Is steamed chicken and broccoli from Chinese healthy?

Quick Answers

Steamed chicken and broccoli from Chinese restaurants can be a healthy meal option, but there are some important considerations. Here are quick answers to key questions:

Is steamed chicken healthy?

Yes, steamed chicken breast is a lean, protein-rich option. Steaming retains moisture and nutrients better than high-heat cooking methods.

Is steamed broccoli healthy?

Yes, steaming broccoli preserves more vitamins and antioxidants compared to boiling. Broccoli is loaded with nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, folate and fiber.

Is the sodium content high?

It can be – many restaurants use large amounts of soy sauce. Request low-sodium options and sauces on the side.

Are there healthier choices?

Grilled chicken and veggie dishes can be lower in sodium. Steamed or sautéed veggie sides are healthy options.

Should sauce be avoided?

Ask for sauce on the side and use sparingly. Thick, salty sauces like plum and sweet & sour add calories, sodium and sugar.

Examining the Health Profile of Steamed Chicken and Broccoli

Steamed chicken and broccoli is a go-to “healthy” Chinese food order. But is this meal really good for you? Let’s look at the nutritional merits and downsides of this popular combination.

Protein from Chicken

Chicken breast is prized for its high protein content and low fat when the skin is removed. A 3-ounce portion of skinless chicken breast contains around 28 grams of protein with just 3 grams of fat when steamed or boiled.

Protein provides essential amino acids that serve many vital functions like building and repairing muscles and tissues, making hormones and enzymes, boosting the immune system and transporting nutrients. Consuming quality protein sources like chicken is important for maintaining health and muscle mass while losing weight.

Steaming or boiling chicken retains the moisture and ensures it doesn’t dry out like high-heat cooking methods of grilling, broiling, baking or pan frying. The gentle heat helps keep more B vitamins intact as well.

Nutrition from Broccoli

Broccoli is one of the most nutritious vegetables, packed with beneficial nutrients like:

– Vitamin C – supports immune function and iron absorption. A 1-cup serving of broccoli contains over 130% of the RDA for vitamin C.

– Vitamin K – important for blood clotting and bone health. 1 cup of broccoli provides around 100% of the RDA.

– Folate – crucial for cell growth, development and DNA synthesis. 1 cup of broccoli has over 15% of the RDA.

– Potassium – regulates fluid balance and muscle contractions. Broccoli contains 288mg per 1-cup serving.

– Fiber – aids digestion and gut health. There are 2.4g of fiber in 1 cup of broccoli florets.

Additionally, broccoli is rich in antioxidants like sulforaphane and the carotenoid lutein. Research shows sulforaphane has potent anti-cancer effects. Lutein supports eye health and reduces risk of macular degeneration.

Steaming broccoli helps retain the maximum amount of nutrients, unlike boiling which can cause water-soluble vitamins like C and many antioxidants to leach out into cooking water. A 4-minute steam is enough to soften it while preserving beneficial compounds.

Too Much Sodium?

One potential downside of steamed chicken and broccoli ordered at a restaurant is the high sodium content from added sauces and seasonings.

Chinese restaurants commonly use soy sauce, oyster sauce or hoisin sauce to flavor steamed meat and vegetables. However, just 1 tablespoon of soy sauce contains around 1000mg of sodium. The daily recommended limit is 2300mg, and most Americans exceed this.

High sodium intake is associated with an increased risk of hypertension, heart disease and stroke. Those with medical conditions like diabetes or kidney disease require lower limits of 1500-2000mg per day.

To make this meal healthier, request no sauce or ask for it on the side. Then use small amounts after tasting. Other lower-sodium flavoring options include lemon juice, vinegar, fresh ginger, garlic and chili sauce.

Healthier Menu Options

While steamed chicken and broccoli is certainly a better choice than fried dishes, there are some healthier Chinese food options to consider:

– Steamed or sautéed vegetables – choosing veggies without sauce keeps sodium lower. Add flavor with garlic, low-sodium spices, vinegar or lemon.

– Grilled chicken or shrimp – avoids unwanted batter and frying oil. Still watch out for salty sauces.

– Vegetable fried rice – uses less oil than meat fried rice. Request light oil and low-sodium soy sauce.

– Hot and sour soup – broth-based soups have less sodium than thick sauces. Load up on vegetables.

– Steamed dumplings – opt for veggie or shrimp dumplings instead of pork. Use dipping sauce lightly.

– Stir fries with sauce on side – choose lean protein and lots of vegetables. Use less sauce or thickening cornstarch instead.

Watch Portion Sizes

Chinese restaurants are known for large portions, which can lead to excess calorie intake. Here are some tips:

– Split dishes in half and take leftovers home. Saves calories and money.

– Order steamed or grilled protein and veggie sides instead of entrees. Mix and match.

– Ask if lunch portions are available for dinner. These tend to be smaller.

– Share an appetizer instead of each ordering one. They add up in calories.

– Take a container home before starting your meal and pack up half immediately.

Tips for Ordering Healthy Chinese Takeout or Delivery

If you want to indulge in takeout or delivery, there are ways to make it a bit healthier:

Choose steamed or grilled proteins

Opt for steamed, grilled or boiled shrimp, chicken, beef or tofu. Avoid anything fried, crispy or in heavy sauces which add lots of calories, sodium and unhealthy fats.

Load up on vegetable dishes

Order steamed, sautéed or stir fried veggies like broccoli, bok choy, bell peppers, snap peas, green beans and mushrooms. Ask for garlic or chilies instead of salty sauces for flavor.

Enjoy broth-based soups

Hot and sour soup, egg drop soup and wonton soup are low calorie options packed with vegetables. Avoid cream-based soups which are high in fat and calories.

Use sauces and condiments lightly

Thick sauces add excess sodium, sugar and preservatives. Use sparingly and ask for it on the side so you can control how much you use.

Select brown rice instead of white

Brown rice is more nutritious with extra fiber to make it filling. Stay away from fried rice with lots of oil and ask for low-sodium soy sauce.

Watch your beverage

Skip sugary soda and juice. Opt for calorie-free choices like water, unsweetened tea or sparkling water with lemon or lime.

Take leftovers for lunch

Package up what you can’t finish to have as a healthy homemade lunch the next day. This saves you from buying lunch out.

Split dishes into smaller portions

Divide dishes in half when ordering and enjoy the rest for tomorrow’s meal. It controls portions and reduces calories.

Healthy Recipe Ideas for Chicken and Broccoli

Cooking this meal at home lets you control ingredients and flavors. Here are some healthy recipes to try:

Lemon garlic steamed chicken and broccoli

Ingredients Instructions
– 2 chicken breasts, pounded to even thickness
– 2 heads broccoli, cut into florets
– 3 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 tbsp olive oil

– Juice of 1 lemon
– Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat garlic and olive oil in pan until fragrant.

2. Add chicken and cook 3-4 minutes per side until browned.
3. Add broccoli and lemon juice to pan. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Cover and steam for 5 minutes until chicken is cooked through and broccoli is tender.
5. Serve chicken and broccoli drizzled with pan juices.

Ginger soy chicken and broccoli

Ingredients Instructions
– 1 lb chicken breast, sliced into 1” pieces

– 2 cups broccoli florets
– 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
– 2 garlic cloves, minced
– 2 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce

– 1 tsp sesame oil
– Toasted sesame seeds for garnish
1. In a pan, stir fry chicken over high heat for 3-4 minutes until lightly browned.

2. Add broccoli, ginger and garlic and stir fry 2 minutes more.
3. Add soy sauce and sesame oil. Cook 1 minute until broccoli is tender.

4. Serve chicken and broccoli sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Chicken broccoli alfredo zoodles

Ingredients Instructions
– 2 zucchinis, spiralized into noodles
– 1 cup broccoli florets

– 1 lb chicken breast, cooked and cubed
– 1/2 cup low-fat milk
– 1/4 cup parmesan cheese

– 2 cloves garlic, minced

– Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat a skillet over medium heat and cook zucchini noodles for 2-3 minutes until tender.
2. Add broccoli and cooked chicken and cook 2 minutes more.
3. In a small pot, heat milk and garlic until just simmering. Reduce heat and stir in cheese until sauce thickens, about 2 minutes.

4. Add sauce to noodles, chicken and broccoli. Toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

Is Steamed Chicken and Broccoli Healthy for Weight Loss?

This combination can be an effective meal for losing weight due to its high protein and fiber content. Here is how it supports weight loss efforts:

High protein

Chicken breast provides around 28 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving, keeping you full for hours. Protein has the highest thermogenic effect of any macronutrient, meaning your body burns more calories digesting it.

Low calories

A serving of steamed chicken and broccoli is low in calories, allowing you to eat a sizable volume without overdoing it on calories. This supports a calorie deficit needed for weight loss.

High satiety

The fiber from broccoli digests slowly, leading to prolonged satiety compared to refined carbs. This can prevent overeating later in the day.

Nutrient rich

This meal provides weight loss-friendly micronutrients like B-vitamins, vitamin C, calcium and iron. You get far more nutrients than empty calorie fast food meals.

Lean protein

Chicken breast is a lean source of protein without excess saturated fat found in red meats. Limiting fat intake aids weight loss.

Low energy density

Foods with low energy density provide fewer calories per gram. Steamed veggies and chicken are mostly water, keeping calories low compared to fried foods.

High volume

You can eat a large serving size of steamed chicken and broccoli for few calories. Having food bulk keeps portions large and hunger satisfied.

Potential Drawbacks and Precautions

While steamed chicken and broccoli offers many benefits, there are some potential downsides to keep in mind:

High sodium

Restaurant preparations often have very high sodium levels from soy sauce, oyster sauce and hoisin sauce. This can negate the health value, especially for those limiting sodium intake.

Bland taste

Some find plain steamed chicken and broccoli boring or bland after a while. Adding variety with healthy sauces and spices can help.

May trigger reactions

Broccoli contains FODMAPs which may cause gas or bloating issues in people with IBS. Sulfur compounds may also lead to slight thyroid effects in sensitive individuals when consumed in very high amounts.

Safety of leftovers

When ordering takeout, improper storage and reheating of leftovers increases risk of bacterial contamination and foodborne illness. Use within 3-4 days and reheat fully.

Hidden ingredients

Restaurant dishes may have added sugars, preservatives or inflammatory oils without your knowledge. Check nutrition info online or ask questions when ordering.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some common questions about steamed chicken and broccoli:

Is steamed or grilled chicken healthier?

Grilled chicken has slightly fewer calories and fat compared to steamed. However, steaming retains more moisture and some B vitamins. Both are excellent lean protein choices.

Can I freeze takeout chicken and broccoli?

Yes, you can freeze it in airtight containers for up to 3-4 months. Thaw in the fridge before reheating until hot throughout. Avoid refreezing after thawing.

What’s the healthiest cooking method for broccoli?

Steaming, microwaving, sautéing and roasting are best to maximize nutrition. Boiling causes more nutrient losses. Any method is healthier than not eating broccoli at all though.

Is broccoli Keto friendly?

Broccoli is very low carb with only 2.5g net carbs per cup. It fits well into a ketogenic diet and provides antioxidants. Enjoy it cooked in healthy fats like olive oil or avocado oil.

Can I substitute cauliflower or green beans?

Absolutely. Cauliflower and green beans are both healthy low carb options. Cauliflower has a mild flavor like broccoli when steamed. Green beans have a crisp, fresh taste.

The Bottom Line

Steamed chicken breast and broccoli can be a nutritious meal when ordering Chinese takeout or dining out, as long as portions are controlled and salty sauces are limited. Selecting grilled and steamed dishes with veggie sides is your best bet for keeping restaurant meals light and healthy.

At home, cooking this simple meal yourself allows you to boost nutrition and avoid excess sodium, sugar and calories. When combined with other balanced whole foods as part of an overall healthy diet, steamed chicken and broccoli is a smart, waistline-friendly choice.

Leave a Comment