How to make healthy choices with your takeaway meals

Indian Food

With social isolation thrust upon us households are increasingly turning to takeaway meals thanks to a bevy of home delivery options. And with more people stretching their groceries further to limit heading out to the shops it is tempting to change it up by adding takeaway into the meal mix.  

As with most things, takeaway in moderation is fine and you certainly don’t have to cut it out completely, but you can make some healthier choices when browsing that home delivery app. 

The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that we eat a variety of fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy and grains, and limit how much saturated fat, added salt, added sugars and alcohol we consume. According to the Dietitians Association of Australia, fast food is often high in saturated fats, salt and energy and low in the fibre, vitamins and minerals we need to keep our bodies at their healthiest. 

However, not all takeaway food is equal and there are easy choices and swaps you can make to secure the healthier options. Have a takeaway food craving? Look for the cuisine you’re after below and find out how you can make the healthier choice. 

Italian

Pizza with cheese tomato and rocket

A big bowl of pasta or an extra large pizza are magnets for most foodies. An easy way to make these meals on the healthier side is to stick with tomato bases rather than cream sauces, and choose lean meat (instead of processed meat), vegetables, thin crusts and green leafy or garden salads on the side.  

Mediterranean

Meditteranean dishes are usually packed with a wide variety of vegetables, lean meat and wholegrains making it a great choice for healthy takeaway. Choose a mixed platter with grilled veggies, skewered meats and brown rice and avoid creamy dips and pita breads. 

Burgers

Keep it simple with minimal fillings or lose the bun for an easy way to make burgers that bit healthier. Instead of adding a side of fries, make your own fries at home in the oven or swap for sweet potato fries, which have more nutrients compared to potato fries. You can choose other healthier side options like steamed vegetables, coleslaw and salads. 

Thai

When it comes to Thai food you want to choose something that is packed with vegetables. Think salads, soups or stir fries with extra veggies and lean meat with steamed rice.

Thai curries are delicious with added coconut cream/milk which increases the fat content of the meal, but if you do want to splurge, choose to pack your curries with a variety of colourful vegetables, tofu, legumes. Instead of eating from a large container, serve up a recommended portion on your plate and save any leftovers for the next day. 

If you choose to have tofu, make sure you ask for it not to be fried and avoid the those deep fried entrees. If you don’t want to miss out on an entree, choose satay chicken skewers and opt for the sauce on the side.

Vietnamese

Vietnamese soup

Vietnamese is a pretty good option when it comes to takeaway foods. The fresh salads, veggie-packed rice paper rolls and bone broth soups are all great options. 

Similarly to Thai, it is best to save the deep fried entrees and coconut milk curries for special occasions or weekend treats.

Japanese

Sushi and sashimi are your best options when it comes to Japanese or if you’re crazing gyoza choose steamed or pan-fried. 

You’ll also need to go light on the sauces and condiments – for example, soy sauce as it contains high levels of sodium and creamy sauces as they have a higher fat content. 

While tempura vegetables will boost your veggie intake for the day, the tempura coating and deep fried cooking method will undo your hard work. 

Fish and Chips

Fish and chips is a classic takeaway dish that can very easily be made into a healthier option. Swap the crumbed or battered fish for grilled, stick with a small serve of chips and add a big fresh veggies salad.

Mexican

You can easily mix and match your favourite Mexican dishes to create something healthy. Most Mexican meals are super customisable making healthy swaps that much easier. 

A burrito bowl or salad are your healthiest options, but soft shell tacos and burritos are also not bad choices, as long as you avoid over the top extras such as sour cream and heapings of cheese. 

Load up on tomato salsas, black beans (not refried), brown rice (if it is an option) and guacamole instead. And have less of anything crunchy like corn chips and hard shell tacos as they are usually deep fried.

Indian

Indian Food

Indian food can be a very heavy meal when you order deep fried entrees, creamy curries and copious amounts of naan bread. 

To stay on the healthier side choose tomato based curries, bonus points if they are veggie packed, tandoori cooked meats and plain rice.

Chinese

The easiest way to choose something healthy when ordering Chinese food is to avoid anything that has crispy in the name as that will usually be deep fried.

Instead opt for stir fries lean meat combined with extra vegetables and plain boiled rice and steamed dumplings or dim sim are good for entrees.

Takeaway tips

Quick Tips

  1. Portion size is important – try taking your food out of the box/container and serving yourself a healthy portion size on a plate. You can share the excess with family members or keep as leftovers. 
  2. Stick with the basics and avoid adding extra toppings
  3. Opt for grilled, steamed, pan-fried, braised, poached, baked, roasted or grilled over fried, battered or crumbed choices
  4. Always add extra vegetables or a side salad
  5. Go light on the sauces or ask for them to come separately so you can control the amount added
  6. Select wholegrains when you can
  7. Avoid soft drinks if ordering a value or meal deal – opt for water, juice or sugar-free drinks instead 
  8. Drink plenty of water
  9. Listen to your body and stop when you are full
  10. If you have some healthy staples in your fridge such as mixed lettuce or vegetables, use these to accompany your takeout dish for a healthy boost