Light and Healthy Vegetarian Lo Mein

by Andie Mitchell on February 15, 2011

vegetarian lo mein

Chinese food was maybe the hardest of cuisines to reintroduce to my life after losing weight. During that year of losing 135 lbs, I eschewed General Gao, anything Kung Pao, and even my beloved crab rangoon. I learned quickly, through CalorieKing and browsing recipes, that there was no easy way to budget calories, or Weight Watchers points, in a way that fit sweet and sour pork and orange chicken.

Maybe the more upscale, chicer Chinese eateries served up lighter and more wholesome dishes, but the types I frequented, the ones I loved and still love, practiced no moderation of oil, sugar, and salt. And bless them for that.

chinese food

Looking back, I realize two things: One is that I grew fearful of the food because, calorically-speaking, it’s dense. I almost imagine the person who coined “calorie bomb” was referring to my plate at a Chinese restaurant. To lose weight you must create a deficit, no matter how small it may be, and if we’re being honest with ourselves, fried rice makes that next to impossible.

The second realization I had is that at least half of my troubled relationship with Chinese food had to do with my wanting to eat it in the same binge-type way that I had always eaten it at nearly 268 lbs. It wasn’t just that I thought of the hundreds, if not thousands, of calories I’d save by not eating it, but moreso that I didn’t know how to eat it without abusing the food and myself. If I was going to have Chinese food, I wasn’t going to go lightly. All or nothing. Go hard or go home. One of those types of phrases sums up my sentiments.

If you have a lot of weight to lose and you feel that overwhelmed and dreadful pang of, “God, will I ever be able to have X food again?!”, trust me, you will. You will learn that you can have any and all of the foods you love(d). But you can’t binge on them. You can’t have them all at the same time in the same sitting. Plain and simple. And that may be the hardest part to learn. It was for me, anyway.

Nowadays any fears I once had surrounding spare ribs and lo mein, and all food for that matter, have largely disappeared. I embrace that even if a meal is 1000 calories, none of which are wholesome in the least, it’s not going to make or break a calorie piggy bank, darken a day, or make fragile a sense of self worth.

It took me a million moons to fully understand that Chinese food and pizza and foods that get topped with whipped cream and a plump red cherry do not by themselves mean nutritional ruin. One perfect plate of fried rice, beef and broccoli, and a spring roll does not translate directly to weight gain. It was always the aftermath that did me in. It was the way that one heavy meal planted a seed of self doubt in my dieting ability (which meant I was, in turn, a failure), then grew into guilt, then a ‘screw it’ attitude, and before I knew it a week had passed and I was double fisting oreos, sporting a milk mustache no doubt. Rather than just being present and enjoying that one meal fully at that time, I’d spend precious energy trying to negate it mentally and then let it spin me into a down spiral.

I had to work hard to change this, and the good news for all of us is that change is possible. Because life involves Chinese food and singular meals so calorically big that they fill a day in one sitting. My birthday was one such day. I ate every single food that I love (as I suggest we all do on birthdays), and walked around town so upbeat you would have sworn I was on something more powerful than cheese and chocolate. The beauty is in choosing not to do it everyday, and to positively revel in every moment of the meal when you do. Then, when it’s all over, know that the food will always be there, and move on with your day, your night, your life.

If we eat to oblivion everyday, no one day, no one meal is special or particularly unique. And that’s a shame. Chinese food is delicious and in my completely honest opinion, the saucier the noodles are, the thicker the chicken finger batter, and the more duck sauce, the better. So make it a once in a while meal, pair it with a full order of vegetables because I want you to get your nutrients, stop and smile midway, and then lick the plate. And on the other days, the in between days when your taste buds start taunting you with take out, make this lo mein.

Slippery noodles, crunchy bean sprouts, and a rich and glossy soy-ginger sauce. It’s savory and slightly salty but balanced by the sweet warmth of brown sugar and toasted sesame oil. It’s light and filling, and just as satisfying as the real thing.

 

Light and Healthy Vegetarian Lo Mein

Yield: 2 Servings

Ingredients

    For the Sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha hot chili sauce
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • Remaining Ingredients:
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 2 cups bean sprouts
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions, white and green parts
  • 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup shredded Napa cabbage
  • 1/4 cup grated carrot
  • 6 oz Chinese egg noodles or whole wheat spaghetti

Instructions

  1. Cook the egg noodles or spaghetti according to package instructions, drain and set aside.
  2. Stir all sauce ingredients together in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until thickened and glossy, about 3 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, set a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the two teaspoons of canola oil and swirl to coat. Add the bean sprouts, mushrooms, cabbage, and carrot. Saute for about 3 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the cooked egg noodles and the sauce, tossing to combine. Serve immediately.

Notes

Nutrition Information for 1 Serving (half of entire recipe): Calories 300, Total Fat 7.7 g, Total Carbohydrate 54.5 g, Dietary Fiber 7.4 g, Sugars 25.1 g, Protein 11.2 g

http://www.canyoustayfordinner.com/2011/02/15/light-and-healthy-vegetarian-lo-mein/

photos: Dinner Series, Divine in the Daily

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

johnny February 16, 2011 at 3:39 am

I feel like you where talking to me directly. Almost every word is one I have had. This time my weight loss has to be perminant and I sometimes wake up horrified with thoughts of all those foods I so loved to eat and haven’t had since I started to loose weight. You give me hope and I’m sure that anyone who is truely trying to loose or maintain their weight would agree. Your recipes are inspiring and your stories even more so. Don’t stop, I couldn’t imagine starting a day without a word with my God and a story from your blog. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!! :)

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Sarah (Running to Slow Things Down) February 16, 2011 at 5:17 am

This is something that I *need* to make. I love the mixture of flavors you used, and it sounds even better than takeout. Love it! :D

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Carolyn @ Lovin' Losing February 16, 2011 at 6:32 am

Thank you! I love vegetable lo mein! Can’t wait to try this recipe.

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MelissaNibbles February 16, 2011 at 7:53 am

This sounds great. I love what you wrote about being able to still eat foods that may have been forbidden. I struggle with that all the time and it helps to read your advice. Thanks!

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Laura February 16, 2011 at 7:56 am

Absolutely beautiful post. Thank you!!

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Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman February 16, 2011 at 7:59 am

This looks wonderful–light and healthy from your photos. And look at the nutrition info! Apparently it can be healthy. Dare I say better than takeout?

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Shanna, like Banana February 16, 2011 at 8:04 am

In my at-home creations of Chinese food, I like to use Napa Cabbage or broccoli slaw as the ‘base’ instead of rice or noodles. The flavor comes from the spices and veggies. Nom!

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Can You Stay for Dinner February 16, 2011 at 8:07 am

Awesome idea, Shanna!

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Katie February 16, 2011 at 8:08 am

Seriously, when are you going to write a book??? You make such SENSE out of concepts that are so difficult to grasp when one is trying to lose or maintain weight. No, seriously, when is the book coming out? I’m buying!!

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Can You Stay for Dinner February 16, 2011 at 8:45 am

Thanks Katie!!

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yumtherapy February 16, 2011 at 3:14 pm

What a great post. That is so great how much weight you lost, and I totally agree with your ideas about being able to eat what you want, but in moderation and not all the time. Also, the lo mein looks delish!

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M.J. Jacobsen February 16, 2011 at 4:58 pm

I try to stay away from Chinese restaurants, and I miss the food! This looks so healthy and yummy! Thanks for a good recipe for Chinese!!!!

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ahlterra February 16, 2011 at 6:23 pm

I just got introduced to your blog the other week, and i have to say, i’m addicted. I have just moved halfway around the world to try and start my life over, and that includes losing weight, about as much as you lost (Major congrats on that!).

You have really given me some amazing ideas (the muffin tin lasagna? Brilliant!) that I can’t wait to start implementing!

Also, seconding the Cookbook request!

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Nicole February 19, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Hmmm, I’m making this one next week! :)

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Amy Hyman February 20, 2011 at 6:27 am

this was absolutely delicious and i had all of the basic ingredients to make a varied recipe on hand. love when that happens. soooo good!

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Can You Stay for Dinner February 20, 2011 at 7:52 am

Thanks Amy! So glad you liked it :)

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Lindsey March 18, 2011 at 6:21 am

This turned out wonderfully! The sauce was a great balance of flavors, and I had never thought of using thin wheat spaghetti in a dish like this. The only substitution I had to do was replace the nappa cabbage (which I forgot while shopping) for some broccoli slaw – which I had leftover from making the buffalo chicken wraps….it was a good replacement and provided a bit of crunch.

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Can You Stay for Dinner March 18, 2011 at 7:20 am

So happy to hear you liked it Lindsey!! Thank you for letting me know :)

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Andy October 25, 2011 at 5:35 pm

I really appreciate seeing all the tasty vegetarian recipes on your blog. My partner and I have been vegetarian for years now, so I’m often looking for new things to cook that are healthy and nutritious, but also full of flavor. This vegetarian lo mein recipe ticks all the boxes! I made it this evening (with tofu instead of shiitake mushrooms), and it came out great!

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Andrea Schiarizzi December 5, 2011 at 3:30 pm

This is my new favorite Chinese food recipe!! I’ve made it twice now and it is SO good. Thanks for sharing, I will definitely be visiting your blog more often!

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Christina January 6, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Making this tonight…Forgot to get chinese 5 spice…Is there anything I can sub or add or is it an absolute must to have?

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neela February 15, 2012 at 4:55 pm

I always thought that Chinese food is mostly healthy and does not have too many calories. Unless you fry everything…of course

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Alyssa June 21, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Wow. I would like to say congratulations first off! You look fantastic! I found this blog when I googled lo mein recipes (as none of my Asian cookbooks have a ‘classic’ (aka Americanized, which is what i wanted!) Chinese veggie lo mein recipe, and was enticed by the use of healthy in the title. I have always loved to cook and experiment in the kitchen, and my live in boyfriend of 5 years is a chef. When I was young I was able to eat whatever I wanted with no repercussions, but as I approach the 30 year mark the years of eating butter and oil laden classic (esp. French) restaurant style cuisines has contributed to a slow yet steady weight gain. I have started exercising regularly again and seeking out healthier alternatives to the foods I have always loved. I tried this recipe tonight (with a couple tweaks, I added broccoli and onions to the saute and omitted the mushrooms and used soba noodles)it was fantastic (and Mr. Chef enjoyed as well!). I will certainly be back to check out more recipes!

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Tony August 19, 2012 at 4:38 pm

I cut the sugar by half and it was still really really good. You might try that to shave more calories off this tasty dish.

Thanx for this recipe. It is easy to make and taste great.

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Nick September 25, 2012 at 3:00 am

I made this tonight for my stepmom whom is trying to lose some weight. It’s was a great dish with plenty for her to not crack over the night. I loved making it. Simple. I had to triple the recipe due to the large family.

I shall train them all not to eat meat. Teehee. >.> they don’t miss it anymore. :D instead of fried chicken they’re now eating healthier. Thanks!

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Katie December 6, 2012 at 11:28 pm

Try adding water chestnuts and bamboo shoots… so tasty!!!

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Allison January 16, 2013 at 5:49 pm

I was wondering where the 11.7 g of protein comes from? The Mushrooms ?

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admin January 16, 2013 at 7:10 pm

Hey Allison,

The mushrooms, the bean sprouts, and the noodles all contribute to it. Hope this helps!

Andie

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Daritza June 15, 2013 at 1:57 am

The photos are no longer available. It can be solved? Terrific recipe! Thank you!

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Tia July 1, 2013 at 8:39 am

I have been following your blog for a few weeks now and have already made several of your recipes. First off, let me say that your food is amazing!! Secondly, I have been motivated to begin weight watchers and have had my eye on this recipe for about a week. What would you estimate the carbohydrates at for one serving? Thank you so much for being such an inspiration!

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Andie Mitchell July 4, 2013 at 10:33 am

Thanks so much Tia! I just recalculated the nutrition info:

Calories 300, Total Fat 7.7 g, Total Carbohydrate 54.5 g, Dietary Fiber 7.4 g, Sugars 25.1 g, Protein 11.2 g

Andie

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Maggie July 29, 2013 at 7:45 pm

wow… this recipe is amazing. and so simple. sometimes those are the best.

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