Are you constantly worrying and thinking, “What can I eat?”
Are you constraining yourself to a lean turkey burger and green salad when whipping up a quick dinner?
Are you craving some delicious takeout from your favorite Chinese restaurant but are afraid the dish contains too many carbs and too much sugar?
It’s time to stop worrying!
You could eat many more delicious dishes than you thought if you choose smartly. Living with diabetes doesn’t have to mean feeling deprived. What’s more important is to balance your meals and use a few cooking tricks to enjoy a healthier and more flavorful meal. That is where homemade Chinese takeout dishes come in handy.
My grandma had type-2 diabetes. She lived healthily to 95, eating homemade Chinese food everyday. My dad was diagnosed as prediabetic nine years ago. My mom serves him Chinese food almost everyday, including stir fries and dumplings. His symptoms never developed into type-2 diabetes and his sugar levels were well-controlled and close to a normal level.
Why is homemade Chinese takeout the perfect choice for diabetic cooking?
- It reduces your consumption of meat without pain.
A Chinese stir fry has magic powers: it can increase the volume of a dish with less meat, in a delicious way! For example, when serving roast chicken breast or a piece of steak, you can easily finish half a pound of meat by yourself, and you could probably make room for other carbs like pasta or mashed potato on the side. However, magic happens when you cut the meat into smaller pieces, and add in colorful vegetables and a rich sauce. Look at Moo Goo Gai Pan with tender snow peas, or Black Pepper Steak with crunchy peppers. That half pound of meat suddenly becomes a giant plate of food that can be shared between two people.
- It helps you get a daily share of vegetables that you actually enjoy eating.
Forget about tasteless overcooked cabbage or a green salad with minimum dressing. I would hate eating veggies as well if the dishes were poorly prepared!
The process of stir frying makes vegetables taste better and become more nutritious, as they are only cooked for a short period of time to preserve their crunchiness, color and nutrition. You can easily add plenty of veggies to a stir fried dish with some protein. Since we are using a stir fry sauce to bind everything together, the vegetables will be extra flavorful, if not more delicious than the protein!
- You can dramatically reduce your sugar consumption and create a better flavor when making your own stir fry sauce.
This is the main reason I highly recommend making your own Chinese takeout instead of ordering in a restaurant. Chinese restaurants sometimes use very sugary sauces that make your blood glucose shoot through the roof. On the other hand, homemade sauces use fresh aromatics to create a bold flavor with minimum sugar added. In the case of sauces with high sugar content, such as sweet and sour sauce or orange sauce, you can use sugar substitutes instead of real sugar. There are also many other low sugar sauces, such as black bean sauce and garlic sauce, which make your dish way better than takeout.
- You can further reduce your carb intake by choosing healthier side dishes over white rice.
If you assume you have to pair a stir fry with steamed white rice or boiled noodles, think again! There are many other delicious side dish options that not only have a low glycemic index, but also pair perfectly with your stir fry. For example, quinoa and brown rice are healthier options and more filling than white rice. Cauliflower rice and zucchini noodles are even better. Not only do they keep your carb intake to a minimum, you can increase your daily vegetable consumption without fuss. Another great alternative is Shirataki noodles, or zero-calorie noodles. They are a type of translucent noodle made with Japanese yam that contains high dietary fiber and very few carbs.
- The cooking is practical for a weekday dinner, once you get the hang of it.
Cooking Chinese food at home might sound intimidating. You will find it much easier than you thought once you try it. All you need is a reliable recipe and a few very basic ingredients. And believe me, you don’t need to purchase a wok at all. Nowadays many Chinese families use nonstick skillets to cook stir fries, because they require less oil, are easier to clean, and generate less smoke.
The desire for delicious food and the need to maintain a balanced diet is a lifelong battle that you need to fight on a daily basis. Hopefully, homemade Chinese food will make your meal planning easier, your stomach happier, and your body healthier!
Maggie Zhu is the author of The Chinese Stir Fry Sauce Cookbook and the owner of Omnivore’s Cookbook since 2013. Her passion is sharing modern Chinese recipes that teach you how to cook better food with a less labor-intensive approach. Her website was featured by Yahoo News as one of the seven food blogs you should be following for Asian cuisine. She is originally from Beijing, and now cooks from her Austin, Texas kitchen.