Walk Talk Nutrition visits Panda Express

PandaExpressThe Wok Smart symbol can help you make healthier choices

The Panda Express website is full of nutrition information, including a handy nutrition calculator.  If you don’t want top be bothered with that, just choose items with the Wok Smart symbol, which designates lower calorie items.  We both picked Wok Smart choices, and were very pleased with the serving sizes and quality.  If you’re watching calories, Kathy recommends ordering a bowl with one Wok Smart entree and a side of mixed vegetables for a satisfying lower calorie meal.

According to the website, you can order half portions of sides, which would be the ideal choice for starchy higher calorie items like rice or noodles.

While we like the idea of the Wok Smart icon, it could be misleading.  Everything that is under 250 calories per serving is labeled Wok Smart, including appetizers like egg rolls. Ordering high calorie appetizers on top of the meal can break the calorie bank.  And egg rolls may be low calorie, but they’re small, so you’re not likely to find them filling as a meal.  Another problem: Wok Smart doesn’t address sodium content.  If you’re concerned about sodium intake, check the nutrition calculator.  Asian food is typically high sodium.  WokSmart

Kathy calculated a worst-case-scenario meal — Beijing Beef and Chow Mein noodles — to compare to her Teriyaki Chicken:

Beijing Beef meal: 1180 calories, 34 grams protein, 57 grams fat, 1750 mg sodium

Teriyaki Chicken meal: 370 calories, 40 grams protein, 13 grams fat, 1070 mg sodium.

Good Points:

  • MSG not added to the food.
  • Trans fat listed as 0.
  • Wok Smart symbol — displayed in the serving line — can help you choose lower calorie items.
  • Few tempting high calorie desserts and treats.
  • Website has plenty of nutrition information.
  • You can put together low calorie, healthy meals easily.

The Downside

  • Food tends to be high sodium
  • Starchy side dishes are high carb, a concern for diabetics
  • Not all menu items listed on website were available the day we visited, many of them Wok Smart choices.
  • You can put together a high calorie meal easily.  The menu choices voted most popular, such as Orange Chicken, are higher calorie.

Our Bottom Line:

We would both return to Panda Express for a quick healthy lower calorie meal.

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