We witness the rise of UberEATS, Deliveroo, DoorDash and a whole range of other takeaway food options. It's easier than ever to have hot food delivered straight to your door at mealtimes. In this article, I'm going to look at different takeout food options you can choose to keep your diet in check. Avoid the blowout and stay sensible. By the end, you'll know how to order healthy takeaway options and not feel guilty one bit.
Sure, in an ideal world would cook every meal from scratch. With fresh nutritious ingredients straight out of the fridge or pantry. But that's not real life. I get it - takeaways are convenient. FIFO workers don't want to be spending their much needed R&R cooking and washing up. Busy professionals don't want to get home from work to an empty fridge and have to hit the shops and then cook. Stressed-out parents just need a break from cooking sometimes.
When the weather's dark and gloomy outside, sometimes it's just good to nestle into the couch and get dinner brought to you.
I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that regular fast food consumption can lead to weight gain. When you order food, you're also ordering excess calories and usually a generous serving of saturated fat.
Knowing what and how to order takeaway can help you keep your healthy eating habits on track
For example, it's still possible to get three serves of vegetables in your meal if you know where to look.
Some simple tips you can implement straight away:
- Order the side salad
- Choose a stir fry option
- See if you can have extra steamed greens with your main
Already you'd be on your way to picking healthy takeout food options.
choose a stir fry
While the above is certainly a great option, it isn't very flexible. So let's look at some ways you can change how you order takeaway food to make it healthy and nutritious.
A note on takeaway portion sizes
Ordering takeout isn't an excuse to have a binge and consume food to an excess. Yet, that's exactly what many of us do.
When you eat your food straight out of the container, you'll find it difficult to tell how much you're actually eating.
Instead, before tucking in, plate your meal up just as you would with food you'd cooked yourself. Dish out only what you're going to eat and save the rest for another day.
Now, let's take things a step further and look at simple ways to order healthier takeaways, no matter the restaurant choice.
If you're ever stuck on what to order, just remember these 3 simple rules:
Make alterations and substitutions
Reduce saturated fat and salt intake
Simple Step-by-Step Guide on How to Order a Healthy Takeaway
Essentially, for each of the different cuisines and takeout options, we'll follow 3 simple rules to keep things as healthy as they can be.
Keeping an eye on the calories - avoid going overboard
If not on the menu itself, a quick google search can usually provide the calorie and kilojoule values for your meal. Particularly with the chain restaurants and high street food takeout options.
As a general rule, the smaller your build, the fewer calories you'll need each day.
When all else fails, remember, you don't have to eat the WHOLE meal in one sitting. Divide up your portion to save some for leftovers. You'll have lunch or another dinner for the next day.
swaps and alterations
Request alterations, substitutions and make special requests
Firstly, increase and bulk up the number of serves of vegetables. More veggies offer a healthier way to fill you up.
Secondly, choose wholegrain carbohydrate options where possible. You'll get more fibre which again helps to fill you up, preventing overeating.
cut back on salt and fat
Reduce the amount of salt and saturated fat in your takeaway
Avoid deep-fried options and seek out healthier cooking methods in your takeaway meals. Look for steamed and baked dishes. Skip the 'loaded' and other high-fat optional extras.
It can even be as simple as asking for the sauce or dressing on the side. That way you're in control of how much is added, and how much you eat.
Healthy Takeaway Tip: with burgers, ask for extra salad and greens; for curries or pizza - microwave some veggies to bulk up your meal
Takeaway doesn't automatically have to mean unhealthy. You can still achieve a healthy balanced meal.
Healthy Takeaway Options for Thai and Chinese Cuisine
Let's now apply the 3 rules to our favourite Asian dishes.
Lower calorie options for Thai and Chinese Takeaway Meals
For healthy Chinese and Thai takeaways, your best option is a stir-fry with lots of colourful vegetables. Choose some lean meat, seafood or tofu option. Look for only a small amount of rice or noodles, preferably steamed.
For Chinese takeaway, my healthy options would be beef with black bean sauce or cashew chicken. For a healthy Thai takeaway option, look for Thai beef salad. Alternatively, chilli basil chicken/beef/tofu would be a tasty option.
Healthy options and requests when ordering Chinese or Thai Takeaway
If the vegetable servings seem limited, ask for a side of steamed Asian greens - Chinese broccoli or bok choy. You can save calories with your rice choice too. Switch to plain steamed rice instead of fried and you'll save around 170kcal per cup.
How to cut back on the salt and saturated fat in your Thai or Chinese takeaway order
The one thing about Asian takeout food options - the sauces tend to be very salty. If you're watching your salt intake, look for an option that doesn't have soy sauce. You might be better off choosing a different cuisine altogether though.
To avoid excess fat, steer clear of the fried, battered and crispy meat options. Avoid the fried noodles too, and skip the spring rolls.
Curries and soups made with coconut milk, like laksa, can be high in saturated fat. You might want to avoid them too.
Healthy Takeaway Options at Burger Joints
I'm not going to lie, I really do enjoy a juicy old-fashioned burger now and again. The trouble is, food outlets know how to make money so it's very easy and super-tempting to upsize.
But that side portion of fries and a can of sugary soft drink can really blow your calorie budget.
Remember the 3 rules.
Keeping the calories under control when you order a burger
Generally speaking, keep your burger simple.
A plain burger will come with the meat patty, salad and bun. Just what you need.
On the other hand - a loaded burger with the lot will have bacon, cheese, sauces, dressings, and other additions. Let's not forget about the combo meal.
Not only will you spend more, but you'll also eat more calories. And fat. And salt. Probably sugar too. Go back to basics with your burger choice.
Special requests you should make when you order a takeout burger
A lot of places now let you MYO or make/build your own. Avoid falling into the trap of thinking a special variety burger with premium ingredients is the healthy choice. That low carb bun or crispy apple-smoked bacon doesn't necessarily make it any healthier than a Big Mac.
Have a look at what the actual ingredients are. Look for a nutrition information panel or even Google the options. Use the information to guide you towards the healthiest choice.
How to reduce the saturated fat in a takeaway burger
There are heaps of ways to add flavour without adding a whole heap of extra calories.
Think roasted vegetables, a tomato relish, a spicy yoghurt dressing or grated beetroot and/or carrot.
How to Order Healthy Italian Takeaway
Now Italian food can come in many forms, but for this article, we'll focus on just the big two - Pizza and Pasta.
Healthy Takeaway Pizza Options
How to order a lower calorie option for takeaway pizza
A pizza is nothing without its base. Therefore, a healthy pizza starts with a healthy base. Forget the thick, deep-pan base and stuffed crust. Order a light thin crust instead to save a whack of calories.
Now, hear me out, stick to a healthy serving. You don't need to eat the whole pizza. Seriously.
Either share a pizza with friends or a partner or eat half and save half.
Side note: re-heated pizza is one of life's simple pleasures. Truth!
Special requests to make your takeout pizza more healthy
By their very nature, pizzas are almost infinitely customisable. Ask for extra vegetables of your choice - keep things colourful.
Alternatively, make a green salad with a bag of leaves might have in your fridge to have with the pizza when it arrives. You'll increase your vegetable and fibre intake with a nice little 'homemade' addition to your takeaway.
Options to reduce salt and saturated fat in your takeaway pizza
Preserved meals like salami and pepperoni tend to be high in salt (sodium) and saturated fat. Skip the meat lovers choice.
Look for a vegetarian option instead, and add chicken or seafood to it.
Don't forget, salt hides in other ingredients too. Hold the feta and the anchovies, as well as the extra cheese.
How to Order a Healthier Pasta Takeout Option
How to reduce the calories of a pasta dish
The lower calorie pasta dishes are those with tomato-based sauces. For example, look to order something like napolitana or marinara. It's better to avoid creamy dishes, like carbonara.
Portion control is your next step, so plate things up wisely. For a balanced meal, aim for the pasta to cover no more than half of your dinner plate.
Making special requests when you order takeaway pasta can make it a much more healthy and satisfying meal
Mediterranean cuisine offers lots of salad options, so used these to bump up the number of servings of vegetables. Fill the other half of your plate with rocket, or a garden salad.
Remember, you can save money and calories by preparing a quick salad at home. A simple dressing with olive oil and balsamic vinegar will be fine.
How to reduce salt and fat content in an Italian takeaway
I know it's tough, but leave out the garlic bread. We all have to make sacrifices.
Instead of lots of grated parmesan, just ask for freshly ground black pepper instead.
Healthy Indian Takeout Food Options
Perhaps my favourite style of takeaway, Indian food is a delight for the senses. Lots of fragrant, aromatic spices and real rich bursts of flavour.
However, we do need to watch out - many dishes can be fairly high in calories and sodium (salt).
Here's how to place your order:
How to reduce the calories of an Indian takeaway
Some of the tastiest dishes, like butter chicken and lamb rogan josh, are made with ghee. This is essentially clarified butter, so the fat content and calories can shoot up quickly. Also, some rely on coconut cream which is rich in calories too.
If possible, check for dishes made with yoghurt instead.
Another tactic might be to order two dishes - your favourite plus a separate serving of something healthier. Dhal or a vegetable curry would be a good option. Again, look for dishes without coconut milk or cream. When plating up, you can serve a little bit of the main curry along with the dhal, and save the rest for another meal.
You can still enjoy your favourite classic flavours, but smaller portions are the order of the day.
Extra requests to make when you order Indian food
If you can't find a healthier menu option like the dhal or vegetable curry, all is not lost. You might like to microwave your own vegetables to serve when the takeout arrive. Frozen bags of vegetables can be a great stock item for your freezer. Some you can put straight into the microwave in their own single-serving sized bag.
Alternatively, you might choose to cook your own rice. It only takes 15-20 minutes to make rice on the hob (or it's even easier with a rice cooker). So if you can't find plain boiled rice, or even brown rice on the menu, make it yourself.
There's a chance you'll have your own items ready before the delivery driver arrives.
Healthy Indian takeaway options that have less salt and saturated fat
Hold back on the extras, stick to what you need. That means the samosas, cheesy naan bread and poppadums are out.
If you really can't resist the poppadum crunch, buy your own in the supermarket. They keep forever in your pantry and you can pop a couple in the microwave whenever you need them. You'll be hard pushed to notice the difference from the takeout food option.