Is there anyone that has never had a sudden craving for Chinese? Not that we know of. Many Chinese dishes contain high-carb items that can’t be called keto-friendly, but there are plenty of options available to satisfy your craving. We’ll cover it all from what you can order at a restaurant, what to avoid, meals you can prepare at home, and some other Asian cuisine alternatives.
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Related: Keto for Beginners: Everything You Need to Know
Eating Out? Plan Ahead of Time
Preparing meals at home is the easiest way to be sure about how many carbs you are eating, but sometimes you can’t resist your favorite Chinese restaurant's temptation. We get it. Luckily, you can still enjoy a dinner out; you just have to be careful about what you order. Ordering a keto-friendly meal is not nearly as hard as you might think; there are plenty of low-carb options. Here are a few guidelines to help you out:
Ask About Ingredients
Most restaurants have their menus and nutritional information available online. If not, you can call ahead and ask about low-carb options or substitutions. Carbs can hide in any meal, and many Chinese chefs prepare their food differently, so it’s always a good idea to ask about how they prepare certain dishes.
Cornstarch is one of the main things to stay away from while dining at a Chinese restaurant, as it is an ingredient in many different dishes; a tablespoon of cornstarch has seven grams of carbs! Make sure to ask:
- Does the meat have a cornstarch coating?
- Is the soup (or sauce) thickened with cornstarch?
- Can I substitute steamed vegetables for rice?
You can call in advance, or ask these questions when you are out. Most restaurant staff will be happy to answer your questions and suggest different options to help you avoid those pesky carbs.
What to Avoid at the Restaurant
There are a few foods typically served at Chinese restaurants that you should try to avoid. To steer clear of the carbs and keep on track with your keto diet, be sure not to order:
- Fried food: Anything that is deep-fried should be avoided by anyone trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but especially for those who are limiting carbs.
- Rice: Packed with carbs, any type of rice is hard to fit into a keto diet. Many Chinese restaurants offer cauliflower rice as an alternative; it’s tasty, healthy, and low in carbs!
- Noodles: Containing a similar amount of carbs as rice, noodles and chow mein are a keto no-go.
- Sauces: Most sauces and dressings contain sugar, cornstarch, or both. You can ask to have them served on the side and use only a small amount, but be sure to ask how they make them; there may be lower carb options available.
Related: Avoid These Keto Diet Mistakes
Eating Out and Staying Keto
There are a few options while eating out that is generally a safe choice if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of special orders and asking a million questions. Some of the best choices that are hard to go wrong with are:
- Steamed vegetables: Cauliflower, broccoli, and zucchini are all tasty options with a low carb count and can be found at pretty much any of your favorite Chinese restaurants.
- Protein: Steamed chicken, fish, and other seafood are excellent choices for protein. Be sure to ask for them without any cornstarch coating.
- Lettuce wraps: Skip the tortillas for your favorite Asian tacos and ask for a lettuce wrap instead. They are delicious with the lettuce shell and also much healthier and lower in carbs.
- Egg drop soup: This soup is usually thinner than most because it is typically not thickened with cornstarch. It is a safe bet most of the time, but it doesn’t hurt to ask and make sure.
- Soy sauce: Yes, soy sauce does contain carbs, but a little bit goes a long way. As long as you don’t overdo it, a small amount can add a lot of flavor and not take up much of your carb limit.
Chinese Food at Home
It’s okay to eat out from time to time, but if you’re worried about hidden carbs messing up your diet, most Chinese food is easily prepared at home. Fried rice and chow mein, Chinese takeout staples, can both be prepared in a keto-friendly manner.
Cauliflower rice can be used as a substitute in your favorite fried rice recipe and is easy to make or find at your local grocery store. Veggie noodles can be made at home or bought fresh or frozen at the supermarket and are an excellent option for home-made chow mein. Wonton wrappers are another easy homemade option using cabbage leaves or mozzarella cheese!
For proteins, choose options like pork, fish, and chicken. These can be steamed, grilled, or baked to avoid the cornstarch and MSG that comes standard at most Chinese restaurants.
Alternatives to Chinese Food
Other Asian cuisines can easily fit into a keto diet and each offer a delicious and unique variety of foods and flavors. If you want to switch up your typical keto-friendly Chinese food order while satisfying your cravings, you can try:
- Korean barbecue: Most restaurants give you the choice of which proteins and vegetables you want in each dish. The only thing you really need to avoid in Korean food is an overabundance of sauce. Many times kimchi can be eaten too; just make sure there isn’t added sugar.
- Japanese: Most Japanese foods are simply prepared fish and vegetables, so as long as you steer clear of seaweed and tamagoyaki, as these generally contain added sugars, most Japanese dishes can easily accommodate a keto diet. Consider sashimi (sushi, sans the rice), miso soup, or Shabu-Shabu if you’re with friends.
- Vietnamese: Avoid the noodles by substituting in bean sprouts, and ask for more vegetables or meat instead of rice. Bo Luc Lac (chopped beef steak) is a delicious dish and can be served over salad instead of rice.
Sticking to your keto diet doesn’t have to mean foregoing your favorite dishes. Try out some of these substitutions and alternatives to enjoy a keto-friendly Chinese meal.
Do you want some tasty new keto recipes to try? Check out some of our favorites!