• Jen Knight

Your Guide to a Healthy Expat Life in Shanghai

It can be challenging if you want to move away from the typically indulgent and overly hectic expat life to a more balanced lifestyle, particularly in Shanghai.

Every event seems to involve copious amounts of food and alcohol, and it can be hard to say no when what you need most living abroad is a supportive community.

The amazing news is that Shanghai has this other healthy side to it! It took me three years to figure out how to manage the balancing act, but it doesn’t have to take you that long.

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The average restaurant in Shanghai either offers cheap, questionable food, or delicious food laden with fat and calories (your time is up, carbonara). However, there are loads of ways to meet your daily caloric needs while maintaining your waistline.

Restaurants: Tons of healthy places have popped up over the past few years. My favorites when I lived there were Little Catch, Hunter Gatherer, Pure and Whole, and Sproutworks. I'm sure there are lots of new spots, so download Bon App! to stay up-to-date and read reviews.

Delivery: Nosh will delivery healthy meals to your door. Sherpa's delivers from lots of restaurants, both healthy and not so healthy. You can find organic farms that deliver weekly produce boxes. And iherb has grocery items you can't find in China, with quick delivery and prepaid duty/tax.

Groceries: Whether you want to make a grocery run or have everything you need delivered to your house, Shanghai has you covered. Kate and Kimi, City Shop, Ole, and the Avocado Lady on Wulumuqi Lu carry healthy groceries, most deliver, and all have organic options.


There are so many fun ways to drink that don’t involve a hangover the next day. If you have been in Shanghai more than a few weeks you have probably experienced a Qingdao-over (not pretty) or the after-effects of a night spent unknowingly drinking fake alcohol. Here are some alternatives:

Juice/Smoothies: Lizzy’s All Natural is my absolute favorite business for healthy beverages. Lizzy is a nutritionist and expat who really knows her stuff, and everything she makes is both delicious and nutritious. Farmhouse Juice is another good juice option that also offers cleanse/detox sets.

Mocktails: Liquid Laundry, Hakkasan, and Revolucion Cocktail all have solid mocktail lists, and most bars are happy to whip up something sans alcohol if you ask. At home I make pretty mocktails by mixing sparkling water with half a fresh squeezed grapefruit and some pomegranate seeds.


You can certainly turn on your VPN and wait for youtube videos to load so you can get your workout on in your living room. Another option is to meet like-minded people who are also looking for a healthier way to expat by getting out and moving around.

Group Classes: Z&B fitness is my favorite gym on the planet, and one of the places in Shanghai I miss most. Their classes and instructors are amazing, they have classes for both kids and adults, and there are air filters in every workout room.

Running: The running club RunnersHai puts on a number of races, my favorite being Rat Run, a sort of running scavenger hunt. There is also a Shanghai Hash Hound Harriers group. I loved doing the fun run at the Great Wall Marathon and highly recommend that for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Healthy Travel: Yejo offers healthy, unique, and authentic group experiences like yoga retreats and hiking trips. You can also splurge on a weekend in Moganshan at the gorgeous Naked Stables, or try a wellness retreat at Sangha by Octave.


One of the most difficult things about living healthy in Shanghai is figuring out how to rise above that which you can’t control. The air quality was the number one factor in our decision to move out of the city, but there are a number of ways to cope with and manage it.

Air: Owning an air filter (or several) is necessary. I found a comprehensive article about which ones to buy here. There is also Mila, a really cool company that offers air filter subscriptions. You will also want to have a masks on hand, and track the air quality with an app such as Air Matters.

Meditate: Stay sane by meditating! You can try a group meditation or workshop at Shanghai Mindfulness, float away your stress at Floatasian Float Spa, or join one of the dozens of Meetups on meditation, mindfulness, and other related topics.

Meditation isn't the only way to manage your expat stress - working with a coach like me can help! Book a FREE SESSION to learn about my programs and how coaching can transform your life ♡

About me

Hi, I'm Jen! I am a US expat and have lived abroad for six years, first in exciting Shanghai and now in beautiful Thailand.

I always strive to learn, grow, and be the best version of myself, and I'm so grateful I get to spend my days working with amazing expat women like you:

Women who are smart and want to reach their goals, but need help overcoming stress, overwhelm, and other obstacles so they can create their best lives abroad.

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