This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit Panda Express for the first time. Being from the South, particularly Alabama, there hasn’t been an abundance of these restaurants around me. However, my town of Tuscaloosa is now one of four Alabama cities to have this “Gourmet Chinese” eatery. Now as I’m sure it is with most other small towns, Tuscaloosa is infamous for swarming new restaurants, all in the hopes of getting to eat there first and making recommendations to friends. It’s been that case for our Panda Express which has been opened for a few months yet has an unyielding drive thru line every time I drive by. However, I had a chance on Friday to finally try it in a desperate attempt to find something to eat near my work before my next patient was scheduled to see me.
Since I hadn’t been to a Panda Express before, I wasn’t sure what to expect or what to order. I felt a little rushed to order so I was happy to see a little logo to let me know what the lower calorie entrees were. This little logo is known as the “wok smart” logo and indicates entrees that are 250 calories or less.
I ended up getting a Panda Bowl which consists of one entree with a side. There were other combinations that you could do, including ordering two or three entrees which just seems like a lot of food to me (but ask me again when I’m super hungry). I decided to go with the Black Pepper Chicken and side of mixed veggies. The rice (both white and brown) were calling my name, but I knew I needed a veggie serving that day (and honestly I anticipated likely having a heavy dinner with the hubs later that night which did happen). All in all, my Panda bowl was allegedly 270 calories which isn’t too bad. The veggies in my bowl were bountiful and the mix of broccoli, carrots, peppers, and onions were pretty good. My only concern is the sodium which tops out OVER 1,500 milligrams which wouldn’t be conducive to the lifestyle of my patients with high blood pressure.
Overall, I do think I tried to get the best choice possible for what was available. It isn’t my first choice in fast food, but I would go back with the knowledge that it certainly wouldn’t be perfect eating. I will say that it is better than many of the “mall food court” Chinese food I’ve sadly had in the past. The nutrition calculator that’s available on their website can be helpful for folks trying to find entrees that best fit their dietary needs, especially if specifically monitoring fat, sodium, carbohydrate content, etc.
Have you ever eaten at a Panda Express? If so, what’d you think and what’d you order? Let’s chat!