, this report was a serious wake up call. My diet needs some improvement. Sure, I try to eat healthy most of the time, though I realized I do eat my fair share of processed meats. Wasn’t that chicken sausage and organic black forest ham healthy? Err….not so much.

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