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Fast Food Guide

The Best and Worst Menu Items at Panda Express

If you're planning to grab the gang together and head over to Panda Express, we spoke to two expert dietitians about all the best and worst menu choices available on the menu.
The Best and Worst Menu Items at Panda ExpressLifetimeStock/Shutterstock
The Best and Worst Menu Items at Panda Express
If you're planning to grab the gang together and head over to Panda Express, we spoke to two expert dietitians about all the best and worst menu choices available on the menu.

Panda Express is definitely a great place to satisfy your lust for Chinese food on-the-go, as this fast-food chain provides scrumptious beef, seafood, and chicken dishes that will wow your taste buds big time. However, Chinese food tends to pack a lot of sodium, making it important to choose your meal choices off the Panda Express menu with caution.

To help you decipher the Panda Express menu carefully, we spoke to two expert dietitians about all the best and worst appetizers, sides, chicken, and beef choices available on the Chinese restaurant’s menu. Below are some of the things to order if you’re planning to grab the gang together and pay this popular fast food restaurant a visit.

Chicken

Best: Grilled Teriyaki Chicken

Panda express teriyaki chicken Panda Express/Facebook
300 calories, 13 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 530 mg sodium, 8 g carbs (0 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 36 g protein

“The Grilled Teriyaki Chicken is one of the best chicken options on the Panda Express menu, as it is within a 200-400 calorie range and contains 36 grams of protein,” says registered dietitian Summer Yule, MS, RDN. Protein can help increase feelings of satiety, she adds.

Best: String Bean Chicken Breast

Panda express string bean chicken Panda Express/Facebook
190 calories, 9 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 590 mg sodium, 13 g carbs (4 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 14 g protein

Yule explains that the String Bean Chicken Breast is suitable for those looking for a lighter option, as it only contains 190 calories and has the lowest amount of saturated fat of all the chicken options listed on the menu. This dish also offers some essential fiber because of the string beans, she adds.

Worst: Black Pepper Chicken

Panda express black pepper chicken Panda Express/Facebook
280 calories, 19 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 1130 mg sodium, 15 g carbs (1 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 13 g protein

The Black Pepper Chicken dish may be one of the lighter items on the menu, but Yule suggests that it earns a spot on the “worst” list because it has a whopping 1,130 milligrams sodium. “This is about half of the sodium limit the Dietary Guidelines recommends for the entire day,” she says.

Worst: Orange Chicken

Panda express orange chicken Panda Express/Facebook
490 calories, 23 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 820 mg sodium, 51 g carbs (2 g fiber, 19 g sugar), 25 g protein

“The Orange Chicken dish is highest in calories, saturated fat, and total carbohydrates out of all the chicken choices on the menu,” Yule says. It is also one of the chicken options that is highest in sodium on the Panda Express menu as well, she adds.

Beef or Shrimp

Best: Broccoli Beef

Panda express beef broccoli Panda Express/Facebook
150 calories, 7 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 520 mg sodium, 13 g carbs (2 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 9 g protein

“The Broccoli Beef dish is lowest in sugar and total carbohydrates, making it a good option for those who are watching their carb intake,” suggests Yule. It is also the lowest in calories and lowest in saturated fat of the beef items listed, she adds. However, since this is such a light entree, she recommends adding in some brown rice to balance out the meal and make it more filling.

Best: Honey Walnut Shrimp

Honey walnut shrimp panda express Panda Express/Facebook
360 calories, 23 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 440 mg sodium, 35 g carbs (2 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 13 g protein

Yule explains that shrimp is higher in cholesterol, but that should not discourage you from ordering this dish, as she says people are less concerned with dietary cholesterol than they used to be. And if you are looking for a real omega-3 boost, she says both the shrimp and the walnuts in this dish will definitely help you obtain those necessary healthy fats your body craves.

Worst: Shanghai Angus Steak

Panda express shanghai angus steak Panda Express/Facebook
230 calories, 14 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 590 mg sodium, 13 g carbs (1 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 14 g protein

Yule says the Shanghai Angus Steak is definitely an item to avoid, as she explains that it is low in fiber and extremely high in fat, sodium, and sugar.

Worst: Beijing Beef

Panda express beijing beef Panda Express/Facebook
350 calories, 20 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 490 mg sodium, 34 g carbs (1 g fiber, 18 g sugar), 10 g protein

Like the Shanghai Angus Steak, Yule recommends avoiding the Beijing Beef, as it is equally low in fiber and contains a large amount of fat, sodium, and sugar. In fact, this small meat-based dish has more sugar than 4 Chips Ahoy! Chocolate Chip cookies.

Sides

Best: Mixed Vegetables

Panda express mixed vegetables Panda Express/Facebook
80 calories, 0.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 540 mg sodium, 16 g carbs (5 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 4 g protein

Yule says that the mixed vegetable side dish is the lightest side option on the Panda Express menu, as it only contains 80 calories. In addition, she notes that the vegetables provide essential phytonutrients and fives grams of fiber.

Best: Brown Steamed Rice

Panda express grilled teriyaki chicken mixed vegetables brown rice Panda Express/Facebook
420 calories, 4 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 15 mg sodium, 86 g carbs (4 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 9 g protein

“The Brown Steamed Rice side dish is a great choice for those who are looking for a higher energy meal or are on a low sodium diet,” Yule says. The brown rice contains only 15 milligrams of sodium and it has four grams of fiber, she suggests, while the white rice side dish offers zero grams of fiber in comparison.

Worst: Chow Mein

Panda express chow mein Panda Express/Facebook
510 calories, 20 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 860 mg sodium, 80 g carbs (6 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 13 g protein

Yule explains that Chow Mein is one the worst sides on the Panda Express menu you can choose, as it contains over 500 calories per serving and over 800 milligrams of sodium. “The Dietary Guidelines recommends limiting sodium to 2,300 milligrams per day,” she says.

Worst: Fried Rice

Panda express fried rice Panda Express/Facebook
520 calories, 16 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 850 mg sodium, 85 g carbs (1 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 11 g protein

Like the Chow Mein side, Yule says that the Fried Rice side also contains over 500 calories and 800 milligrams of sodium. In addition, she notes that this dish appears to be lacking in whole grains since it only offers one gram of fiber.

Appetizers

Best: Chicken Potsticker

Chicken potstickers Courtesy of Panda Express
160 calories, 6 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 250 mg sodium, 20 g carbs (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 6 g protein

“The Chicken Potsticker is pan-seared (not fried) and is lower in sodium than many of these options,” says Yule.

Best: Crispy Shrimp

Panda express crispy shrimp Panda Express/Facebook
130 calories, 6 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 400 mg sodium, 13 g carbs (1 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 5 g protein

Although Yule says that most appetizer choices on the Panda Express menu are fried, she notes that this option is quite low in calories and fat and is high in protein.

Worst: Cream Cheese Rangoon

Panda express cream cheese rangoons Panda Express/Facebook
190 calories, 8 g fat (5g fat), 180 mg sodium, 24 g carbs (2 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 5 g protein

Yule explains that the Cream Cheese Rangoon appetizer on the menu contains the highest amount of saturated fat, so she advises not choosing this appetizer if you visit Panda Express on a regular basis.

Worst: Bowl of Hot and Sour Soup

Panda express hot sour soup Panda Express/Facebook
170 calories, 6 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 1260 mg sodium, 20 g carbs (1 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 10 g protein

Although this bowl of soup may seem like a healthy choice, registered dietitian Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN, says it is loaded with 1,260 milligrams of sodium. She also suggests that this soup is worth avoiding as it contains the highest amount of sugar (six grams) out of any of the appetizers on the menu.

Desserts

Best: Fortune Cookie

Panda express fortune cookie Panda Express/Facebook
20 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 0 mg sodium, 5 g carbs (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 0 g protein

“At 20 calories each and two grams sugar, this is a sweet but harmless dessert,” Gulbin explains. Hey, you’re ordering off the Panda Express menu—you can’t leave the Chinese restaurant without a fortune cookie, right?

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