Curled up in front of the TV, can’t face cooking – there are times when a takeaway really hits the spot and, yes, it’s OK for you to take away. Just keep in mind sensible nutrition guidelines and don’t forget moderation! Portion sizes, salt and fat are the main enemies to watch out for but follow the tips below and heat up the plates…
Have a burger but choose the smallest size, grilled, with salad. Don’t top with a mass of bacon, coleslaw, egg, cheese – choose one. Have tomato ketchup or chilli sauce, no mayonnaise. ‘No’ to fried onion rings on the side!
Good old fish and chips are a pretty healthy option if you eat breaded or grilled fish instead of fried and have baked beans or mushy peas on the side instead of chips. If you’re a chips lover, just munch them until you’re satisfied, try not to finish the lot. Keep it down with the salt and tartare sauce!
Chinese cooking tends to be pretty calorie, salt and fat laden so keep the portions small. Choose traditional Chinese food such as noodle or corn soup, dim sum, steamed fish dishes, chicken with vegetables and cashew nuts, chicken chop suey, prawn dishes in a light sauce, vegetable rich recipes and stick with plain boiled rice. Avoid MSG-laden dishes including anything in sweet and sour sauce and, as always, avoid anything in batter and fried such as crispy chilli beef plus fried noodles, prawn crackers and spring rolls. Hold off on that high-salt soy sauce.
Doner kebab, the fatty lump of meat on the spit? NO! Shish kebab is OK (whole pieces of meat, fish or chicken skewered and grilled) and salad or falafel with fibre-filled, fibre-filling hummus. Greek, tomato or aubergine salads good, super-salty high-saturated fat feta in salads bad. Sticky, nutty, extremely sugary sweet pastries very, very bad. But low-carb monosaturate-loaded olives, just great.
Ghee (butter) and cream are the tricky customers here. But with a little care (and a lot of portion control) you can enjoy a curry. Phew! Choose steamed or boiled rice or chapatti and pick from tandoori, madras, balti or jalfrezi curries with chicken, prawn, fish or vegetables. Spinach or tomato-based sauces are the healthiest – palak or rogan josh fits the bill here. Avoid creamy, buttery sauces (tikka, passanda, korma) and lamb (too fatty) and it’s ‘no’ to anything deep fried such as onion bhajis, pakoras, popadoms and the like.
The Japanese used to be feted for having the world’s healthiest diet but Western influences soon put a stop to that (they’re getting fat on red meat, sugar and chips now, just like the rest of us). But traditional Japanese food has no dairy, is virtually devoid of animal fat and sugar and only very rarely includes red meat; fish (often raw) is king and vegetables loom large. So, you can’t go too far wrong with your takeaway. Choose buckwheat noodle soup, sashimi, edamame (steamed soya beans) and anything prefixed hibachi (grilled). Salmon and tuna wasabi provides you with low-carb high-protein fish with a kick. Crunchy tofu salad is another good choice if you want meat-free, low-fat, high-protein. Seaweed is a top health-food. Almost anything, really – these are just a few suggestions. Avoid tempura and other fried dishes such as chicken katsu and you know about salty soy.
Watch your portion control, calorie-rich fat-filled toppings (cheese, soured cream) and fried dishes are a Tex Mex staple. Guacamole is packed with fibre and vitamin E but it is high-calorie – a little is enough. Choose grilled meat, fish or chillies (high-fibre beans here) and antioxidant-rich salsa (lycopene, since you asked).
Takeaway pizzas contain a lot more salt than home-made or supermarket ones. The healthy choice is a pasta dish (with tomatoes or vegetables) and salad (but not a Mozzarella salad). But if you can’t live without pizza choose a small, thin-crust, vegetable-topped one or go for the ‘leggera’ – pizza with salad in the centre. It’s ‘no’ to stuffed-crust pizzas, any that are topped with greasy meat and garlic bread. Make sure your pizza is oven or stone-baked.
A very healthy choice as long as you avoid heavy peanut or coconut curries such as Massaman (coconut milk, palm sugar, fish sauce – salt and fat… enough said), green and red curries (coconut milk and coconut cream are screamingly high in saturated fat). There are alternatives available but if you love a bit of green and red, share the curry and a healthier dish between two. Choose steamed or boiled rice and clear soups (tom yum) are another good and very tasty option. Sugar can creep into Thai cooking so ask if you’re wondering about a particular dish.
Yum yum. Enjoy!
Written by Dr. Noel Duncan