Reducing Calories in Asian Cooking: Tips and Tricks

Reducing Calories in Asian Cooking: Tips and Tricks

Is Chinese takeout your go-to on busy weeknights? If so, you’ve probably experienced the post-meal rollercoaster of feeling super full and weirdly hungry in less than an hour. And no, it’s not just you.

There’s good reason to this. Some dishes on Asian restaurant menus (typically modified to suit American tastebuds) are high in calories but low in healthy fats and proteins, both of which are key for lasting satiety. So, the next time you peek into the fridge after eating a full plate of sweet and sour pork (cooked the American way), you know what to blame.

Fortunately, things don’t have to be like this. You can still indulge in easy Asian recipes without overshooting your caloric budget.

How? We’ll tell you all about it in this post.

Tips and Tricks to Reduce Calories without Compromising Flavor in Asian Cuisine

Asian cuisine is known for its bold flavors, rich spices, and exotic ingredients. However, many dishes can be high in calories, fat, and sodium, which can concern those trying to maintain a healthy diet.

Sure, when it comes to good food, the calories don’t count. But if you’re a fan of Asian cooking, here are seven easy ways to cut calories without giving up on your favorite dishes.

1. Choose Leaner Proteins

Many Asian dishes feature meat as the main ingredient. And although some meat varieties are great protein sources, they can also be high in calories and fat.

For example, pork and beef have a high-caloric value, potassium, sodium, and saturated fat content. While an occasional binge won’t grow your waistline, you probably don’t want to have them daily.

To reduce the calorie count, choose leaner proteins like chicken breast, shrimp, and fish. Fish is commonly used in many Chinese dishes and is high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Pair steamed fish with some ginger, scallions, and low-sodium soy sauce, and you have a perfectly healthy Asian recipe.

You can also use tofu or tempeh as a vegetarian option. Tofu is calcium-rich and lower in calories, whereas tempeh offers more protein, fiber, iron, and potassium per serving.

2. Use Less Oil

Oil is a common ingredient in Asian cooking (fried wantons, anyone?). That said, it can add a lot of calories to your dish. That plate of deep-fried spring rolls you’re eyeing? It can bump up your daily intake by several hundred calories.

Here’s a good case in point. A 1 lb serving of baked potato contains only 422 kcal, but a 1 lb serving of French fries has a whopping 1415 kcal. As you can see, calories add up quickly when you’re eating fried foods.

If you’re cutting calories to lose weight, we recommend steering clear of deep-fried Asian dishes. Or switch to a healthier oil type like olive oil or coconut oil. You can also try using cooking sprays or non-stick pans to reduce the oil needed to cook your dish.

3. Cut Back on Unhealthy Sauces

You’d be hard-pressed to find an Asian dish that doesn’t use a sauce. Most self-respecting home cooks have at least one bottle of soy sauce tucked away in their refrigerators.

We can’t debate the deliciousness of classic Asian sauces like soy and hoisin. However, store-bought sauces are high in sodium and sugars, which are not good for your heart.

Lower the calorie count by using less sauce, or make your own mixtures by combining low-sodium soy sauce with herbs and spices. You can also use broth or stock to add flavor instead of sauce.

Even better, get a hold of Mekhala’s 100% vegan and organic cooking pastes! Our cooking pastes can pair well with almost any Asian cooking ingredient, whether it’s vegetables, tofu, tempeh, mushrooms, chicken, or fish. Grab yourself a bottle and enjoy Mekhala’s range of flavors guilt-free!

4. Add More Vegetables

Vegetables are a great way to bulk up your dish without adding calories. Plus, cycling greens can help you cover all your bases and ensure you’re getting your micronutrients, vitamins, and minerals in a healthy balance.

That’s not all. Most Asian greens are rich in Vitamins A, K, and C, alongside phosphorus, calcium, and antioxidants. We call them nutritional powerhouses!

Make sure you’re eating your share of Asian veggies like Bok choy, napa cabbage, mustard greens, Chinese kale, snow peas, and daikon. You can also add mushrooms, peppers, and onions for extra flavor and nutrition.

5. Use Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices are at the heart of Asian cooking. Whether it’s ginger, garlic, Thai basil, Kaffir lime, lemongrass, cinnamon, cardamom, or Sichuan peppercorns, each herb/spice can give your cooking that extra zest, definition, and umami flavor.

Moreover, herbs and spices are incredibly low on calories, so you can add them to your dishes without going overboard on the caloric front. If you’re a spice fiend, keep a bottle of chili flakes on chili paste handy in your pantry.

6. Choose Steaming, Stir-Frying, or Boiling

As mentioned, deep-frying and sauteing use tons of oil and can throw your diet off track. Stick to healthier cooking methods like steaming, stir-frying, and boiling instead. These methods consume less oil and retain more nutrients in the food.

What’s that? Oil-free cooking doesn’t taste the same? We’re here to tell you it does, as long as you use the right mix of ingredients.

For example, try steaming or stir-frying chicken with some broccoli or bell peppers. Add a dash of Mekhala’s Organic Ginger Scallion Paste for flavor, and you’re done! It’s simple, quick, and lower in calories than American-Asian entrées like General Tsao’s chicken.

If you want to cut calories further, use a non-stick pan and a small amount of oil when stir-frying. You can thank us later!

7. Practice Portion Control

According to research, people consistently eat more food when offered larger portions. Think about how hard it is to stop at one piece from a bucket of fried chicken, and you’ll know what we mean.

That’s where portion control comes in.

Controlling your portion sizes allows you to keep a tight handle on how many calories you consume in a day. This way, you eat only what your body needs rather than overindulge mindlessly.

Use a smaller plate and measure your portions to avoid overeating. Eat slowly and savor the flavors to feel satisfied with less food. You could also drink a glass of water before each meal to enhance feelings of fullness.

The Bottom Line

Who doesn’t love delicious Asian food? But if you’re trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy diet in general, Americanized Asian food might not be the best choice.

That said, reducing calories in Asian cooking doesn’t mean sacrificing flavor. By following the methods mentioned above, you can enjoy all your favorite dishes while maintaining a healthy diet. It’s a win-win!

Looking to cook delicious, healthy, and low-calorie Asian food at home? Give your dinners that extra zing with Mekhala’s range of organic cooking pastes. All our Asian cooking ingredients are 100% vegan, sugar-free, gluten-free, and organic, making them the perfect choice for multiple dietary needs.

Browse our website to pick your first bottle or use our store locator to find a physical Mekhala retailer near you today!

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