PAMF Health Blog

Be Well, Be Well Informed

Tips on Healthy Chinese Food Options – Part 2

Posted on Jan 25, 2012 | 2 comments

Doctors Amy Lin, Sandra Wong, Vivian Tsai (l to r)

As with many holiday celebrations, it may be tempting to overeat during Chinese New Year.  However, there are ways to eat healthier and still feel satisfied.  Even small, simple changes can lead to a healthier you.

Ideas for specific food changes

Roast Duck and Roast Pork

  • For roast duck, take a serrated knife and cut off the fat in between the skin and the meat.
  • For roast pork, cut off the pieces of fat before eating.
  • Only eat half of the skin that is put on your plate and avoid the high sodium seasoning that comes with the dish.

Soda at Chinese Dinners and Banquets

  • Often at Chinese banquets, there are several bottles of soda in the middle of the table. Soda is high in sugar and can increase one’s risk for high triglycerides and diabetes.
  • Suggestion for change: If you really love soda, try just drinking one cup of soda with ice as a treat each banquet. After this cup, stick to water or tea. Avoid soda outside of these special occasions, such as family banquets.

Top Ramen and Cup Noodles

  • In these hard economic times, a cheap, tasty meal is very appealing. Many of you and your family members may eat instant noodles, such as Cup of Noodles, Instant Lunch, or Top Ramen. Unfortunately, these instant noodles have extremely high levels of sodium (mainly in the broth) and fat (from the deep fried noodle).
  • Suggestion for Change: Try limiting your consumption of instant ramen. If your family does give you some to eat, try limiting the amount of seasoning you put into the broth to half of the packet. Alternatively, try putting some additional water into the noodle mix in order to dilute the sodium and fat content.

How to eat healthy at a Chinese restaurant

  • Choose your main course wisely: Avoid fat, salt, and excess carbohydrates. Pick something from the “vegetarian” section.
  • Choose brown rice over white rice.
  • Cut down on your portion size by sharing a plate and an appetizer with a friend or family member. Pack your food to take home when it arrives to avoid overeating.
  • Choose “Steamed” foods over “Fried” foods.
  • Choose stir-fried vegetables, as this is lower in oil and increases nutritional value. However, avoid stir fried rice or noodles.
  • Eat a dish with tofu as a source of protein, instead of beef or pork.
  • Avoid eating too much fish that is high in mercury, such as shark fin.
  • Fill up on soup.
  • Drink tea or water, not soda.
  • Eat the fruit that is given as a dessert instead of the other sweetened desserts.
  • Ask for the sauce (such as sweet and sour sauce) on the side.
  • Eat with chopsticks to slow down your meal.
  • Make half your plate vegetables, and eat only a quarter plate of carbohydrates such as rice or noodles, and a quarter plate of protein.

There are many helpful websites that can provide healthy alternative recipes for Chinese meals. The Eating Well website has an entire section on Chinese recipes.

Happy Chinese New Year and best wishes as you continue to work towards a healthier you!

Note: This blog post is the second article in a two-part series. Yesterday’s blog post was Tips to Prepare Healthy Chinese dishes.

A group of PAMF physicians from the Cardiology, Hematology, Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics and Urgent Care Departments contributed to this blog post. They are Doctors  Enoch Choi, Amy Lin, Terence Lin,  Albert Wang, Angela Wong, Sandra Wong and Edmund Tai.


Please note that we are unable to respond to personal medical questions through the comments feature below. For information about personalized health care, or if you need help in choosing a PAMF physician, please visit Becoming a PAMF Patient ( or call 1-888-398-5677. If you are a PAMF patient, you can email your doctor securely via our My Health Online program. Thank you


  1. As much as I appreciate this post and the sentiment behind it, I have to say I don”t believe several things outlined here are applicable or realistic for CNY and the Chinese culture. Firstly, appetizers are not traditional fare in Chinese food. This is especially true during holidays and special events when you most likely eat a banquet style meal, consisting of 8-10 consecutive dishes. Having boxes prepared in the beginning of the meal is somewhat of a preposterous notion. And because the dishes continue to come over the course of 1-2 hours, it is not possible to “make half your plate vegetables” as the “half” that is occupied would continually be rotated with something else. Sweet-and-sour sauce is an American invention, and mentioning this belies the authors” cultural experience. Moreover, if you are Chinese, you have grown up learning to eat with chopsticks. You can use them to eat quickly or slowly. They are not a hindrance to your meal and in fact you can use them to shovel food into your mouth. Lastly, I don”t know many Asian Americans, besides college students, who eat instant noodles. Our parents, who have braved through the immigrant experience, did not even indulge frequently in this stuff.

    I think it is more appropriate to address elements of Chinese culture and thinking in the way it relates to increased consumption of meat, fried foods, and soda. There is a concept that the rich get to eat meat and especially since we live in the Bay Area, we are a successful, model minority, we feel we are entitled to enjoy meat as a reflection of our improved socioeconomic status. We lead a more sedentary lifestyle, working in cubicles and commuting to work. And we are influenced by the American diet around us: the government subsidies that inadvertently advocate the production of high fructose corn syrup, meat, and white breads and pastas. Perhaps this is beyond the scope of this post but if we are to return to a healthier diet of Chinese food, these mediating factors should be addressed through education and intervention. I think your audience is educated and health-conscious enough to appreciate that level of dialogue.

    • Dear Christina,

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on this blog article. We appreciate your thoughts and insights, and will keep them in mind as we prepare future articles that may pertain to Chinese health education and nutrition. This blog post was second in a two-part series, and we invite you to read the introductory blog post for additional perspective: Tips to Prepare Healthy Chinese Dishes Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts and recommendations – we appreciate it.

      Dr. Sandra Wong (article co-author)
      PAMF Family Medicine

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