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Keto Chinese Food: 6 Rock-Solid Hacks to Stay Low Carb

Some dishes are tougher to make keto-friendly than others. And it’s usually because of hidden carbs. But with Chinese food, they’re not only hidden, but straight up in most dishes. The sheer volume of carbs and sugars make keto Chinese food a challenge. But don’t worry, it can be done… Albeit, with a little extra work. TLDR: Yes, you can eat Chinese food while in ketosis. But you need to follow some crucial steps to avoid sabotaging your keto progress just to get a little kung pow chicken.

In this article, you’ll learn:

Sugar and Starches in Chinese Food

There’s no denying that Chinese food, like many Asian cuisines, is incredibly delicious and carb-heavy. Some of the worst offenders include:

You can catch (and avoid) the obvious offenders, but steering clear of carbs hidden in sauces and crispy coatings is tricky. That’s because carbs are all over ordinarily keto-friendly foods like meat and green veggies. We crave sugar and starch, two things that Chinese food is smothered in (and for obvious reasons—taste and texture). Make sure you double check the secondary ingredients of these dishes for hidden starches or sugars (or just stay away altogether):

With sugar and starch found in just about everything from beef and broccoli to roast duck, it’s difficult to keep the carbs low even if you’re omitting the rice, battered meat, or delicious pancakes. For this reason alone, most keto’ers avoid Chinese restaurants altogether. But if you’re willing to persevere, read on.

Top Picks For Keto Chinese Food

The amount of sugar and starches in every Chinese dish varies greatly across each type of restaurant and even with the exact cuisine served. For example, a Chinese takeaway chain might use a lot more sugar than a mom-and-pop restaurant that serves more traditional fare. For this reason, you might fair better opting for a mom-and-pop restaurant rather the chain restaurant.

Likewise, different regions of China specialize in different styles of cooking, each using varying amounts of sugar and starch. With this in mind, Sichuan-style Chinese dishes are a favorite on the keto diet as they tend to use the least. Consider ordering these Sichuan specialties:

Hot pots and buffets are also ideal options for keto, as you can usually choose lower carb sides or specific ingredients to add to your plate. But before you tuck into that egg foo yung with a side of pork belly, there are some basic tips and guidelines you should follow to keep in ketosis.

Hacks for Ordering Keto Chinese Food

You’re not being difficult, you’re being thorough. Keep this mantra in your mind as you get ready to order. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for more information on certain dished or request changes to your meal. You just need the right information to protect your health and stay keto. Here we go…

Avoid the Worst Offenders

That means no sweet and sour pork, breaded lemon chicken, or what have you. It’s loaded with sugar and cornstarch coating. Next, no prawn crackers, no roast duck, and certainly no orange chicken. If you want those, you’re going to have to make keto versions at home (or have a cheat meal. We all do it at some point).

Ask for Side Sauces

Many sauces are super sweet and often thickened using corn starch. So, ask for the best keto-friendly sauces on the side so you can control the portion you end up eating. A tablespoon of soy sauce has anywhere from 1 – 4g of carbs, but it’s hard to eyeball a tablespoon of sauce when it’s drizzled all over your meal. Lettuce cups could also be a suitable option, but try to construct your own rather than ordering it from the menu. Opt for something like steamed fish and veggies so you can avoid a dish with velveted meat and high-sugar sauce.

Ask for the Nutritional Information

Ok, so you know what you’re not eating. The next step is to ask for the nutrition information of whatever it is you decided on. The nutrition panel is your best friend. The net carbs are right there so there’s no guesswork.

That’s one huge advantage of ordering from chain restaurants: The exact nutritional information is usually on hand so you can make an informed decision with your meal. But, even with this information, a slight difference in serving sizes can make a big difference to the actual carb count on your plate. So take any nutritional information with a grain of salt if you decide to go that route..

Don’t Rely on Gluten-Free Options

Gluten-free options aren’t always keto, and this certainly isn’t the case with keto Chinese food. You know what’s gluten-free? Sugar and cornstarch. You get my point.

BYO Fat

This tip’s a little sneaky, so use it at your own discretion. Ordering keto-friendly Chinese food often means sticking with steamed meat and greens. While this low carb, it’s also low in fat and might leave you feeling unsatisfied. So bring your keto sauce. Or bring a fat bomb to eat afterward for dessert.

This is a much healthier option than ordering dishes with extra oil since restaurants usually use inflammatory vegetable oils rather than high-quality olive or nut oils. Avoid requesting extra oil from the restaurant, it’s just not worth it. To find out more, check out our guide to the best (and worst) cooking oils for keto.

Be a 5-Star Customer

As a paying customer, you have every right to ask for modifications to your meal. But that doesn’t mean you have to be demanding. Simply explain to your server that you have to avoid certain ingredients due to dietary restrictions (don’t lie about having an allergy—food allergies are serious business and not to be faked), and then show your appreciation for them by leaving a nice tip.

Homemade Keto Chinese Food

Can’t find any authentic Chinese cuisine? Don’t trust the waiter? Embarrassed to be that customer? Cooking at home is a great way to ensure your Chinese food is keto.

Here are the most common ingredients and our top substitutions :

Looking for inspiration, check out our General Tso’s Chicken recipe.

Keto Alternatives to Chinese Food

Still can’t make Chinese food work on a keto diet? Sometimes you have to give some things up in the pursuit of health. And we applaud you for that. Here are some other options that might be easier to stomach:

As with all Asian cuisine on keto, be extra wary of added sugar, sauces, battered items and carb-heavy bases such as noodles and rice.  You might not be able to enjoy the same sweet, crispy honey chicken that you did in your pre-keto days, but it’s still totally possible to enjoy Chinese food or any Asian cuisine while staying in ketosis.

Stop missing out and try something new!

Tell us what you chose on Facebook. See you over there!

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