September 20, 2019 at 12:00PM by CWC
Whether you live in a big city with literally hundreds of hole-in-the-wall Chinese places or a suburb with just a handful of hidden gems, people still flock to P.F. Chang’s as if it’s the only place in town serving up fried rice and wontons.
Haters will say it’s because the chain—which has over 200 locations in the US—is almost always in a mall, drawing upon a customer base that just got too hungry while shopping at Pottery Barn to venture any further out. But that’s not why your local P.F. Chang’s always has a crowd. The thing is, it’s honestly really good. So good in fact that the chain has ventured into the world of frozen food so people can try to replicate their favorite restaurant dishes at home.
Delicious, yes. But healthy? Well, like virtually every restaurant, some menu items are better than others. The P.F. Chang’s menu is about the size of a pocket dictionary, making it hard to zero in on the items that are truly healthy, and even more difficult if you follow a specific eating plan, such as keto, vegetarian, or gluten-free. That’s where registered dietitian Chelsey Amer, RD, comes in. Here, she reveals the healthiest items on the menu for the three aforementioned eating plans, which can also serve as a blueprint to healthy eating at the restaurant regardless of what your food ethos is. Ready to see what she picked? Keep reading to find out.
What an RD says: Even though the rice and noodle dishes are the siren call drawing hungry eaters through P.F. Chang’s oversized doors, there are still plenty of low-carb options on the menu. Two that stand out to Amer: the ginger chicken with broccoli and the miso glazed salmon. “The ginger chicken with broccoli is just protein and veggies, making that an easy keto win,” she says. Same, she says, goes for the salmon, which is full of healthy fats, and you know how keto devotees love their healthy fats.
Order tweaks: If you can, Amer says to ask for the miso glaze on the side, as it may contain flour, upping the carb count. “A lot of restaurant sauces are thickened with flour, so that is something you want to watch out for if you’re following the ketogenic diet,” she says. Keep in mind too that both meals have a bit over 30 grams of net carbs, which is a tad high for most keto plans—so split your meal or plan your macros accordingly for the rest of the day.
Side-dish recommendations: Round out your meal with the chili-garlic green beans or Sichuan-style asparagus, Amur’s two gold star side picks for all healthy eaters, including ketogenic diet followers.
Looking for more healthy restaurant recs? Check out what a dietitian orders at Chipotle:
What an RD says: Amer is into the Buddha feast because it has steamed tofu for protein, is loaded with veggies, and isn’t covered in a sugar- or sodium-laden sauce. “With the stir-fry eggplant, this is also a healthy choice, but you do need to add protein or add a side dish to make it more nutrient-dense,” she says.
Order tweak: To her point with the stir-fry eggplant, the dish is lacking on the protein front as-is with only four grams per dish. Amer recommends asking if you can add tofu to make it more nutritious and filling.
Side-dish recommendations: Like with keto eaters, Amer says the chili-garlic green beans and Sichuan-style asparagus are both healthy side dish options for vegetarians.
What an RD says: P.F. Chang’s has an gluten-free menu, and if you have Celiac disease or a diagnosed gluten allergy or intolerance, Amer recommends sticking to it—even if something on the main menu sounds GF. “It’s tricky to know how some of the sauces and soups are thickened—flour is often used—so it’s safer to stick to the designated GF menu,” she says. With that in mind, she favors the beef and broccoli or the ginger chicken with broccoli because of the protein-fiber balance.
Order tweak: None needed.
Side-dish recommendations: Up the veggie content in your meal by adding the wok-seared spinach, Amer’s side pick for GF-eating plan. The ingredients are simple—just spinach and garlic—but that one spice adds a lot of flavor.