A typical sesame chicken recipe calls for chicken, soy sauce, salt, corn starch, flour, peanut oil for frying, sesame oil, sugar, sesame seeds and spices, including chili pepper, ginger and garlic. The dish is heavy on oil and lacking in vegetables. It's a good source of protein, but it contains added sugar and sodium. Grabbing takeout from your local Chinese restaurant gives you little control over the nutritional content of your dish. Make your own at home with some healthier substitutions that won't have such an impact on your waistline and heart health.
Calories and Carbs Count
A portion of sesame chicken from a nationwide chain restaurant has 890 calories. That's nearly half of what the average moderately active woman needs in a day and about 30 percent of what the average moderately active male needs. A lighter homemade version that uses skinless chicken breasts and isn't deep-fried contains 365 calories per serving.
There are 82 grams of carbs in the restaurant portion of sesame chicken and only 21 in the serving of healthy sesame chicken. These carbs come from the flour and sugar in the recipe. You'll get more than 100 percent of the carbs an adult needs in a day by eating the whole portion of restaurant sesame chicken; the healthy homemade version only supplies 15 percent. Carbs supply your body with energy, but eating more carbs than you need can lead to weight gain.
More Than Enough Protein
Sesame chicken is a good source of high-quality protein, but eating the whole restaurant portion may provide more than you need. The 66 grams of protein in the restaurant sesame chicken dish supplies almost 150 percent of the daily recommended intake of protein for a women and 118 percent of the RDI for a man. You need protein to support healthy muscles and your immune system, but excess protein that isn't used turns to fat. The healthy homemade version is a more moderate source of protein with 39 grams per serving.
The Fat Factor
The restaurant sesame chicken dish is fairly high in fat, with 35 grams of total fat, which is a little more than one-half of the daily value for fat. Of that total fat, 6 grams are saturated fat, the unhealthy type that raises your bad cholesterol and can lead to heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends limiting your saturated fat intake to 6 percent of your daily calories. If you eat 2,200 calories per day, the restaurant portion of sesame chicken provides about 40 percent of that limit. The healthy homemade version contains 14 grams of total fat and only 2 grams of saturated fat.
The Sodium Problem
Asian dishes can be very high in sodium because of the ubiquitous use of soy sauce, and recipes may even call for additional salt, which is a mixture of sodium and chloride. The restaurant sesame chicken dish contains 2,250 milligrams of sodium. This is 150 percent of the Institute of Medicine's recommended adequate intake of 1,500 milligrams per day and nearly 100 percent of the institute's recommended upper limit of 2,300 milligrams. Eating too much sodium is harmful to your health. A high-sodium diet leads to high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. The healthier homemade version is still fairly high in sodium with 882 milligrams.
Making Healthy Choices
If you decide to indulge your craving for sesame chicken takeout, eat only a small portion and order a side of plain steamed vegetables for filling fiber and essential vitamins and minerals. Choose brown rice over white rice if it's available. White rice has been stripped of its fiber and other nutrients during processing. Your body metabolizes it quickly, which can lead to unhealthy spikes in blood sugar and energy lows.
Make your own healthy sesame chicken at home with low-sodium soy sauce and less -- or no -- sugar. Use whole-wheat flour to coat the chicken and saute in just a little bit of olive oil. Add plenty of fresh veggies to your dish, including snow peas and red bell peppers.