Fast and satisfying. Take-out definitely ticks your tastebuds ‘yum’ boxes. But it can be oh-so-bad for our health and fitness goal. We all know that take-out often involves food that is not so good for us. It’s often loaded with fat, fried and crispy, or packed with kidney-killing salt – none of which spells a diet-friendly dish. But what if there was a way to have your cake and eat it too? With lockdowns still looming and more of us working from home than ever, we’ve compiled a list of the healthy take-out options for when you need a quick meal that’s almost good for you.
5 Rules when choosing your take-out meal
But, before we dive straight in, let’s get the basics right first – what are the main things we should look out for when choosing a take-out? Below we’ve listed the key ingredients a healthier take-out dish should have to minimize the negative fast-food effect.
Rule 1: Go whole grain
Rice, pasta, pizza – when it comes to carbs, whole grain is always the way to go. Whole grains are less processed. This means are packed with fiber, and other important nutrients, such as folate, potassium, magnesium, and iron. In addition, they’re digested more slowly, keeping you fuller for longer and avoiding huge spikes in blood sugar.
Rule 2: Add more veggies
Vegetables are always good. So, adding extra to your take-out meals is only a plus. Veggies provide the necessary vitamins and minerals that your body needs to get it through the day. They’re also packed with fiber, which aids digestion, leaving you healthier overall.
Rule 3: Keep fried to a minimum
That crispy texture might be delicious, but it’s definitely not good for you. Fried foods are high in trans fats, which boosts levels of bad cholesterol. Over time this can lead to heart disease. One study showed that eating French fries just twice a week led to a higher death rate than eating other types of potatoes.
Rule 4: Take a hard-miss on the sauce
And this applies to sauce, dressings, and your favorite companions of salt and pepper. We know they’re tasty, and can really spice up a dish, but adding those little extras can make all the difference between a healthier meal and a not-so-healthy one. Condiments are often packed with salt, saturated fat, and sugars, which spell danger for your diet. So, think twice before reaching for that ketchup bottle.
Rule 5: Switch it up with a vegetarian version
Vegetarian variants at take-outs often have more vegetables, and of course, less processed meat. Following a vegetarian diet, in general, has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. But only if you do it right. When going veggie with your take-out take care to avoid overly processed foods as these outweigh the health benefits.
Healthy take-out options for lockdown and beyond (not all salad)
Still stuck at home? If you fancy a little break from the kitchen, these are the best options to go for across a variety of take-outs. Don’t see your fave? Write us and let us know which healthy(ish) take-out you love.
Deep rich flavors, noodles, sauce – it can be easy to get caught up in the tastes of a Chinese take-out. But how can you emulate the tastes, but with less of the bad stuff? Simple! Steer away from fried foods, go for boiled, and add more veggies.
- Battered foods, such as chicken balls
- Fried foods, such as egg-fried rice
- Vegetable-packed dishes
- Steamed rice
- Whole-grain noodles
- Steamed dumplings
British Fish & Chips
If your taste buds demand the salty deliciousness of the traditional British chippy, then it can be difficult to know what to choose to make it a little less unhealthy.
It’s true the foods here are often packed with fat and salts – especially the pies and sausages – but that doesn’t mean there’s not some better options too.
- French-fry style fries
- Battered fish
- Sausages and sausage suppers
- Extra salt
- Plain fish
- Thicker ‘chips’ (fries)
- Mushy peas
Mmm, those deep curries, rich flavors, and more make up the Thai food we know and love. The sad part is, it’s doesn’t always love us back. Like Chinese food, Thai can also contain lots of fried food, so first and foremost switch this up for a boiled or steamed version. In addition, be careful of the sauce. Red and green curries often contain lots of coconut milk as a primary ingredient, so go easy on the sauce, if you can, to lower the calories.
- Fried rices, rolls and crackers
- Eat sauce sparingly
- Tasty salads
- Stir-fried vegetables
- Steamed rice
- Whole-grain products
Whether you love a super-hot curry or a mild lentil dhal, Indian take-out is tasty treat. But how to watch those calories and still enjoy all the flavors? Stick to veggies, go boiled, not fried, and avoid creamy sauces. Watch the bread too. Although it might be tasty, it could be adding unwanted calories to your meal.
- Creamy dishes (korma, masala, etc.)
- Heavy naan breads
- Fried foods such as pakoras
- Vegetable-based curries
- Plain steamed or boiled rice
Mmm, cheesy pizza never fails to delight, and just because you’re working towards your weight loss goals, doesn’t mean you need to deprive yourself. But do it right. Instead of your traditional thick base, aim for thin and add extra vegetables. You could even go for a side salad starter, so you don’t dig in when you’re famished.
- Thick crust pizza
- Extra cheese
- Creamy sauces
- Heavy dips
- Extra veggies
- Tomato-based sauces
- Side-salad starter
Kebabs and burgers
Sometimes you might be craving a tasty burger or kebab. But that doesn’t mean it has to ruin your diet. When choosing the best product for you, aim for low-fat options. For kebabs that means skewered meats. And for burgers, think single, not double. Take care to cut back on any sauces or fatty extras.
- Large portion sizes
- French fries
- Battered foods
- Skewered meats
- Single burgers (not doubles or triples)
- Lean meats
- Side salads
Remember! Take-out is ok once in a while
Eating take-out once in a while is not going to ruin your diet efforts. Conversely, it might be good for your mental health. But, if you find yourself eating heavily-processed, take-out foods too often, it might be time to re-think your diet and make it more sustainable. We advise checking out our meal-planning tips for lockdown and beyond. Now, go-on, enjoy that well-earned take-out, you deserve it!