It’s easy to make ramen healthier


Ditch the seasoning packet

Is there anyone who hasn’t eaten ramen?  For some people, it’s survival food.  Cheap, filling, easy to prepare, indestructible and tasty.  What’s not to like?

Ramen noodle soup originated in China long ago.  Traders introduced it to Japan, and it spread to the US after World War II.  Speciality restaurants or food shops sell fresh ramen noodles, but dried ramen is the go-to choice for many people who just want a quick inexpensive meal.

The main criticism of the dried ramen in the familiar cellophane packages is the salt content.  Most commercially prepared soups are high sodium and a serving of ramen is no different, with about 880 mg of sodium.  According to the USDA food database, the actual noodles contribute most of that sodium, so eliminating the flavor packets doesn’t significantly reduce the sodium.  Ramen is just one more high sodium food (such as hot dogs, pepperoni pizza, chips) that shouldn’t be a dietary staple.

Ramen is nutritionally one-dimensional.  It’s mainly carbohydrates, with fat and some protein, along with the sodium.  In addition to the 880 mg of sodium, one serving (half of a typical package, not the whole package) has almost 200 calories, 4 grams protein and 7 grams fat.  But you can make it better with little effort.

Make ramen better

  1. Throw out the seasoning packet.  The main ingredients are salt, sugar and MSG.
  2. Simmer the noodles in water according to package instructions.  For more flavorful soup, use a low sodium broth for cooking.
  3. After 2 minutes, add 2-3 cups chopped vegetables like broccoli, shredded carrot, shredded cabbage, sliced bok choy or other vegetables of your choice.  Use frozen vegetables to make this step much easier.
  4. Cook for another 1-2 minute.
  5. For a less soupy bowl of noodles, pour off some of water before adding the seasonings.
  6. Turn off heat and add seasonings such as minced garlic, 1/4 tsp ginger, Sriracha to taste, 1-2 tsp lime juice or rice vinegar, soy sauce or fish sauce.  Other good choices: minced fresh cilantro, sliced scallions, sliced mushrooms, bean sprouts and sliced chilis.
  7. Add a high protein food such as chopped tofu, hard boiled egg halves, cooked pork, cooked shrimp or cooked chicken.
  8. Serve

Just a little more complicated than using the seasoning packet, but a whole lot healthier.  Now you’ve got significant protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals.  Not to mention a very filling meal.

You can find plenty of other ramen recipes online.  Pick the ones that include protein and vegetables.  If you’re watching calories, avoid a lot of added fat.

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