Chinese food advice

I have not had Chinese food since my April 09 diagnosis. Chinese food was never my fave anyway, so it hasn’t been a great loss. However, I am attending a party at a Chinese food restaurant on Friday and I need some advice on tried and true items that won’t make my BG come back to haunt me 4 hours later.

Some parameters: I eat chicken or shrimp, no beef or pork

Also, let’s assume I won’t be eating any rice. So I’m talking specifically dishes with sauces that you’ve found to be safe. I used to always eat Chicken with Broccoli (the chicken was always in a brown sauce of some sort).

Any suggestions would be much appreciated!! (and if anyone wants to throw in any carb estimates from prior experience, don’t hold back!!)


Chinese food sauces are usually very high in sugar. Jenny, from Diabetes Update, calls them “meat sundaes”. I can’t eat them without a huge spike. If possible, can you find dishes without sauce? Or at least try to eat just a small amount of the sauce.

For me its Egg Foo Young. It always comes with rice so I try to talk them into skipping the rice and give me an extra paddy. I scrape as much sauce off as I can. I agree with Libby sauces are sweet and I haven’t found anything safe.

Darn now Im getting hungry!

I haven’t gone to a Chinese restaurant in a long while, but I subscribe to the “Eat this, Not That” list… and they advised that “Mushroom Chicken” was very good. Particularly, if it’s from a place like Panda Express. Here’s the nutritional data for their Mushroom Chicken:

Calories:150 cal
Fat:7 g
Saturated Fat:2 g
Cholesterol:50 mg
Protein:13 g
Carbohydrates:9 g
Fiber:3 g
Sugars:5 g
Sodium:600 mg

Not the healthiest thing in the world, but certainly not the worst, and pretty darn good for a fast food place. Here are some reviews from some of their other dishes. Clicking on one, will get you to their nutritional data: If you click on their “Restaurant” top menu item, it will give you an alphabetical list of restaurants, and maybe you can find some equivalents. This link is for more guided searches:

Egg Drop soup, Seseme Green Beans. Also you may notice that the spike in BS will happen hours later. Not the 2-4 normal. It is like pizza for me (high fat content) does something to the BS process.

On another note. I hope you find a Fortune Cookie that says, " I see a cure in your future".
Usually I have to guess at the carbs. Very difficult to calculate. I hope that you have fun at your party.

I stay away from rice and noodles and hope for the best. Broccoli beef did o.k. for me as well as chicken or beef with green beans.

Most restaurants will do stir fried chicken or shrimp & broccoli with no sauce. With many dishes, they don’t put the sauce on until it’s ordered. Ask that garlic & ginger be added so it’s not too blah.

Sauce not only has sugar, but it’s thickened with corn starch. Chinese food is a tough one for us.

I have no problem with egg rolls or spring rolls. I usually go with 20-25g for the bigger egg rolls and 10 each for smaller spring rolls. I have no problem with lo mein, even though its noodles. Pasta in general gives me great numbers if I carb count correctly, so lo mein might not work if pasta doesn’t work for you.
If you are going authentic Chinese, I count each dumpling as about 12 carbs. I also like the bok choy w/ tofu and eggplant dishes, but there is some sauce on teh eggplant, I usually guess about 8 for the small portion I eat.

I love Chinese food… but Im not really familiar with calorie nor carb content since most of their dishes have so much different ingredients in it. I usually settle for anything steamed like steamed broccoli, dimsum, white fish, shrimp, etc. It usually comes separately with a very sweet (sometimes spicy) condiment or sauce . I try to avoid that or sneak and dip just a tad bit. I also sometimes go for fresh spring (vegetable) rolls (not the fried one).

I love asian cuisines in general, but the rice and noodles can be quite difficult to handle. And as noted, the use of sugar and other carbs in sauces can make meals quite unpredictable. When going low carb, I avoid all sweet sauces, skip the rice and noodles and just eat the dishes. If I am taking in carbs, I’ll often ask if brown rice is available. You would be surprised, I’ve found a number that do have brown rice if you ask.

Should you choose to make your own chinese food, you actually will have much more variety and flexibility. You can not only make your own brown rice, but you can use a variety of whole grains, such as Quinoa, you can prepare riced cauliflower and you can use Shiritaki noodles, all low carb favorites. The best part of homemade chinese food is not stealth carbs in the sauces.

The other thing one needs to be aware of is the “Chinese Restaurant Effect” named by Bernstein which is when the bulk of the food (like chinese) causes a distention of your stomach and produces a hormonal response which releases of glucose from your liver which is disproportionate with the carbs you ate. The solution is usually to just serve a plate full and get a doggy bag.

I feel like the lighter sauces (sort of clearish) usually in chicken/shrimp and mixed vegetables work better than others. Or you could ask for steamed veggies? Of course you should then have soup to fill you up :slight_smile: Also, our chinese restaurant does steamed brown rice, rather than white, so you could see if that’s an option? Good luck!

Yikes! I’m getting really nervous! Thanks guys for all the advice. I knew there was a reason I hadn’t eaten chinese for 8 months… rethinking how I RSVPed to this one, but too late to back out now!

Thanks so much on all your great responses!

I have found a place locally that has some steamed selections on the menu that seem to work well with me. They are listed as being prepared with no oil, msg, butter or sauces. Basically steamed (duh!).

I get steamed shrimp & veggies with brown sauce on the side. Add a few spoonfuls for flavor. The Daily Plate lists Chinese Brown Sauce as having around 15 grams of carbs per 1/2 cup but I’m sure that’s an overall average.

Fingers crossed that you will have a steamed selection on the menu from which to choose.

Double Yikes. Don’t get nervous. Life is full of challenges. Here are some helpful hints. Don’t spread these around or the chinese restaurants will fill up with all the diabetics eating out.

Sauces to avoid Sweet and sour, Duck, Plumm Oyster, Hoisin

Any dish with very thick sauce, it is likely thickened with cornstarch

Anything steamed must be good for you

Good soups, egg drop, wonton (skip the wrapper, eat the inside), hot and sour

Dishes with thin, spicy or savory sauces are usually free from sugar and cornstarch

Surprisingly water chestnuts are low carb, baby corns are not

Kung Pau chicken is pretty much a safe bet

Protein and veggies are your mantra, cabbage is free

Who can beat a whole fish?

Tofu and green beans are not carb free

And my final, I am the customer, I reserve the right to pick and choose any subsitutions.

When I’m going to Chinese I have two dishes that I love and always order one or the other. The healthier one that doesn’t seem to have any problems with my blood sugar is Chicken with Broccoli. Of course every place makes it differently but as long as you realize that the sauce does have some carbs in it (I usually assume about 10 for the sauce and my serving size at my place but again it varies) then you should be fine. My other favorite is General Gau’s (or Tau’s) chicken. I have yet to be able to eat this without spiking in 4-6 hours but I’m going to keep trying 'till I get it right. Good luck!

Thank you so much for all these suggestions! I am going to print them out and bring them with me! I am so grateful! :slight_smile:

I hadn’t even realized chinese restaurants offer steamed dishes! Thanks for pointing this out and I too hope this restaurant has some!

Glad to hear Chicken with Broccoli works well for you since that was always my dish of choice in my pre-diabetes days!

Caleb eats fried rice and chicken with broccoli. I use the 15 carb rule - I third cup of any of it is about 15 carbs and I bolus him upfront for that. The real issue is overnight for Caleb. I give him an extended bolus for 8 hours to handle any spikes. He reacts to Chinese food the same way he reacts to pizza and we dose him similarly for both. It took some time to work it all out, but we finally got there. Good luck and have fun!

Wow… an extended 8 hour bolus… what’s your rule for that? Do you have a percentage rule? Like, 10% or 20% of what you bolused up front you use for the extended bolus?

I am very intrigued about this! Thanks for the advice!