Asian cooking can be very healthy if you go back to the roots of the traditional cuisine. Here's how.

How to Cook Healthy Asian Food

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and we can celebrate those traditions by learning to cook healthy Asian food. Traditional Chinese food is a healthy, balanced diet. It is primarily based on green, leafy vegetables with a small amount of carbohydrate (rice or noodles) and meat (pork or chicken) or fish.  However Chinese-American food, especially “takeout,” is quite different.

The problems with Chinese takeout and Chinese-American food include the heavy emphasis on meat, salt, sugar, and less healthy oils, and the use of MSG. America’s version of Chinese food is also carbohydrate-heavy, featuring large of white rice and noodles.

Want the taste without the nutritional disaster? Try these tips.

  • increase the proportion of vegetables in a dish or meal to at least half
  • cut the sugar use less oil (stir frying or steaming instead of deep frying)
  • use low sodium soy sauce (575 mg vs 920mg sodium per tablespoon)
  • use chicken breasts instead of chicken thighs, and remove skin
  • use ground turkey instead of ground pork
  • substitute tofu for meat (firm or extra firm)
  • use brown rice instead of white rice
  • use bean thread/glass/cellophane noodles, which are made of mung beans and therefore lower on the glycemic index. Or try zoodles.

We will learn about choosing healthy ingredients – and where to buy them – in my Virtual Thrive Kitchen class on healthy Asian Cooking, which will take place on May 11. The Thrive Kitchen offers virtual cooking classes once a month on Wednesday nights from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. with a 15-minute introduction.

Classes offer instruction in healthy cooking techniques as well as delicious recipes for healthy meals that can be made from scratch in less time than it takes to order takeout. A sample Asian cooking menu might feature:

  1. Spinach and Tofu Potstickers with Spicy Dipping Sauce
  2. Kung Pao Tofu
  3. Brassica Fried Rice
  4. Quick Cucumber Pickles
  5. Stir Fried Asian Greens
  6. Sesame Zoodles

For more information and to register, call the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Health Education Department at 415-833-3450 or email

To learn more about Dr. Shiue’s cooking and see more of her recipes, check out her blog, Dr. Shiue also contributes recipes to the Kaiser Permanente’s Food for Health blog , a repository for all sorts of great cooking and meal planning ideas. You can also visit Dr Shiue’s Facebook page, which has nutrition articles, recipes, and details about her classes.

Linda Shiue, MD, is a primary care doctor and professionally trained chef who believes that the best medicine is prevention, based upon a healthy lifestyle. As Director of Culinary Medicine at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco, she is developing a teaching kitchen to empower patients with a new set of skills and knowledge to improve their health and wellness--nutrition applied through cooking skills. Classes are offered through the Health Education Department at (415) 833-3450. In addition to seeing patients, Dr. Shiue offers cooking demonstrations and hands-on workshops in which students learn to prepare seasonal produce lavishly flavored with spices and fresh herbs. Her food writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, Remedy Quarterly, Salon, Culinate, and online editions of The New York Times and Smithsonian Magazine. She also has her own website,