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One of the most significant drawbacks of any diet is that certain foods or food groups are off limits. With keto, that food group is carbs. By limiting your carb intake to 50 grams or less per day, you force your body to use more fat for fuel.
On the downside, you have to give up things like bread, potatoes, pasta, breakfast cereal, and rice. That’s no big deal when you cook your own meals but can make eating out tricky. Not all restaurants cater to ketogenic dieters.
Because Chinese is such a popular cuisine, it’s great to know that there are plenty of keto Chinese food options for you to enjoy.
Even on a diet, food should be one of life’s pleasures. If your diet stops being enjoyable, you are much more likely to cheat or quit. That’s why it is so important to find keto-friendly foods you love.
Fancy a Chinese meal? Go for it! Just make sure you order keto friendly Chinese food, so you don’t derail your diet.
Is it okay to eat Chinese on the keto diet?
A lot of people think that the keto diet is all meat, butter, and nuts. While these foods are low-carb keto staples, there are plenty of other foods you can eat that will help you lose weight and stay in ketosis.
Very boring, restrictive diets can work, but they are far from gratifying. Most of us enjoy and crave a wide range of tastes and textures. Boring meals are no-one’s idea of fun. In fact, dull, repetitive diets have the lowest success rate for weight loss. They might produce great results initially but eating nothing but steamed cabbage and baked fish soon gets old.
The good news is that the meat, butter, and nuts image of keto dieting is far from the truth. While carbs ARE off the menu, there are lots of things you can eat instead. Just because rice, potatoes, pasta, etc., are banned, doesn’t mean you can’t eat delicious but diet-friendly food.
On first look, Chinese food might seem completely incompatible with the keto diet. After all, eating Chinese food invariably means sitting down to a big bowl of rice or noodles, right?
This misconception means that a lot of keto dieters avoid eating at Chinese restaurants. That’s a shame because, by making a few smart choices, there are still plenty of low carb Chinese food options to choose from.
There are over 30 different regions in China, and each one has its own cuisine variations. Chinese American food often only features vegetables as a side dish and are accompanied by sugary sauces. In contrast, more traditional Chinese food contains more leafy, low-carbohydrate vegetables and much less sugar and starch. Because of this, you should choose traditional rather than Westernized Chinese restaurants. Traditional Chinese food is much less likely to contain hidden carbs.
Despite this, you may still need to ask your server about the ingredients that have been used in your Chinese meal. Some foods may be all-but carb-free, while other regional variations of the same dish can contain hidden sugars and carbs.
So, is it okay to eat Chinese food on the keto diet? Absolutely! However, you will need to choose your dishes carefully and may need to ask your server how your food will be prepared to avoid inadvertently consuming hidden sugar and carbs.
Low-carb options at Chinese restaurants
Not sure what your low carb Chinese options are? Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. The next time you are heading to a Chinese restaurant, look for these keto friendly Chinese food choices on your menu.
1. Clear soups
Vegetable and meat-based soups are Chinese staples – especially as appetizers. Some soups contain noodles, so you’ll need to avoid those, and heartier soups often contain starch-based thickening agents. However, clear soups are usually a good choice for keto dieters. Hot and sour soup and egg drop soup are good low carb Chinese food options.
2. Steamed food
Steamed dishes like whole fish, tofu, and vegetables are usually safe for keto dieters. With very few added ingredients, these foods are naturally low in sugar and carbs and are an excellent alternative to high carb fried food.
3. Meat and vegetable stir fry
Nothing screams keto friendly Chinese food like meat and vegetable stir fry. Skip the side order of rice or noodles, and your meal should be all-but free of carbs. Don’t ruin your low carb Chinese meal by choosing a dish served with a heavy sauce. Most Chinese sauces are high in sugar, e.g., plum sauce and sweet and sour sauce.
4. Egg foo yung
Egg foo yung is a sort of low carb Chinese omelet. Foo yung can be made with meat or vegetables and is usually served with rice or noodles. Skip those non-keto carbs and ask for steamed or stir fry vegetables instead. Egg foo yung is filling and tasty.
5. Chicken or beef and broccoli
Another keto friendly Chinese food, chicken or beef with broccoli is usually made with ginger, soy sauce, and garlic. It’s super-tasty, and pretty darn healthy too. As always, skip the rice and noodles to stay true to your ketogenic diet.
6. Mu shu chicken or pork
This tasty Chinese classic is usually served with pancakes but, if you replace them with lettuce leaves, you have the perfect low carb Chinese meal.
7. Chicken wings and spare ribs
Wings and ribs are very keto diet friendly providing you have them without glaze, sauce, or breading. Ask for salt and pepper wings and ribs which are drier, tastier, and free from unwanted carbs.
8. Chop suey
Providing you hold the rice or noodles, chop suey should be a keto friendly Chinese food. Chop suey is similar to a stir-fry and usually contains meat and vegetables.
9. Moo goo gai pan
Moo goo gai pan is a type of stir-fry dish that contains chicken, vegetables, and sauce over rice. You can make this keto diet friendly by asking for no rice or sauce.
10. Kung pao chicken
This chicken dish is made with vegetables, peanuts, and hot spices. Have it with low-carb veggies to avoid unwanted carbs. This is very hot low carb Chinese food so be careful if you are unused to very spicy meals.
Dishes to avoid
Avoid derailing your keto diet by steering clear of these high carb Chinese foods.
1. Egg rolls and spring rolls – battered and deep fried, these appetizers are loaded with carbs. Even just a small portion will undo your keto diet.
2. Dumplings and wanton – made from flour, these steamed or fried dumplings are delicious but are also high in carbs. Order cabbage rolls instead. They taste similar but are much more keto friendly.
3. Sweet and sour pork, beef, or chicken – these dishes are VERY keto diet unfriendly. The meat is usually battered and deep fried, and the sauce invariably contains a lot of sugar. This is definitely one to avoid.
4. Deep fried meat, fish, or vegetables – most deep friend Chinese food has been battered or has a high carb coating. Shallow and stir-frying is a much more keto-friendly option.
5. Chow mein and lo mein – both of these dishes are usually served with noodles. The noodles are part of the recipe which makes them hard to avoid. Unless you like picking noodles out of your food, this is one dish that is not a low carb Chinese food.
6. Rice and noodles – we’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating, all types of rice and noodles are high in carbs and should be avoided. Tell your server to hold the rice or noodles or, if that’s not possible, to bring them as a side dish so you can easily put it to one side.
7. Desserts – Chinese food is not known for its desserts, and most restaurants are limited to banana or pineapple fritters. These are deep fried in batter and served with syrup or honey and ice cream. None of these ingredients are compatible with the keto diet. Have some Chinese green tea instead!
Tips for eating at Chinese Restaurants
Make your next low carb Chinese meal even more keto friendly by putting the following tips into action:
Tell your server about your keto diet. Explain that you want to avoid any unwanted carbs such as corn starch and sugars. These ingredients are often included in sauces. Ask them to flavor your meals with low-carb soy sauce instead.
If your meal comes with a sauce, ask for it on the side rather than poured over your meal. That way you can easily control how much you eat. Dip the tines of your fork in the sauce so you can enjoy the flavor without consuming a lot of it. Avoid sugary sauces, such as oyster sauce, duck, or hoisin sauce.
When you know you’ll be eating at Chinese food later in the day, limit your carb intake for the rest of your meals so that you have a bit more flexibility at the restaurant. If you eat no carbs at breakfast and lunch, you can afford to eat 30-50 grams of carbs at dinnertime. If possible, have a workout before you eat to increase insulin sensitivity and make those carbs less impactful.
At the Chinese buffet, fill up on low carb Chinese foods like meat, veggies, and thin sauces. Thick sauces typically contain sugar and corn starch, both of which will kick you out of ketosis.
If one is available, order off the diet menu. Many restaurants have embraced healthy eating and now cater to many different diets. Check online to see if your chosen restaurant has a menu specially designed for dieters. Alternatively, call or email in advance and ask for your meals to be made more keto friendly.
If you make your own Chinese food, seek out keto-friendly recipes. Replace rice with lightly cooked and grated cauliflower and use shredded cabbage in place of noodles. Use stevia instead of sugar and non-starch thickeners in sauces, e.g., coconut flour.
Eating out on keto can be something of a minefield. You’ll be faced with a lot of choices, and it’s often hard to know what you should eat to stay true to your diet. The good news is that, with a little prior planning and research, you should have no problem identifying keto friendly Chinese food.
That being said, and while you SHOULD avoid breaking your diet unnecessarily, if you only eat out occasionally, one non-keto meal won’t derail your fat loss for long. Yes, a bowl of rice or noodles and a couple of fried won ton will kick you out of ketosis, but providing you get back on track ASAP, you’ll soon be back to burning fat like a champ.
Don’t feel bad that you ate some carbs and exited ketosis. It’s not the end of the world! Instead, enjoy your meal without worry or guilt, and then get back on your diet right after. Food, after all, really should be one of life’s greatest pleasures!