Pumping Up with Sai Eating like a Champ in Xi’an

Article by Sai Gopalan

Summer is here, the time when we get to show off our sexy beach bodies and have admirers drool all over our sexy, toned, flawless physique. Well…not exactly. Firstly, there’s no beach in Xi’an and secondly, have you looked in the mirror recently? That’s right, it’s YOU staring back at yourself; it isn’t a monster that ate you and, no, there’s nothing wrong with your mirror. You have to face the harsh reality. You ate the cold away during winter and now you’re, to put it lightly, more of you. But, never fear, Sai is here! With so many tempting food options in Xi’an, we need to know what healthy options we can eat and what to avoid!

Foods to Avoid

As tasty, cheap and convenient as they are, all oily, deep or stir fried foods should be avoided like the plague. Sorry, but besides the amount of calories, they increase your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and other nasty health effects. Here’s another bitter pill to swallow: beef and pork is a definite no-no. How they prepare them in most restaurants, including BBQs, is a serious calorie punch. Even Kung Pao Chicken can add over 1400 calories per serving. Also avoid rice and other processed carbs. They mess with your insulin levels and cause some serious fat storage.

Foods to Eat

So what can you eat? Ideally, you want to cook at home but we know with the hustle and bustle of daily life it’s not always possible. However, there are some healthy options that you can enjoy in your local restaurants.

Breakfast: The most important meal of the day! Your local congee or porridge is a great healthy option. Yes, congee tends to have rice but having it so early in the morning with fish and vegetables makes it a great kick start to the day that remains healthy and doesn’t mess up your diet plans. Throw in some fruits, like apples or bananas, and you have a great, filling, fat burning breakfast.

The Inbetweeners: Xi’an is famous for its soup and broth, which is not only healthy but also really good for your weight loss goals. Hot and sour chicken or vegetable soups are great options to help curb your appetite during the day. Shrimp, chicken or vegetable dumplings are also a great option with less than 50 calories a pop. Tofu is a great option as well. You can throw this in with your main meals or soup, because it’s high on protein that not is only healthy but great for the metabolism as well.

Main Meals: When it comes to main meals you want to go for smoked or poached, but it’s not always easy to find in local restaurants. Boiled food is an alternative and, yes, we can argue that a lot of the nutrients are lost, but this isn’t always the case and still makes a very healthy low calorie choice (and don’t fool yourself, hot pot kills the nutrients).

Chicken, duck and fish are common in Xi’an and often come with a variety of green leafy vegetables, which are not only have numerous health benefits but are also low on calories and great for the metabolism. If you are going for vegetable dishes, like I said earlier you want to avoid fried, oily food. The more natural the better, otherwise you’re just defeating the purpose. I also found this great salad takeaway place that delivers to your door or workplace right here in Xi’an. There’s a wide selection of healthy delicious choices that are filling enough to have over two meals. I often order it for lunch, have half and then have the other half a few hours later. Just remember to order a day in advance to ensure that it shows up on time. Their WeChat ID is philosalad.

Snacks: Sorry everyone, but all of your favorite sugary snacks found in the Muslim Quarter do not count. Try munching on the loads of fruits and vegetables offered in China such as bananas, apples, pineapples, watermelons, and berries. Sweet potatoes are also fantastic as they are low on calories and high in fiber and can be found everywhere in Xi’an. Eating some snacks in between meals can raise your metabolism and turn your body into a fat burning machine.

Getting Real: Ok, let’s get real. I don’t expect you guys to cut all of that delicious, unhealthy local food, but at least eat them in moderation. If you do need your noodle fix, go for cold noodles and have the sauce on the side and also aim to have your high carb meals just after a workout or earlier in the day. I know when I simply cut down on that oily food and rice from my diet, throw in green tea and some snacks throughout the day and do some HIIT exercises, I see some massive results in a really short time. So come on peeps, get moving, get real and get it together.

Saien Gopalan is a South African English teacher currently teaching at EF. He has been living in Xi’an for 2 years and enjoys his off days exploring the Xi’an nightlife and of course, going to the gym.