Your Guide to Healthy Asian Food

It’s a safe bet that if you’re following the South Beach Diet, you’ll find lots of nutritious choices when dining out at Asian restaurants. Authentic Asian food is one of the healthiest cuisines you can enjoy, as long as you make the right menu selections. Whether you prefer Chinese, Japanese, or Thai, traditional Asian cuisine is typically filled with plenty of fresh steamed vegetables, soy protein, lean grilled meats, and seafood. However, that’s not the case in every restaurant: Asian menus can also include deep-fried breaded foods and fatty meats, which should all be avoided. One tip when ordering Asian fare: Ask for a double serving of steamed vegetables with your lean meat or fish rather than white rice or noodles.

Here are some other healthy guidelines to consider the next time you’re dining on Asian cuisine:


  1. Enjoying Chinese Cuisine: A clear soup with vegetables is always good starter. For a main dish, look for any combination of steamed or lightly stir-fried fresh vegetables with poultry or seafood. If you’re vegetarian, order a main dish made with steamed or lightly stir-fried tofu.


    What to Watch Out For… Whether you take out Chinese food or dine in at a Chinese restaurant, be sure to say no to heavy sauces, deep-fried breaded foods (like egg rolls and fried dumplings), fried noodles, sweet-and-sour sauce, duck sauce, or sugary hoisin sauce. Pass on the rice if you’re on Phase 1. If you’re on Phase 2 or 3, ask for brown rice instead of white. Also avoid spareribs, lo mein, and moo goo gai pan.


  2. Enjoying Japanese Cuisine: Sushi, Japanese-style raw fish served with a small amount of rice, has become one of the most popular foods in the world. You can enjoy sushi on Phase 2 if you ask for it with brown rice, a staple in many Japanese restaurants these days. If you’re on Phase 1, stick to the rice-free rolls or sashimi, thin slices of raw fish served without rice. A cup of miso or Japanese flower soup is a great way to start your meal, and edamame, seaweed, and cucumber salad, along with lightly stir-fried or steamed vegetables, are always good choices. Look for lean meats and fish that are steamed, grilled, or lightly stir-fried.


    What to Watch Out For… Some foods at Japanese restaurants are deep-fried. Your best bet is to avoid tempura, which is batter-fried fish, shellfish, or veggies, and anything that is prepared using high-sugar marinades. Remember that although teriyaki dishes are grilled, the sauce is high in sugar and sodium.


  3. Enjoying Thai Cuisine: Your best bets at Thai restaurants include vegetable stir-fry dishes that are served with lean meats, poultry, and fish or shellfish. You can enjoy dishes made with spices such as turmeric, coriander, garlic, cilantro, lemongrass, ginger, and fresh chiles. Tofu is also a great choice, but oftentimes it is served fried — ask for it steamed or sautéed instead.


    What to Watch Out For…Thai green curry with sticky rice and other curries that are coconut cream-based should be avoided. Ask for brown rice instead of sticky rice, if you’re on Phase 2. Deep-fried foods and sweet sauces made from tamarind palm (sweet fruit) and coconut sugars should also be avoided.

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