Chinese food fans, take heart. It's true that many of the popular Oriental dishes are heavy on carbs: sumptuous fried rice served with thick sauces, noodles brewed in a savory soup, sticky buns, and flavorful stews thickened by starch.
(Is your mouth watering yet?).
For those trying to stay on the South Beach or Atkins diet, your favorite Chinese restaurant suddenly becomes a trap of temptations. Even outside of the standard rice and noodles, so many of the dishes have a lot of sugar and starch. This doesn't mean that you'll never step foot into a Chinese restaurant again. You just have to be prepared...and informed.
Before you go to a Chinese restaurant, make a conscious decision about how strict your carbohydrate count will be. If you're in the first phase of the South Beach Diet, or the Induction Phase of the Atkins diet, then even the cornstarch in the sauce is a big no no. However, both diets have a less restrictive phase that lets you take in a little carbs.
So you know how much carbohydrates you can take; now how do you stay within those limits? Chinese food actually has its own regional variations, so depending on the cook's style, even one particular dish can have different levels of sugar and carbs from restaurant to restaurant.
As a rule of thumb, though, you'll want to avoid the fried rice or steamed rice, the noodles, the wontons, the egg rols and breaded meats, and the sweet sauces. These include the sweet and sour, and the plum or orange-based sauces used for duck. Hoisin and oyster sauces, often used to flavor vegetable dishes, also contain high amounts of sugar.
You should also know that Chinese food uses cornstarch to thicken the sauces. Approximately one to two tablespoons of cornstarch are used in each platter, and this contains about seven to 14 grams of carb. Water chestnuts, another staple in Chinese food, contains 3 grams of carbohydrates. Spicy sauces will also contain sugar to balance the flavor.
Now you know what to avoid, but what can you order? Look for clear and thin EURsoups, and the steamed meats and tofus. If you want to order something with sauce, ask for those that are a little watery (like Moo Goo Gai, curry chicken, Schezuan prawns, or black bean sauces). If you can't skip on a favorite, you can also ask the waiter to do without the corn starch altogether, since it doesn't affect the flavor, and is only used for consistency, or serve it in a separate bowl. Another trick is to remove the wrappers, and eat just the meat. That's where all the flavor is, anyway.
It's also a good idea to have a small snack before going to the Chinese restaurant. Don't go there hungry--you'll binge, and lose about all sense of self-control as you survey the mouthwatering selections in the menu. You're there to taste the flavor, not fill up. Another suggestion is to take small amounts. By limiting your portions, even if you take a little carbohydrates, it's not enough to completely railroad your dieting attempts. (Of course, this is assuming you are already in the diet phase that lets you moderate carbohydrate intake.)
Enjoy your meal!A Low Carb Dieter's Guide to Chinese Food
Lowcarbdiets.eu.com is a website providing information on low carb diets, low carb food [http://www.lowcarbdiets.eu.com/recipes.htm] and a low carb faq [http://www.lowcarbdiets.eu.com/faq.htm] to help you on your way to losing weight.