Cup noodles, or instant noodles, consist of dried noodles in a cup or packet that only requires boiling water to make. They’re popular for a quick convenient portable meal. While Instant noodles are tasty and convenient to make, is cups of noodle healthy?
Cup of noodles are not healthy given the high amount of fats, carbohydrates, and preservatives found in them – a small serving of Mama noodles cup of noodles runs at about 310 calories with only 5g protein, 11g fat, and 37g carbs.
This is a very poorly balanced macronutrient profile as the high fat and carb content and low protein makes it very easy to overeat while feeling less satiated. Preservatives also have other adverse effects on the body beyond weight gain.
Thankfully, you can still make some tweaks to make this a healthier dish.
💭 What are Cup Noodles?
Cup noodles, or instant ramen, are dried noodles sold in cup or packaged form and were made for people to make ramen with just hot water. It's meant to be a quick and convenient meal.
If you're interested in learning about a traditional Japanese ramen recipe, check out my Shoyu Ramen Recipe.
🍎 Calories and Nutrition Facts
A serving of Mama Chicken noodles in the small cup, the smallest serving size available, runs at 310 calories with only 5g protein, 11g fat, and 37g carbs.
Furthermore, it has 1460mg of sodium, only 2 grams of fiber, and contains flavor enhancers and preservatives that have questionable health effects.
😕 Why it’s unhealthy
Let’s take a detailed look at what makes up the dish and additional ingredients we should be aware of.
- High Fats and Carbs – The noodles are an inevitable component of the dish no doubt. But in order to preserve them, the noodles are fried with preservatives added. Not only are the noodles adding to the high carb intake, but also add a high amount of fats in order to be preserved.
- Low Protein Content – It’s known that a high protein diet is the key to sustaining a satiating weight loss diet. Here, there is only 5 grams of protein which is much lower than the recommended amount per meal.
- High Sodium – This cup noodle has 1460 mg, which is more than half of the daily recommended intake for sodium. This is largely from the seasoning packet of the noodles.
- MSG – An ingredient used as a flavor enhancer. Although it's not necessarily harmful, this plus the high sodium content can result in strong dehydration.
- TBHQ – A preservative used to extend shelf life of foods. This is found in the oil used to fry the noodles. While the FDA has not found evidence that it is harmful, research has linked TBHQ to be associated with many health problems when consumed in large quantities.
💪 How To Make It Healthy
To make cup noodles healthier, I implemented the following strategies to make my cup noodles more nutritious and macro-friendly.
- Add Veggies – Instant noodles lack fiber and various nutrients. Adding veggies is a great way to add those in with relatively low calories
- Add Protein – Adding in some lean protein, such as chicken thigh, and eggs is a great way to add some protein content to the dish. I added 2 chicken drumsticks.
- Use less noodles – I used half of the noodles, making it about 150 calories of noodles. This is more than enough carbs, as the additional protein and veggies will be much more filling and nutritious.
- Use less of the flavor packet or use your own stock – The lessen the intake of sodium, msg and other preservatives, use less of the flavor packet. Or better yet, use your own favorite chicken stock.
For a detailed breakdown of each ingredients, their portioning, and how they make up the nutrition profile of my healthy mama noodle, you may refer to the table below:
📋 Ingredient Notes
Mama Noodles – I used Mama cup noodles
Veggies – Great way to round out the dish (I used carrots, onions, spinach, scallions)
Water or Stock – You can use less of the sauce packet and boil with water or use the stock overall.
Chicken Legs – I used 2 for enough protein, marinated in a soy garlic marinade.
Marinade – Soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic, lemongrass, and brown sugar
📖 Substitutions and Variations
Use other cup noodles – I used Mama cup noodles but any other brand can work. Popular brands include Shin ramen, Top Ramen, Maruchan, and Buldak cup noodles if you can handle some heat.
Use other protein – Lean proteins such as shrimps and seafood, as well as other cuts of chicken, would also be delicious.
Add an egg – Adding an egg makes it super delicious!
🔪 Step by Step Instructions
Marinade the chicken – Mix the marinade ingredients together and add the drumsticks into the marinade. Let marinade for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven and bake the drumsticks – Preheat the oven to 400F and bake the chicken drumsticks for 30-40 minutes.
Prepare the aromatics and veggies – Start by mincing the garlic and onions. Mince until they are small pieces so that the aromatics get cooked evenly. Cut the carrots, scallions, and mushrooms as well.
Cook the noodles – Bring a pot of water to a boil and add in the noodles and cook for about 3 minutes with the sauce packet or broth. Drain the noodles thoroughly while reserving some broth and use a scale to weigh the noodles. Then remove half of the weight.
Sauté the veggies– In a skillet, spray cooking spray and cook carrots, onions, and garlic. Sauté the veggies until they have softened, about 3-5 minutes.
Mix in the noodles – Mix the noodles in with the veggies and chicken
Garnish and serve – Add the scallions and enjoy your delicious cup noodles!
Yes cup of noodles is fattening given its high fat and carb content and low protein content. It’s very easy to overeat as fats and carbs are less satiating compared to protein and do not build muscle.
Cup of noodles are high in calories since it predominantly consists of the noodles from the carbs, which is deep fried to let it preserve and store dry.
💡 Expert Tips
Add an egg – Everyone knows that adding in egg to the ramen gives it a magical texture. Try it out and see for yourself!
Marinade the chicken overnight – This will allow the flavor to fully develop in the chicken.
Healthy Instant Noodle Recipe
- ½ Mama Noodles
- ½ Carrot
- ¼ Yellow onion
- 1-2 Mushrooms (Sliced)
- 1 cup Water or Stock of choice
- 4 oz Chicken drumsticks
- 1 tbsp Soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Fish sauce
- 1 clove Garlic
- 1 teaspoon Sugar
- Mix the marinade ingredients together and add the drumsticks into the marinade. Let marinade for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 400F and bake the chicken drumsticks for 30-40 minutes.
- Start by mincing the garlic and onions. Mince until they are small pieces so that the aromatics get cooked evenly. Cut the carrots, scallions, and mushrooms as well.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and add in the noodles and cook for about 3 minutes with the sauce packet or broth. Drain the noodles thoroughly while reserving some broth and use a scale to weigh the noodles. Then remove half of the weight.
- In a skillet, spray cooking spray and cook carrots, onions, and garlic. Sauté the veggies until they have softened, about 3-5 minutes.
- Mix the noodles in with the veggies and chicken
- Add the scallions and enjoy your delicious cup noodles!
Wow this looks amazing!!!