Help! I’m Addicted To Noodles

Yes, we’ve all been there. We want to say no to that big dish of scrumptious-looking, delightfully fragrant noodles, but temptation peaks and before we know it, we’ve broken our diet by justifying that not eating the popular Asian
staple would be an all-out insult to Chinese culture. Queue guilt. 

Fear not, fellow noodle lovers. If you are an avid noodle aficionado but are serious about maintaining a healthy diet, we have a few tips that can help you enjoy the dish without waving your waistline goodbye.

Tip1: Know Your Noodles

There is a surprising nutritional variety when it comes to different noodles. Wheat, egg (which don’t always contain egg), rice… if you are shopping for noodles, learn to look at the nutritional information on the back of the pack. This will give you a better idea of what you’re dealing with when you eat out.

If you don’t read Chinese characters, don’t worry – the main culprits are easy to spot. The Chinese word for carbohydrates will be the easiest to find as it’s the only word with five characters (碳水化合物). The word for sodium (钠) only has one. Fat (脂肪) and energy content (能量) both have two characters, but fat will be listed in grams while energy in kJ. Calories can be deduced from the latter with a simple converter tool (free on app stores). Aim for low percentages here, especially since the sauce or broth accompanying your noodles may be respectively high in fat and/or sodium. Higher protein (蛋白质) values are a big plus, and absolutely exist.

Our supermarket choice is noodles made from buckwheat (荞麦面), which is not actually wheat or related to it. The dark noodles, famous in Japanese cuisine, are widely available and cost less than RMB 10 per pack. Noodles made entirely from buckwheat are additionally a great source of fibre and protein (around 11g per 100g serving) as well as vitamins and minerals.



Tip 2: Method Matters

Cutting to the chase, the worst noodle damage you can do is late night, fried street noodles. Worse than the 800 – 1000 empty calories you consume, the ample oil used to cook the noodles is usually poor quality and reused, coating an already greasy dish with fat and robbing any vegetables of their nutritional value. Mixing other empty calories (ie. booze) while indulging will guarantee weight gain, unless you feel well enough to spend half of the following day exercising.

But don’t be put off – you don’t have to swear off fried noodles just because you care about your health. Enjoy occasionally on an exercise day, knowing the damage, or make your own dish at home using healthier ingredients and oil, which is not so harmful to your health, such as coconut.

Tip 3: Talk To Your Noodle Vendor

vendor or get a Chinese-speaking friend to do so for you. Try to find raw noodle vendors(such as Shaanxi-style liangpi凉皮 stalls) to avoid unhealthy, cooking oil entirely.

Some friendly noodle stands we know are even willing to use half the normal portion of noodles and fill up the rest of the bowl with the raw cucumber usually used as a topping, for an extra RMB 2 of course! The dish comes with bean sprouts and nothing but a peanutbased sauce mixed with soy sauce and chillies. The noodles are made from rice flour (米粉), meaning they are gluten free. Not bad for an RMB 8 emergency lunch.

Remember, just because noodles can be extremely unhealthy doesn’t mean you have to be. Familiarise yourself with different noodles, stay away from fried dishes and exercise a little portion control (ie. by adding veggies) to ensure you can feed your inner noodle lover without sacrificing your figure.

Giulia Sciota