Living in Shanghai can provide a much-needed break from the dependence on too many processed and packaged foods. You will find that fresh food is available widely across the country. Most streets have small fruit and vegetable stalls and the wet markets are stocked with fresh meat and produce. Considering these healthy food habits, it isn’t surprising that it’s rather hard to spot an overweight person in Shanghai! Here are some food and fitness tips for expats who want to stay as healthy as the locals.
When eating out, you can learn to make wiser food choices by differentiating between oilier dishes and lighter ones. Zhà refers to dishes that are deep fried and therefore greasier. Chǎo are those that are either steamed or sautéed and hence better for your health.The sauces used in many main dishes in Shanghai are deliciously sweet, but this translates into more calories. So these are best eaten in moderation. The healthiest dishes you can order are the steamed fish dishes that are on the menu on most restaurants and are made with the day’s fresh catch. Reserve richer dishes like the famous Shanghai-Style Braised Pork Belly for special occasions. If you have a sensitivity to MSG, learning the phrase wǒ duì wèijīng guòmǐn (I am allergic to MSG) will come in handy. You can also write it down and carry it with you, so you can inform the servers or street food vendors beforehand. Formal business dinners are likely to be of the banquet variety where many courses are served. Here it is important to remember that the heavier dishes are brought first, so eat these sparingly. The vegetable dishes are brought out along with rice towards the end. If you’re invited to someone’s home for a meal, you may want to leave a small amount of food back in your bowl or plate. Not only is this considered polite, but also you will not be nudged into taking more servings. Desserts can pack in those extra calories, so if you want to stay away from them but still want something to satisfy your sweet tooth, opt for the fruit plate that is usually served at the end of a meal. Vegetarians will have a variety of options when eating out because Shanghai has some great eateries that specialize in vegetarian fare.
When eating out in Shanghai, it is important to exercise some food safety measures. When eating from street food vendors, check to see that the food is not being cooked in reused oil. Food safety ratings may not always be reliable, therefore choose eateries that have a good reputation among people you know. Avoid eateries that serve food at unbelievably low prices because you could be ingesting some not-so-fresh seafood or meat, which can play havoc with your stomach.
Staying in shape
With all the mouthwatering Chinese and fusion food available in Shanghai, it can be hard to stay fit. There’s also the problem of air pollution in the country, which tends to limit outdoor activities. Gyms are good options for those who want get a regular workout, but they can often be very expensive. An even better option is independent exercise classes that are value for money and can also really make you sweat off those extra calories. You can opt for Zumba classes, which are high-energy and quite enjoyable. The fees for packages are cheaper and you can even split it with a friend. If you’re craving something with a bit more punch, attend a boxing session where you are whipped into shape by a continuous routine of punches, push-ups and squats. A spin class is a great choice for those who like aerobic workouts. This involves pedaling on a stationary bike that has different tension levels. The bike also tracks your progress and you can listen to some up-beat music while you bike. Kettlebell is popular in Shanghai and it’s quite an intense workout that requires you to move around in different directions with a large weighted ball. If lugging around weights is not for you, head to one of the city parks for tai chi, a graceful form of exercise that can also help you handle the stress of big city life.