Moo goo gai pan is a popular Chinese dish that consists of chicken, mushrooms, and vegetables in a thick sauce. With its mix of protein, carbs, and vegetables, it can be a nutritious meal option. However, the calorie count of moo goo gai pan can vary greatly depending on the specific ingredients and preparations. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the typical calorie count of moo goo gai pan and the factors that influence it.
What Is Moo Goo Gai Pan?
Moo goo gai pan, sometimes spelled moo goo guy pan, is a Cantonese dish made up of sliced chicken, mushrooms, and vegetables stir-fried in a sauce. Some key ingredients in a typical moo goo gai pan recipe include:
- Chicken breast, thigh, or a mix, cut into bitesize pieces
- A variety of mushrooms such as button, shiitake, oyster or straw mushrooms
- Onions, snow peas, bell peppers, bamboo shoots, baby corn, water chestnuts, etc
- A savory sauce made with chicken stock, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, cornstarch, and seasonings like ginger and garlic
This mixture of ingredients is stir-fried in a wok and usually served over white rice. The result is a flavorful dish with a pleasing mix of textures from tender chicken, crispy veggies, and velvety sauce.
Calories in Moo Goo Gai Pan
The total calories in a serving of moo goo gai pan can range from around 300 to 800 calories depending on the specific recipe. Here are some of the factors that contribute to the calorie count:
Chicken makes up a significant portion of moo goo gai pan. The cut of chicken used and portion size impact the calories:
- Chicken breast (100g): 165 calories
- Chicken thigh (100g): 209 calories
A serving may contain 200-300g of chicken, providing 300-500 calories just from the chicken alone.
Moo goo gai pan is typically served over a bed of steamed white rice. The calories in rice add up quickly:
- White rice (100g): 130 calories
With 200-300g of rice per serving, that contributes 260-390 more calories.
Moo goo gai pan includes lots of vegetables like mushrooms, onions, bok choy, snow peas and more. These are relatively low in calories. Some estimates:
- 1 cup raw mushrooms: 25 calories
- 1 cup snow peas: 30 calories
- 1 cup bok choy: 20 calories
The vegetables likely contribute 50-100 calories total.
The savory sauce adds lots of flavor, but not too many additional calories:
- 1/4 cup sauce (estimated): 50 calories
Nutrition Facts for Moo Goo Gai Pan
Combining the various ingredients above, we can estimate the nutrition facts for a typical serving of moo goo gai pan:
|1 plate (500g)
For a 500g total serving, you’re looking at around 600 calories, with most of those calories coming from the chicken and rice. The nutrients are a mix of quality protein from the chicken, carbs from the rice, and micronutrients from the vegetables.
Comparing Moo Goo Gai Pan Calories at Restaurants
If you order moo goo gai pan from a restaurant, the calorie count can vary quite a bit depending on the restaurant’s specific recipe. Here’s how the calories might compare at some popular restaurants:
|1 plate (560g)
|1 plate (425g)
|1 plate (560g)
The serving sizes and calorie counts can vary by 100-200 calories across popular chains. Factors like the amount of protein, rice, sauce, and veggies included impact the totals.
Ways Restaurants May Add Calories
Here are some ways that restaurants may end up adding more calories to their moo goo gai pan compared to homemade:
- Large portions of chicken, rice, and veggies
- More oil or butter used for stir-frying
- Extra protein like shrimp or beef
- Richer, more caloric sauces
- Deep-fried chicken instead of stir-fried
Checking the restaurant’s nutrition information online can give you a better idea of their exact calorie count.
Lower Calorie Options
If you’re looking to lighten up this dish, there are a few easy ways to reduce the calorie count in moo goo gai pan:
- Use chicken breast instead of thigh to save about 50 calories per 4oz
- Reduce the portion of rice or skip it entirely to remove up to 300 calories
- Bulk up on low-cal veggies instead of rice
- Make the sauce with low-sodium soy sauce and minimal oil
- Stick to stir-frying instead of deep-frying chicken
- Ask for sauce on the side and use sparingly
With some simple substitutions and reductions, you can enjoy a satisfying moo goo gai pan for around 400-500 calories instead of 600-800.
Healthy Moo Goo Gai Pan Recipe (415 calories)
To make a lighter moo goo gai pan at home, try this healthy recipe:
- 1 lb chicken breast, sliced
- 3 cups shredded bok choy
- 1 cup bell pepper strips
- 8 oz mushrooms
- 1 tbsp oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 3 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- In a bowl, mix chicken with 1 tsp oil, garlic, soy sauce, and cornstarch. Let marinate 15 minutes.
- Heat wok on high heat. Add 1 tsp oil and stir-fry chicken 2-3 minutes until browned and cooked through. Remove chicken.
- Add 1 tsp oil to wok. Stir-fry bok choy, peppers and mushrooms 3-4 minutes.
- Whisk together chicken stock, oyster sauce, and cornstarch. Pour into wok and cook 1 minute until thickened.
- Return chicken to wok and toss to coat. Serve over rice.
At just 415 calories per serving without rice, this lightened up version cuts calories while keeping all the flavor.
Low Carb Moo Goo Gai Pan
Going low carb? You can definitely still enjoy moo goo gai pan. Just skip the rice, and serve it over cauliflower rice instead. Cauliflower rice only has about 30 calories per cup compared to 130 calories in white rice.
Some other low carb swaps:
- Use shirataki noodles instead of rice noodles
- Replace breadcrumbs with almond flour
- Use zucchini noodles instead of pasta
With a few substitutions, you can have a satisfying low carb moo goo gai pan under 500 calories.
Moo Goo Gai Pan for Weight Loss
At around 600 calories for a restaurant-style plate, moo goo gai pan can fit into a weight loss diet with some modifications. Here are some tips for lightening it up:
- Stick to a single serving size instead of unlimited refills
- Fill up on non-starchy veggies instead of rice
- Choose chicken breast over thigh
- Ask for sauce on the side to control calories
- Avoid deep-fried meats or veggies
- Skip sugary beverages and stick to water
By paying attention to portions, ingredients, and preparation methods, you can make moo goo gai pan work for weight loss. Aim for around 400-500 calories per serving.
Is Moo Goo Gai Pan Healthy?
Overall, moo goo gai pan can be a nutritious meal when made with whole food ingredients. Some of the health benefits include:
- Lean protein – Chicken provides quality protein to support muscle growth and satisfaction.
- Veggie power – Mushrooms, bok choy, peppers and more provide vitamins, minerals and fiber.
- Whole grains – Brown rice offers filling fiber and nutrients.
- Heart healthy fats – Small amounts of vegetable oil provide anti-inflammatory fats.
By using healthy preparation methods like stir-frying instead of deep-frying, moo goo gai pan can be a balanced meal. Just watch your portion sizes, and enjoy it as part of an overall healthy diet.
There are a few potential downsides to keep in mind:
- Large restaurant servings can be high in calories, sodium, and fat, especially from rice, chicken, and oil.
- Fried rice and meats add unnecessary fat and calories compared to stir-fried.
- Some restaurants use MSG, which some people may want to avoid.
- Oyster sauce provides some minerals but is high in sodium.
As with any dish, moderation and smart ingredient choices are key for making the healthiest versions.
Moo goo gai pan can range widely in its calorie count depending on the specific recipe and preparation methods. Restaurant versions clock in around 600-800 calories for a hefty serving. By choosing lean proteins, non-starchy veggies, and healthier cooking techniques, you can lighten it up to around 400-500 calories. While high in calories, classic moo goo gai pan made with quality whole food ingredients can be a nutritious part of a balanced diet when enjoyed in moderation.