OK -so there is no such thing as a healthy takeaway. But I wanted to put this post together as there will be so many of you starting new healthy eating kicks for 2016, and will literally panic into a sweat ball when someone asks you “fancy a takeaway?!”. What, like seriously put all those fats back into my body? Consuming over 1,000 calories with just my starter?
Fear not my friends; yes there isn’t really a healthy takeaway option, unless your calling out ‘Salad On Wheels’, but, it doesn’t mean you have to miss out on eating out at an Indian restaurant, or dialling up your favourite Chinese takeaway on a Friday night. You just have to be aware of what to order, and what to avoid. It’s false to assume each dish is just as bad as each other, as some options are much less calorific and fat filled as you may think.
Here’s a little guide highlighting what to look out for, and what to try steer clear of. It’s hard to do if your favourite options are the worst for you (like me and my Tikka Masala with Pashweri Naan obsession…)
Try to avoid anything that’s of a creamy consistency (Korma, Passandra or Masala), and anything deep-fried. That means no samosas for starters, but you can get really tasty lentil or chickpea spiced sous.
To try reduce the amount of fat in your meal, choose dishes with tomato-based sauces, such as Tandoori and Madras, plain rice or Chapatti. Also, aim to choose dishes that are full of vegetables, including lentil side dishes (known as dhal). A Prawn Balti with plain rice will win over a Chicken Korma with chips and naan. If you must opt for a side, swap the naan for a Roti – a wholewheat bread which is slightly better.
Anything that’s battered or marked as crispy on the menu means it’s deep-fried, which is best avoided. Watch out for starters such as prawn crackers and spring rolls, because these are generally deep-fried and highly addictive! Sweet and Sour Pork or Chicken dishes usually come battered, and not only have the highest fat content, but have extortionate amounts of sugar in the sauce too.
Prawn toast may sound like a healthier starter due to containing prawns, but this is also a fried option, so keep away! And we may think all rice is the same, but egg fried and special fried really are full of baddies. Where you can, opt for plain. Steamed dishes are the best option, and stir-fries can be a safer choice too because they are usually lower in fat and include vegetables. Try to go for crab and corn soup, steamed dumplings, steamed vegetables, plain boiled rice, steamed fish, chicken chop suey, or Szechuan prawns.
Fish and Chips
It’s not impossible to make your trip to the chippy a healthier one. Have a portion of baked beans or mushy peas with your fish instead of chips, and avoid being tempted to add pies and sausages to your meal. Remember- the thicker the chips, the better, because fatter chips absorb less fat, and ask for a small portion as this is usually more than enough, we just get greedy!
If you can, ask for your fish and chips without salt. It sounds a bit silly, but if you are watching your weight, attempt to not eat all the batter around your fish, because it soaks up a lot of fat and is generally made up of just that – fat. If available, have fish coated in breadcrumbs, although you may only find this at posh chippies! It’s quite difficult to have a ‘less healthy chippy tea’, but one extra tip is to watch out for is soggy-ish batter and chips, because this is often a sign that the oil wasn’t hot enough, meaning that again, more fat is absorbed.
This is the killer! Italian cuisine is carbohydrate galore, and with Italian food, the more cheese and bread, the better *put hands in head*. If you’re opting to have a pizza, try to choose lower-fat toppings, such as vegetables, ham, fish and prawns. You could ask for some extra veg on your pizza to bump up your daily fruit and veg portions if you wish. Also, thin and crispy based pizzas are so much better than deep pan, so look out for this. And remember you can ask for ask less cheese for your takeaway/meal. With pasta dishes, look out for tomato based sauces that don’t contain cream, and again, prawn or veggie options here are much better for you than meals containing mince meat, sausage or meatballs.
Italian restaurants often offer a starter sized portion and a main sized portion of every pasta dish, so why not get a salad for starter and a smaller sized portion of your chosen pasta dish as the main? Rather than garlic bread, which often contains a lot of butter (and is therefore high in fat), you could try bruschetta, which is a tasty ciabatta bread toasted and topped with fresh tomatoes and herbs. Still not the best, but hey, it’s a little better.
Kebabs and Burgers
Ah, the famous ‘after a night out’ takeaway! First rule of thumb: Doner Kebabs can be high in fat and contain more than a days worth of calories. And that’s for a man. So, go for a healthier option if you have to get a kebab, like a Shish Kebab, which is a skewer with whole cuts of meat or fish and usually grilled, with added salad. If you’re having a burger, avoid breaded or battered chicken or fish patties, extra cheese, bacon strips and high-fat sauces, such as mayonnaise or burger sauce.
Instead, go for a regular, single-patty hamburger without mayonnaise or cheese and have with extra salad. Sounds boring, but it fills the hunger gap just the same.
Thai done correctly can be a slightly healthy option, so if you live local to Thai takeouts, try to get into this as a favourite. Stick to stir-fried dishes or steamed dishes containing chicken, fish or vegetables instead of curries. If you do go for a curry as that’s what you are really craving, then remember it’s the coconut milk in the sauce that is full of fat and sugar, so try to go for the veggie curry option to cut down on the amount of fat consumption. Add brown rice instead of white rice. If you must get a starter, try to look out for clear soups, seafood options or grilled meats. Fishcakes, spring rolls, satay, peanut and sweet and sour sauce dishes are the worst options.
Takeaways are cheap and convenient, therefore they tend to be full of additives, colourants, fat and sugar. If you must opt for food not cooked by yourself, try to go out for meals at restaurants instead. It’s not guaranteed the food the chefs cook is to a healthier standard than takeaways, depending on the cuisine, but there is usually a chance that it is, and you can ask the waiter for amendments to the cooking.