Chinese food takeout is delicious, but as with other cuisines offering takeout, some of the choices offered can be high in salt, sugar, oil, and processed additives.
American-Chinese food, in particular, tends to be much sweeter and saltier than traditional Chinese cuisine and often features its own distinct flavors.
Luckily, there are some healthier takeout options if you’re craving Chinese food. Plus, you can always ask to have menu items adjusted to suit your taste. Furthermore, if you scan the menu, there are oftentimes a section that offers choices that are lower in fat, sugar, and salt.
Here are the 13 healthiest Chinese food takeout options, along with tips to choose entrées, side items, and sauces.
1. Steamed dumplings
Dumplings offered at a Chinese restaurant are pockets of dough filled with seasoned meat and vegetables, usually pork and cabbage.
They are often fried, but you can choose to have them steamed instead to cut down on calories and fat. One medium steamed dumpling is only 40 calories (1Trusted Source).
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 especially if you’re salt sensitive.
Hot and sour soup or egg drop soup
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.
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 (2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).
Moo goo gai pan
Moo goo gai pan is a lightly sauced chicken and vegetable stir-fry dish that contains mushrooms, broccoli, carrots, and water chestnuts.
Because it’s full of vegetables and lean chicken, it’s relatively low in calories. Furthermore, 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 (4Trusted Source).
Ask if you can have the sauce on the side to control how much you consume because it could be high in salt and sugar.
4. Beef and broccoli
Beef and broccoli is a simple dish of stir-fried beef and broccoli tossed in a light sauce.
It’s a relatively healthy dish that’s low in carbs and high in protein. However, it’s often made with fatty cuts of beef. One cup (217 grams) contains 336 calories, 23 grams of fat, and 23 grams of protein (5Trusted Source).
You can reduce the fat content by asking for steamed instead of stir-fried broccoli and asking if it’s possible to serve the sauce on the side.
5. Chop suey
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, although some varieties may contain chicken, beef, or tofu.
Like other stir-fries, it’s a healthier choice because it’s made from a protein source and vegetables. One cup (220 grams) of pork chop suey with no noodles contains 216 calories and provides 23 grams of protein. It also contains about 9.5 grams of fat, and a restaurant version may have more fat added during the stir-fry process (6Trusted Source).
Ideally, choose a light sauce to further limit the salt and sugar content.
6. Chicken and broccoli
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. It also contains about 7 grams of fat (7Trusted Source).
If possible, ask to have the dish steamed. You will lose the oil that it’s normally cooked in, which will lower its fat and calorie content to give it a healthier twist.
7. Baked salmon
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 free of carbs. A 3-ounce (85-gram) portion cooked with butter contains 156 calories, 21 grams of protein, and 7 grams of fat (8Trusted Source).
Paired with a side of steamed vegetables, baked salmon is a perfect entrée for low carb or keto dieters.
8. Happy family
Happy family, or triple delight, is a stir-fry made from vegetables and 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 can choose light sauce to limit the added calories, fat, sugar, and salt.
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9. Buddha’s delight
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 (9Trusted Source).
Additionally, tofu is one of the few complete proteins available to vegans and vegetarians, meaning it contains all nine of the essential amino acids your body needs to build new proteins (10Trusted Source).
10. Moo shu vegetables
Vegetables take center stage in this popular takeout dish, which typically features ingredients like stir-fried pork, shredded cabbage, mushrooms, carrots, and onions.
Although the exact nutrient content can vary based on which ingredients are used, one cup (151 grams) typically contains approximately 230 calories and nearly 16 grams of protein. Also, it contains about 16 grams of fat, but like most stir-fry dishes, fat content can vary depending on the restaurant (11Trusted Source).
To maximize the potential heatlh benefits, go light on the sauce and consider skipping the side of pancakes that it’s usually served with.
11. Eggplant with garlic sauce
Eggplant with garlic sauce is a dish comprised of smoky, grilled eggplant topped with a rich and tangy garlic sauce.
Eggplant, the star ingredient of the dish, is low in calories and a great source of several key nutrients, including fiber, manganese, folate, and potassium (12Trusted Source).
It also features several other nutrient-dense ingredients, such as garlic, ginger, and peppers.
Opt for a side of brown rice rather than white rice to bump up the fiber content of your meal and squeeze in an extra serving of whole grains.
12. Kung pao chicken
Kung pao chicken is a spicy Sichuan dish that contains stir-fried chicken with peanuts, chili peppers, and vegetables.
Not only is it high in protein and micronutrients like niacin and selenium, but it’s also topped with peanuts, which are a great source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats (13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source).
Try asking the restaurant to throw in some extra veggies and consider limiting your portion size if you’re keeping an eye on your sodium intake, as it sometimes contains high amounts of salt.
13. Shrimp with lobster sauce
Despite its name, shrimp with lobster sauce does not actually contain lobster. Instead, it’s made using a fermented black bean sauce often used to prepare lobster in traditional Cantonese cuisine.
In addition to stir-fried shrimp, the dish typically contains veggies like peas, carrots, garlic, and scallions.
Compared to many other takeout options, it’s relatively low in calories and high in protein, with 31 grams of protein and 279 calories in a 1-cup (185-gram) serving. It also contains 14.5 grams of fat (15Trusted Source).
You can also boost the available fiber, vitamins, and minerals by requesting extra vegetables such as broccoli, mushrooms, or bell peppers.
Choosing a healthy entrée
When trying to order healthier Chinese takeout foods or any takeout foods, it’s important to be aware of the cooking method that’s used.
Many entrées at Chinese restaurants are battered and deep fried, and should be avoided, as they’re 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 it 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, it’s necessary to consider serving size. The nutrition information provided here is for a 1-cup serving (200–240 grams), which is the typical serving size for a takeout entrée — especially stir-fry dishes. But it’s important to note that a single order of takeout may contain up to 4 cups.
To limit calories, measure out an appropriate portion size and save the rest for other meals.