General Diet/Summary:

The Chinese way of eating is healthy and fulfilling. The food in China is as diverse as the country itself. Chinese food is full of flavor and can be prepared in many ways depending on regional differences. A wide array of foods are eaten including numerous fruits, vegetables, and protein items. Grains are the foundation of the diet. Rice is an essential staple and is eaten at every meal. Steamed polished, white, long-grain rice is the preferred choice. Wheat is the second most popular grain and is used to make noodles, thin pancakes, dumplings, and steamed bread. Animal proteins such as beef, chicken, pork, and eggs are commonly eaten as well as fish and seafood of all kinds. Since many people in China are vegetarians or only eat small amounts of meat, soybeans and soy products are very important as a protein source. Soy foods are also eaten as an alternative source of calcium. Beans and legumes are often eaten whole or used to make powders, noodles, and pastes. Vegetables are the star ingredients in many delicious Chinese dishes!

Nutrition Facts:

The traditional Chinese diet is:

Possible Deficiencies

» See more about common nutrient deficiencies here.

Meal Patterns:

The Chinese generally eat 3 meals per day with snacks. The composition of the meal is governed by an all important balance of yin and yang foods and the proper amounts of fan and cai. Fan includes grains, such as rice or noodles. Cai includes cooked meats and vegetables. All courses of a meal are served at once. Each diner has a bowl of rice or noodles and can take what they desire from the communal serving plates at the center of the table. Food is eaten with chopsticks, and a porcelain spoon is used for soup. The most common beverage to accompany a meal is hot tea or soup.

Transition Foods:

The transition diet is one you develop to help bridge the gap between your child’s native diet and what eventually will become his or her regular diet at home. The transition diet often includes recipes and foods from the native diet. A good way to start the transition process is to ask exactly what foods your child ate in the orphanage or foster home, using that as a base for your cooking at home. As one parent put it, “I would encourage all parents to adapt the foods they present to mimic what the child had at the orphanage during the first months home. It is an easy adaptation that parents can make to create a more familiar environment during what can be a hard transition.” It may also be helpful to watch the caregivers feed your child at least one meal before returning home. Simple things such as the temperature or texture of foods may be important to your child. One mother wrote, “Our daughter was on formula at the orphanage but they gave it to her very, very hot. It took us a while to realize she wanted everything HOT and would cry hysterically if it wasn’t hot.” Even if you don’t know exactly what your child ate previously, incorporating native foods into his or her diet is a great way to help your child transition to a new culture, as well as preserve traditions from his or her first culture.

Transition foods for children adopted from China often are based around rice, noodles, eggs, and meat. Familiar foods may include congee (see recipe below), rice, and eggs in many forms, such as steamed eggs (see recipe below), hard boiled eggs, and egg drop soup. Other familiar foods might include stir-fried rice with a little meat and veggies, boiled rice porridge, dumplings, noodles, peas, chicken, and fruit such as bananas and mandarin oranges. Depending on the province the child is from, spicy foods may be familiar and preferred.

Some children from Chinese orphanages may need to be on a soft food diet, even if it does not seem age appropriate. Sometimes children in orphanages are on a soft or liquid diet until they are 3 or 4 years old due to lack of funds for solid foods. Formula is often diluted and sometimes sweetened with sugar. If your child has been on a soft food diet, start with simple, soft foods such as bananas, eggs and rice and slowly introduce new foods and textures.


Quick Steamed Eggs

  • 7 ½ ounces chicken broth

  • 1 egg

  • seasonings to taste (eg: finely chopped green onion, salt, pepper)

Whisk together and microwave at medium power for 8 minutes.



A popular breakfast food in China, congee is similar to a porridge. Fish, chicken, shrimp, meat, peanuts, sesame seeds, and eggs can be added to create an even heartier porridge. Congee is considered to be a restorative, easily digestible and nourishing to infants. This easy congee recipe is made in the slow cooker and can be prepared for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

  • 5 cups water (chicken, beef, or fish stock)

  • 1 cup grain (short-grain brown rice, millet, oatmeal, quinoa, 12-grain meal, etc)

  • optional spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger)

To Prepare: Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker, and cook on low heat for 6-8 hours. Serve with a little honey* or maple syrup and any variety of fruit (apples, banana, blueberries, mango, raspberries, blackberries, etc).

Try using different condiments such as egg and seafood for a savory congee.

Optional condiments: raisins, dried plums, fish, meat, poultry, fried egg, seafood, fresh fruit

Tip: Store extra congee in 6 ounce mason jars or baby food jars and keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

*Do not give honey to children under 1 year of age.


SPOON Foundation

135 SE Main St, Suite 201, Portland, OR 97214

Donate to Adoption Nutrition Adoption Nutrition on Twitter Adoption Nutrition on Facebook Adoption Nutrition Blog