If I'm craving Chinese food, more than likely I'm headed to Panda Express, a nationwide Chinese fast food chain with over 2100 stores. Chinese food is my absolute favorite, and I could easily eat it every day of the week. Even though I have a strong affinity for this particular cuisine, I also recently embarked on a fitness journey that involves fat loss and muscle gain, so I thought I was in for a rude awakening and pure agony of being forbidden to indulge in my faves. I didn't want to give in to that type of thinking, but how? How could I maintain a caloric deficit and eat Chinese takeout at the same time? A lightbulb came on when I realized they had something that most Chinese spots don't have: detailed nutritional data. With this information and a kitchen scale, I now had the ability to tailor my Panda Express order to fit my dietary needs without straying from my fitness goals. I wanted to highlight my findings and maybe help someone else struggling with the same issue. So what's the best Panda Express takeout?
Worst Panda Express Takeout Options on a Diet
The Original Orange Chicken
490 Calories, 23g fat, 51g carbs, and 25 g protein per 5.7 oz serving
Orange Chicken is practically synonymous with Panda Express, and it is by far their most popular dish. It has been recreated and emulated so many times. While it is a higher calorie item, depending on your caloric needs, there's an opportunity to work this into your diet.
470 Calories, 26g fat, 46g carbs, 13g protein per 5.6 oz serving
I actually prefer the Beijing Beef to the Orange Chicken, and at least it comes with a few veggies like bell peppers and sautéed onions. Lightly breaded, and the sauce is just perfect. While the amount of protein is surprisingly low for this dish, it's still tasty.
Honey Walnut Shrimp
360 calories, 23g Fat, 35g carbs, 13g Protein per 3.7 oz serving
It's breaded shrimp covered in a sticky sweet sauce and topped with walnuts. This kind of deep fried goodness is exactly the type of cuisine that brings you to Panda Express.
Honey Sesame Chicken Breast
490 cal, 40g carbs, 16g protein, 22g fat per 5.3 oz serving
This is a limited edition dish that Panda Express teases fans with from time to time. It is a slightly healthier alternative to the orange chicken, and you really can't go wrong with honey and sesame.
510 cal, 20g fat, 13g protein, 80g carbs per 9.4 oz serving
The chow mein is what started my Panda Express fandom. The hosts of my favorite podcast, A Hot Dog Is a Sandwich (shoutout to Mythical Kitchen!), bring it up all the time, and I NEEDED to know what they were talking about. One bite of these chewy noodles and I discovered that they definitely live up to the hype.
520 Cal, 15g fat, 85g carb, 11g protein per 9.3 oz serving
A Chinese takeout classic! While there's nothing particularly mind blowing about Panda Express' fried rice, it can be ordered as a side or a la carte. This is a very high carb item, but there's always the option of splitting your side order and getting half rice and half Super Greens.
Best Panda Express Menu Options for Diets
90 calories, 22.5 g fat, 10g carbs, and 6g protein per 9.3 oz serving
I don't know what Panda Express puts in their Super Greens, but these veggies are so tasty and crunchy. I like to use Super Greens to bulk up my meal and add volume without an extreme amount of calories.
String Bean Chicken
190 cal, 9g fat, 13g carbs, and 14g protein per 5.6 oz serving
The String Bean Chicken is the sleeper hit of Panda Express' entire menu. It's a personal staple that I get every single time order. For a fast food restaurant, this is an insanely low amount of calories for a decent amount of protein.
Black Pepper Angus Steak
180 cal, 7g fat, 03g carbs, 19g protein per 5.1 oz serving
This dish features less calories than the string bean chicken and even more grams of protein. If you're trying to hit your macros and find yourself with Panda Express as your only option, this is one of the best Panda Express takeout options.
Steamed White Rice
380 cal, 0g fat, 7g protein, and 87g carb per 8.1 oz serving
As always, there is steamed white rice as an alternative to the fried rice. You can still hit your carb intake without the extra fat. Think of it as a blank slate to soak up all of the sauce from those yummy entrees.
Depending on your caloric and macronutrient goals, you can definitely make this menu work for you. It may take a few calculations, but you don't have to say goodbye to fast food in order to meet your fitness goals.
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