I have now been on/off with the keto diet for the last nine months. The funny has been that I have keto far easier when I have been in Asia than I did when back in Europe (especially doing keto in Albania).
Overall, I think keto is the best diet for chaps like me that really like to eat! I have previously written on how to lose weight in Asia, but here’s how to specifically pull off keto in China.
Is China Keto friendly?
Overall, yes, but there are a few little areas of concern, and things to avoid, namely rice, and noodles. Rice and noodles are much easier to avoid if you don’t have Chinese friends, or family. Try telling a Chinese friend you don’t do rice, or noodles, and they will be ready to call 911. That being said, before keto I never have eaten much rice. Rice is avoidable.
Sadly, the list of “what to avoid when eating keto in China” does not stop there, and there are a few things that look safe, but might well not be.
- Beijing Duck – tastes great, but the coating is not keto friendly
- Chinese soups – not all soups in China, but a lot use corn starch to thicken them up. Sorry!
- Meat sauces – Often contain corn starches, and sugar to glaze them
- Meat – BUT MEAT IS KETO! It is, but when it is glazed there’s usually sugar there, or there about.
- Dumplings – Chinese dumplings are a big no-no I’m afraid!
But these are merely just the warnings, generally speaking Keto in China is a walk in the park.
Here’s some of my top keto cuisine in China picks.
Kao Rou (BBQ)
An absolute savour if you need meat, and absolutely everywhere in China. BBQ is more than just food, it is very much the social get together, and when my roommate was on keto we ate it every night (it did get boring). Aside from meat that is only cooked with some spices on a grill, there are also numerous keto friendly, or semi-friendly vegetables to lob on the grill. Tend to only serve beer though…..
Huo Guo (hot pot)
If you are lucky enough to get a date in China, you will more than likely head to a hot pot restaurant. Group hot-pots can be a pain, but individual hot pots mean the world is your oyster. Essentially you heat up the bowl, pick your own meats, and sauces, and cook it yourself. Therefore you control the carbs. Beer or Bai jiu only I’m afraid.
Only great cuisine that originated in Sichuan, the food capital of China. This is like good old kao rou, but boiled instead of grilled. You decide the meats or vegetables that you have, it gets cooked to the spice level of your choice, and you eat it. Mala Tang is one of my favourite foods in China.
Sausages are a thing
You can get really good sausages on a stick throughout China. Well to be honest standards vary greatly. Hong Kong and Macau sausages are amazing, whilst over in the mainland standards do vary some bit. Never the less they offer a fast easy keto-friendly snack in China.
Cooking keto in China
I love to cook, and food is dirt cheap in China. If you want to cook whilst in China, it is easy to keep to keto.
What to drink on keto in China?
I’ll do the foreplay first and talk about soft-drinks. There’s water. LOL, no really water is pretty much where it stops. Most of the flavoured water has sugar in it. China is famous for its tea though. You can now get soda water in a lot of stores.
Alcohol wise it is not much better, China has beer, and it is bad too. Bai Jiu (the local firewater) honestly is one of the worst drinks I have ever had, I literally refuse to drink it. Big words for a pisshead. Spend some extra money and get some vodka and soda water from a foreign type store if you need your drinks.
And that is how to survive on keto when traveling through China!
Gareth Johnson is the founder of Young Pioneer Tours, a published writer, and all round entrepreneur. He enjoys street food, and encourage others to get paid to travel the world.