Most Asian cuisines make healthy eating not only simple, but delicious, with their reliance on fresh vegetables, lean meats and satisfying sauces. Make the most of your next Chinese, Thai or Japanese meal with these tips.
- Beware of fat. Avoid foods that are deep-fried or described as crispy. Steer clear of higher-fat protein ingredients such as duck and some cuts of pork. Order steamed instead of fried rice.
- Ask about MSG (monosodium glutamate, which is often found in soy sauce and is frequently used as a flavor enhancer). Some people get headaches or nausea when they eat foods prepared with MSG; it also adds sodium to the food.
- Beware of high-sodium sauces such as soy, oyster, black bean and hoisin. One tablespoon of soy sauce contains 1,000 milligrams of sodium; health guidelines today recommend no more than 2,500 milligrams per day.
- Go for broke with vegetables. You'll typically find a wide variety of vegetables available, and don't be afraid to ask for extra vegetables with the foods you order.
According to Hope Warshaw, author of The Restaurant Companion, Thai food is a healthier choice than Chinese because it uses less fat and more vegetables, rice and noodles. Warshaw offers these tips for healthy dining, Thai-style:
- Look for seafood as your protein source to limit saturated fat and to boost omega-3 fatty acids—both good strategies for keeping your heart healthy.
- Steer clear of coconut milk and cream to reduce fat.
- If you're trying to limit sodium, avoid soups, which are often loaded with salt.
- You'll often find salads on Thai menus, and, even better, the dressings are typically fairly low in fat.
Japanese cuisine is one of the healthiest around: heavy on vegetables and rice, and light on protein and high-fat ingredients. Try these suggestions the next time you order Japanese food:
- Order an entree or soup prepared with tofu. Made from fermented soybean curd, tofu is an excellent low-fat source of protein and may also be a player in the fight against heart disease.
- Beware of high-sodium ingredients found in many sauces and flavorings. Avoid foods marinated in soy or teriyaki sauce, choosing instead steamed foods that come with sauce on the side. Miso dressing is high in sodium, so use it sparingly.
- If sushi is your passion, make sure you order it at restaurants that pride themselves on using only the freshest seafood to minimize your risk of illness from possible contamination.