Healthier takeout options are available. When the coronavirus hit, in-restaurant dining evaporated. And many of us turned to takeout options for the sake of convenience. But, many such offerings are high in calories and fat.
Here is a guide from NutrtionAction.com that provides healthier takeout options by type of cuisine.
Middle Eastern or Greek
• Dip wisely. Getting a starter or side of hummus, baba ganoush, or tzatziki? Scoop it up with veggies, not pita, to save hundreds of calories. Goodbye, white flour.
• Go grilled. Best bets: chicken, salmon, or shrimp kebabs, or chicken souvlaki. Second best: falafel (more calories, less protein). All beat fatty lamb or beef gyros.
• Be choosy with salads. Cucumber-tomato salads don’t have the salty feta, olives, or pepperoncini of Greek salads.
• Look for whole grains. Whole wheat pitas can be hard to come by. On the upside, tabbouleh (bulgur, tomatoes, herbs) offers whole grains that a side of rice (typically white) doesn’t.
• Flatten out. Order a thin or flatbread crust instead of deep-dish, pan, or hand-tossed to save on refined carbs (and calories) per slice. Whole-grain crust available? Try it.
• Bypass pepperoni, sausage, etc. That’s a no-brainer.
• Halve a personal pie. At customizable spots like Pieology, MOD, and Blaze Pizza, typical pizzas have 800 to 1,000 calories because the crust alone has 350 to 600. Cauliflower crusts may be no lower (thanks to rice flour and cheese).
• Stick to one type of cheese. It takes about 200 calories’ worth of mozzarella to cover an 11-inch crust.
• Salad, anyone? Round out your plate with a cheeseless salad to fill up. Toss leftover pizza slices in the freezer.
• Opt for a la carte. Instead of a starch-heavy combo meal or fajita platter, order a few chicken, bean, or fish tacos plus a side fish salad. Like crispy (fried) taco shells? Good news: they have slightly fewer calories than flour tortillas.
• Choose cheese or sour cream (or neither). Every quarter cup of cheese or sour cream adds about 100 calories and at least a quarter of a day’s saturated fat. Guac beats sour cream because it slashes the sat fat. Salsa or pico de gallo cuts calories and can double as salad dressing.
• Skip the burrito tortilla at fast-casual spots like Chipotle. It’s roughly 300 calories, largely from refined flour. A bowl has 200 calories of rice. A salad has 15 calories of lettuce.
• Veg out. Chinese takeout menus are flush with items that feature more vegetables than meat (or noodles). Bravo! We’re talking dishes like Szechuan string beans, Buddha’s delight, moo goo gai pan, home style tofu, or chicken with broccoli. Without rice, expect 500 to 900 calories, rather than the usual 1,000 to 1,500 in other dishes on the menu.
• Leave some rice behind (or save it for later). Every cup adds 200 calories. A typical takeout carton holds two cups.
• Play sodium defense. Use a fork or chopsticks to transfer your takeout to a plate so you leave some sauce (and its sodium) behind. Or mix in a side of steamed broccoli, snow peas, or mixed veg to stretch the sauce into more servings.
• Don’t coat your protein. Order chicken, tofu, or seafood stir-fried rather than breaded, battered, or deep-fried.
General Tips for Healthier Takeout Options
• Stick to one starch (or none). The default is often double refined carbs. Think burger buns & fries, rice & naan, pasta & bread, or tortillas & chips or rice. Solution: Go with your favorite one…and try to make it a whole grain.
• Replace red meat. Get beans, tofu, poultry, or seafood.
• Pump up the veggies. Most dishes could use extras from the menu’s sides…or from your fridge. Sauté some broccoli, spinach, etc., while you wait for the delivery.
• Mind the sodium. Nearly all restaurant food is too salty. More veggies bump up the potassium (to help counter sodium’s blood-pressure boost) and stretch your portions.
• Save half for later. When researchers analyzed takeout from non-chain restaurants in Boston, the average entrée with sides had roughly 1,300 calories. It wasn’t just burgers & fries, but popular dishes from Mexican, Chinese, Italian, Thai, Indian, Greek, and other restaurants.
• Watch out for delivery-app fees. Take UberEats. They display a “delivery fee” when you choose a restaurant but also tack on up to a 15 percent “service fee” when you check out. (And that doesn’t include a tip for the driver.) Uber also charges the restaurant fees. So call or check the restaurant’s website first, to see if it now delivers.
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