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How many people does one Chinese takeaway meal feed?

A new report from safefood reveals that an average portion of prawn crackers contains 608 calories – and that’s (literally) just for starters.

Image: avlxyz via flickr/Creative Commons

IF YOU THOUGHT that one typical Chinese takeaway meal was just enough to feed one person, you’d be wrong.

According to safefood, a typical Chinese takeaway meal of a starter, main course and egg fried rice can contain enough food for two people.

This combination can add up to much more calories than an adult’s total daily requirements, as well as one and a half times their recommended maximum level of salt, according to a new safefood report.

Some Chinese takeaway starter dishes provided a third of an adult’s total daily calorie requirement, the report shows.

Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, director of human health and nutrition at safefood said:

Although traditional Chinese food is healthy, being low in fat and with a strong emphasis on vegetables, chefs here have adapted their recipes to suit local taste buds as their dishes have become more popular. With our taste buds in the West favouring foods which are high in fat, salt and sugar and because we eat bigger portions, Chinese dishes have become less healthy over time.

She added:

While it is encouraging that almost two thirds (62 per cent) of people regard Chinese takeaway as a treat, portion sizes are unnecessarily generous and not healthy.

Portion size

After sampling 220 Chinese meal items from 35 outlets on the island of Ireland, safefood found:

  • There was a major difference in the portion size of starters, with a five-fold difference among prawn crackers and a three-fold difference in portions of won tons and vegetable spring rolls.
  • An average portion (104g) of prawn crackers contained 608 calories, which is almost a third of an adults’ guideline daily amount.
  • All main courses tested contained more than half of an adults’ total guideline daily amount of salt (6g) and in some instances, exceeded it.
  • The average rice portion was 359g, which is enough to feed two adults
  • The average portion of egg fried rice contained 727 calories, which is more than a third of an adult’s guideline daily amount

More than half (54 per cent) of consumers choose egg fried rice (727 calorie average), while a main dish served with this can result in a person consuming between 1300 and 1800 calories, said safefood.

Tips for having a healthier Chinese takeaway

While safefood is not advising people that a Chinese takeaway should be a regular dinner choice, it does suggest:

  • Trying to avoid snacking on prawn crackers before a meal
  • Healthier starter options include vegetable-based dishes, clear broths and soups
  • Choose main courses that contain plenty of vegetables and that have been stir-fried, grilled, roasted or steamed
  • Healthier main dishes include lean chicken, pork, beef or seafood and sauces such as bean, oyster, ginger, hoisin or plum
  • For a healthier rice, choose steamed or boiled varieties (which can save over 150 calories over egg fried varieties)
  • Try eating with chopsticks – it means you will eat slower and possible eat less
  • Try ordering half a portion of your favourite dish and a portion of vegetables

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