Study finds Chinese meals high in salt, fat and calories
A typical Chinese takeaway meal can contain more than 2,000 calories, writes ALISON HEALY, Food and Farming Correspondent
AN AVERAGE portion of prawn crackers contains more calories than two Mars bars, while a portion of egg fried rice contains more than one-third of your recommended daily calorie intake.
They are just two of the findings in the report What’s in your Chinese Takeaway? published yesterday by Safefood, the all-island body responsible for food safety and healthy eating.
It found that a typical Chinese takeaway meal for one, including a starter, main course and fried rice, was enough for two people and contained one and a half times the recommended maximum level of salt.
A portion of prawn crackers contained on average 608 calories or almost one-third of the recommended daily calorie intake. A portion of egg fried rice contained on average 727 calories – more than one-third of the recommended daily calorie intake.
Safefood sampled 220 meals from 35 takeaway outlets across the island for the study. It chose three starters: prawn crackers, won tons with sweet and sour sauce, and vegetable spring rolls. The spring rolls had the lowest calorie count and fat content.
It studied three main courses: sweet and sour chicken, beef curry and king prawn satay. Sweet and sour chicken was found to have the highest energy and total fat content, containing an average of 1,106 calories and 41g of fat per portion. Beef curry had the highest saturated fat and salt content, while king prawn satay had the lowest number of calories (608), fat and protein.
A meal of vegetable spring rolls, sweet and sour chicken and egg fried rice provided about 2,184 calories, which is 109 per cent of the recommended daily allowance. It contained 74g of total fat, which is 106 per cent of the guideline daily amount, and 10g of salt, or 160 per cent of the recommended daily intake.
The average portion of boiled and egg fried rice was found to be enough for two.
The study found that portion sizes varied considerably and were large. Five-fold differences were found among portions of prawn crackers, while a three-fold difference was seen across portions of won tons and vegetable spring rolls.
Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Safefood’s director of human health and nutrition, said traditional Asian food was healthy but chefs here had adapted recipes to suit Irish taste buds. “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 said.
The report encouraged the catering industry to put calories on menus and offer smaller portion sizes. It said Chinese takeaways should be seen as an occasional food for sharing. Boiled rice should be chosen over fried rice, and a portion should be shared.
“Order items with more vegetables without sauce and, where possible, choose leaner meats,” it said. “Minimise intake of sauces, as these are usually high in calories, fat and salt.”
It also recommended drinking water with takeaway meals, as soft drinks contained hidden calories.