The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Love, Chinese Style

Posted in
Eat better

Thursday, Feb 13, 2014

Long-stemmed red roses, heart-shaped boxes filled with assorted chocolates, and romantic candle-light dinners – just a few ideas that come to mind for the upcoming Valentine's Day weekend. We are finally having a reprieve from the arctic blasts and I am ready for a night out on the town with my “true love”. I’m craving Chinese food (I hope he is, too!). Even though Chinese foods can be high in calories, I know of an earlier post that reveals healthy alternatives that will make your heart sing!

We're revealing the highs, the lows, and the OMGs of calories found in various Chinese foods.  But before we get there let's take a quick look at what a recent research article reported about Chinese buffets...

To better understand the relationship between obesity and easily accessible food, several researchers out of Cornell University investigated the differences in eating behaviors among customers at Chinese buffet restaurants. Their results showed that customers with higher levels of Body Mass Index (BMI) were more likely to be associated with using larger plates vs. smaller plates and sit facing the buffet vs. facing away from the buffet. Customers with higher BMIs were also less likely to be associated with using chopsticks vs. forks, browsing the buffet before eating vs. serving themselves immediately, and having a napkin on their lap vs. not having a napkin on their lap. Customers with lower BMIs left more food on their plates and chewed more per bite of food. While these finding can’t show cause and effect (e.g., eating with chopsticks lowers your BMI), they do back up some hypothesized principles of food intake like food convenience – people eat more food when it is easier to access like with a fork or a large buffet immediately in front of them.

So even after you've decided that you'll sit at a booth across the room from the buffet and use chop sticks instead of a fork it is still wise to select a dish that is not sky high in calories. The information below will help you make a calorie-conscious decision:

Lower Calorie Choices*: Steamed Vegetable or Shrimp Dumplings (300 calories), Chicken Lettuce Wraps (400 calories), Buddha’s Delight – Stir Fried Mixed Vegetables (400 calories), Shrimp with Lobster Sauce (400 calories)

Higher Calorie Choices*: Vegetarian Ma Po Tofu (550 calories), Chicken and Broccoli (660 calories), Moo Goo Gai Pan (660 calories), Black Bean Chicken (675 calories), Szechuan Shrimp (700 calories), Chicken Chow Mein (700 calories)

Extremely High Calorie Choices*: Sweet and Sour Pork (1,100 calories), Kung Pao Chicken (1,300 calories), Combination Lo Mein (1,400 calories), Orange Crispy Beef (1,500 calories), Combination Fried Rice (1,500 calories)

*Calorie content provided by nationwide chains. Lower calorie choices have 400 or less calories per typical serving; higher calorie choices have between 400 and 700 calories per typical serving; and extremely high calorie choices have over 700 calories per typical serving. To lower the calorie content of any meal you can ask the chef to prepare your dish “stock velveted” (with vegetable stock instead of oil), light or with no oil, or with the sauce on the side.