Chinese buffets are popular for offering a wide variety of dishes to choose from. With so many options available, it can be difficult to estimate how many calories you may be consuming in a single plate or meal. This article will break down the average calorie counts for popular items found at Chinese buffets to give you a better idea of what to expect nutrition-wise when dining at one.
What is in a Typical Chinese Buffet?
Chinese buffets usually contain a mix of appetizers, main entrees, side dishes, soups, and desserts. Here are some of the most common items found on a Chinese buffet lineup:
– Egg rolls
– Crab Rangoon
– Steamed or fried dumplings
– Spring rolls
– Seafood salad
– Jellyfish salad
– Green salad
– Sweet and sour chicken
– Kung pao chicken
– Beef with broccoli
– Mongolian beef
– Sesame chicken
– General Tso’s chicken
– Pepper steak
– Chicken chow mein / Chop suey
– Lo mein noodles with chicken, beef, pork, or shrimp
– Fried rice with chicken, beef, pork, or shrimp
– Chow fun noodles with meat
– Orange chicken
– Teriyaki chicken
– Honey walnut shrimp
– Salt and pepper shrimp
– Sliced roast pork
– Mushroom chicken
– Steamed vegetables (broccoli, carrots, etc.)
– Sauteed string beans
– Sauteed snow peas
– Egg rolls
– Crab rangoon
– Steamed rice
– Fried wontons
– Steamed dumplings
– Egg drop soup
– Hot and sour soup
– Wonton soup
– Chicken corn soup
– Fresh fruit (watermelon, oranges, etc.)
– Ice cream
Calories in Buffet Appetizers
Here are the approximate calorie counts for some popular Chinese buffet appetizers per piece or serving:
|Calories (per piece)
|Egg roll (fried)
|Crab rangoon (fried)
|Spring roll (fried)
|Seafood salad (shrimp, squid)
|Green salad (with dressing)
As you can see, fried items like egg rolls, crab rangoon and spring rolls have the highest calories per piece while steamed dumplings and wontons are lower in calories. Salads with dressing are moderate in calories.
Calories in Main Buffet Entrees
Main entrees at a Chinese buffet often have higher calorie counts due to being fried, breaded, sauced or a combination. Here are the approximate calories for typical buffet main dishes based on a 6-8 oz cooked serving:
|Calories (per serving)
|Sweet and sour chicken
|Kung pao chicken
|Beef with broccoli
|General Tso’s chicken
|Chicken chow mein
|Chicken chop suey
|Chicken lo mein
|Chicken fried rice
|Chicken chow fun
|Honey walnut shrimp
|Salt and pepper shrimp
As shown, battered, fried, and sauced chicken dishes tend to contain the most calories ranging from 470-650 calories per serving. Salt and pepper shrimp, roast pork, beef and chicken with broccoli are lower calorie options.
Calories in Buffet Side Dishes
Chinese buffet side dishes are often steamed, making them some of the lowest calorie menu items. Here are the approximate calories for typical buffet side dishes based on a 6-8 oz cooked serving:
|Calories (per serving)
|Sauteed string beans
|Sauteed snow peas
|Steamed wontons (4 pieces)
|Steamed dumplings (4 pieces)
Plain steamed vegetables are incredibly low calorie at only 50 calories per serving. Sauteed string beans and snow peas are slightly higher but still very low. Steamed rice is moderate in calories while steamed dumplings and wontons, even though lower in calories than their fried counterparts, are higher in calories than the vegetable side dishes.
Calories in Buffet Soups
Chinese soups are broth-based and low in calories. Here are the approximate calories for typical buffet soup servings:
|Calories (per 8 oz serving)
|Egg drop soup
|Hot and sour soup
|Chicken corn soup
Broth-based soups like egg drop and hot and sour are very low in calories. Heartier soups with wontons or chicken and corn have slightly higher calorie counts but are still relatively low compared to entrees and fried appetizers.
Calories in Buffet Desserts
Chinese buffets often have light, fruit-based desserts as well as decadent sweets. Here are the approximate calories for typical buffet dessert servings:
|Calories (per serving)
|Fresh fruit (1 cup)
|Jello (1 cup)
|Pudding (1/2 cup)
|Cookies (2 cookies)
|Ice cream (1/2 cup)
Fresh fruit is the lowest calorie dessert option, followed by Jello. Cookies, pudding and ice cream tend to be higher in calories due to higher sugar and fat contents. Portion control is key when indulging in these sweeter treats.
How Many Calories Are in an Average Buffet Plate?
The number of calories in a single Chinese buffet plate can vary greatly depending on what and how much you choose to eat. However, here are some estimates based on typical plate combinations:
– Plate with fried appetizer, main entree, side dish: 650-850 calories
– Plate with soup, steamed appetizer, main entree, fruit: 500-700 calories
– Dessert plate with cookies, pudding, and ice cream: 350-450 calories
Some strategies to put together a more reasonably sized buffet plate around 500-700 calories include:
– Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables
– Choose lean proteins like chicken, shrimp or pork
– Avoid breaded, fried dishes or sauces
– Have one small scoop of fried rice or lo mein instead of heaps
– Choose steamed dumplings instead of fried
– Load up on broth-based soups
– Take small spoonfuls to sample new dishes instead of large servings
– Enjoy fresh fruit for dessert instead of sweets
Tips for Making Healthier Choices at a Chinese Buffet
Here are some tips to help you eat lighter and make healthier choices at an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet:
Don’t try to sample everything in the first round. Take small portions of a couple new dishes to start so you don’t overdo it.
Use smaller plates
The smaller the plate, the less likely you’ll be to pile on food. Go for a salad plate or small appetizer plate instead of a large dinner plate.
Put down your utensils between bites and chew thoroughly. This gives your body more time to process feelings of fullness.
Skip fried dishes
Dishes labelled crispy, fried, batter-dipped or breaded are usually the highest in calories and fat. Go for steaming, grilling, roasting and dry-cooking methods instead.
Fill up on veggies first
Load up at least half your plate with steamed or sauteed veggies to fill up on low calorie foods.
Avoid excessive sauces and condiments
Sauces can add a lot of hidden sugars, fat and calories. Use sparingly or dip your food rather than pouring over.
Have soup before or during your meal
The liquid can help fill you up and the broth keeps you hydrated to prevent overeating.
It’s ok to try a small spoonful of a new dish but no need for heaping servings if you don’t love it. Don’t feel pressured to get your money’s worth.
Chinese buffets offer a wide array of dishes that can vary greatly in calories. Fried appetizers, entrees coated in sugary sauces and ice cream or cookie desserts tend to be highest in calories while steamed dishes, broth-based soups and fresh fruit are lowest. Being mindful of portions and not overloading your plate is key. Try filling up on non-starchy vegetables first, pace yourself, and skip fried and saucy dishes to keep your meal around 500-700 calories. Making healthier choices at a Chinese buffet is definitely possible with smart strategies and moderation.