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 How to Eat Healthily in China - 3 Steps

How to Eat Healthily in China - 3 Steps

Written by Kelly PangUpdated Aug. 23, 2021

You may have seen some negative reports about Chinese food, and you may worry about how to have a healthy diet when you are traveling in China. Well, read on and see how to avoid unhealthy eating, and let Chinese food become a highlight of your China tour in three steps.

1. Know About Unhealthy Eating - Ways to Avoid It

Before finding a healthy diet, you need to know what constitutes unhealthy eating in China, so that you can try to avoid it. Here are three facts you should know about unhealthy eating in China and ways to avoid them.

Avoid Excess Seasoning and Oil


Seasoning: One of the unhealthy eating habits of Chinese people is that they usually put extra salt and sometimes soy sauce in dishes. Some cooks like to add monosodium glutamate (MSG) in soup to enhance the flavor. This usually happens in restaurants.

Too much salt or MSG increases the possibility of high blood pressure. Some restaurants now use chicken extract instead of MSG.

Oil: Some street food, especially deep-fried food may have oil-related problems. Some street food vendors use the same pot of oil to deep-fry food again and again, which is not healthy at all.

  • Ask the cook not to put too much salt or MSG in your food.
  • Don't eat street food if you do not have a strong stomach.
  • Cook for yourself.

Useful Phrases

English Chinese
Please don't put MSG in my food. 请不要放味精。
Please add less salt/soy sauce to my food. 请不要放太多盐/酱油。

Avoiding Disposable Chopsticks and Paper Bowls

Disposable Chopsticks and Paper BowlsDisposable chopsticks and paper bowls may be unhygienic or contain toxins.

Many restaurants, especially street food vendors, offer a take-out service. Some cheap disposable chopsticks and paper bowls may not meet hygiene standards and are bad for consumers' health. What's more, using disposable chopsticks and paper bowls is unfriendly to the environment.

  • Don't have take-out food with disposable chopsticks and paper bowls; eat your food in restaurants instead.
  • Take your own containers and tableware if you really prefer take-out.

Avoiding Shared Saliva at the Table

Chinese people usually share the same dishes with others at the table. At a meal with several people you can order many different dishes, but you need to pick up food from the same dishes as others.

Chinese people see this way of eating as providing closeness and friendliness. However, it is quite unhygienic, especially if someone has a saliva-transmitted illness.

  • A more hygienic way: You can ask waiters to give you extra serving chopsticks for communal use.

2. Relax and Enjoy Healthy and Delicious Chinese Food

Meat and VegetableA dish with meat and vegetables

A dish with meat and vegetables: Chinese cooks pay attention to the combination of ingredients in each dish. Usually a dish is cooked with more than two ingredients that make a dish look colorful, smell good, and taste delicious. The most obvious characteristic is that Chinese people cook meat with vegetables. Vegetables can reduce the fat intake from meat, and meat makes vegetables taste more delicious. You can have both meat and vegetables in one dish.

Completely cooked food: There are few raw ingredients in Chinese dishes. Most Chinese food is cooked. Although cooking food may cause a loss of nutrients, it can kill bacteria and parasites in raw ingredients, especially meat.

Medicinal food: Most Chinese people believe that if your sickness can be healed by food then you should not take any pills. Therefore, there are many healthy foods and sometimes they are used for food therapy. Chinese cooks like to add medicinal herbs into soup for a medicinal diet. Read more about Chinese medicinal cuisine and healthy seasonal recipes.

Don't worry too much about food issues. There are lots of delicious and healthy Chinese foods, and this can be a highlight of your China tour.

3. Tips for Your China Diet - More Precautions

Actually it's usually fine to eat what locals eat. If you are really worried about eating something you shouldn't, see more detailed tips below.

Hot PotSpicy Hotpot

Water: Don't drink water from any taps, and avoid cheap ice. You can buy mineral water or drinks from shops, or use a kettle for boiled water.

Breakfast: Have breakfast in a clean restaurant. Alternatively, buy bread and milk at a bakery or try a Chinese breakfast, such as soup noodles, wonton, or dumplings.

Street food: Don't eat too many street foods and avoid street barbecue.

Spicy food: If you can't eat spicy food, never try a spicy hotpot. However, there is a two-flavor hotpot (with spicy and non-spicy sides) that you can try.

Allergies: It's not easy to enjoy traveling when you have food allergies. So you'd better find a travel guide or take some Chinese phrases with you to avoid eating any food you may be allergic to. See how to handle food allergies when traveling in China.

Stomach medicine: If you are worried that your stomach will be unable to get used to Chinese food, remember to take your anti-diarrhea medicine.

Let Us Help You Enjoy a More Care-Free China Tour


If you are planning a China tour and are worried about your diet, let us help to reduce the burden on you with expert help from our travel advisors and tour guides. Below are our popular China tours, for inspiration:

Our tours can be customized. Just tell us your requirements and interests, and our guide will assist you by making sure your food is carefully prepared so that you enjoy a wonderful trip without worrying about what might be lurking in your bowl.

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