How to Choose Healthy Takeaway Meals

Written by Victoria Laios, APD

Research shows that people who cook at home more often tend to be healthier and manage their weight better, so that’s something we can all strive towards. But let’s face it, on those occasions when life gets busy and there’s no food in the house, preparing a healthy home cooked meal is just not going to happen! Whilst many take-out foods tend to be high in fat, salt and sugar, there are some healthy alternatives that you can choose. So before you reach for the menu, you might want to take a minute to review your choices.

The takeaway phenomenon in Australia

Takeaway consumption in Australia has increased dramatically in recent years. In 2013, the average Australian household spent 28% of its food budget on take away foods and eating out [1]. 

This is a significant problem as takeaway food is often high in kilojoules, saturated fat, salt and sugar. It can also be low in fibre, vitamins and minerals [2]. Research has shown that excess consumption of take away foods leads to weight gain and increases our risk of developing chronic diseases including – Heart Disease, Type 2 Diabetes, Obesity and Cancer  [1,2].

Choosing healthier takeaway options

“What takeaway food should I be choosing?” is something that many of my clients ask me. But who can blame them?? The frequent marketing of these foods on television, billboards, magazines and media advertisements has created a lot of confusion within our society.

Here are some of my smart eating tips for choosing healthier takeaway options [2]:

  1. Limit foods that are deep-fried and battered. Choose takeaway foods that use low fat cooking methods – for example skinless chicken, oven baked chicken wings or grilled fish. 
  • Portions, portions, portions – when having takeaway foods high in saturated fat/salt, choose smaller portion sizes. You can also request a side salad or vegetables, to add that extra fibre.
  • If ordering meal deals, it is important to opt for the smaller size and choose healthy meal accompaniments – for example a side salad, bread roll, fruit or yoghurt. Choose water over soft drinks and fruit juices, as these can be high in sugar.
  • For pasta and curry dishes, avoid those with added cream and coconut milk.  Select tomato and vegetable based sauces such as napoli and vindaloo.
  • With Asian stir-fry dishes, choose varieties that contain lean meat and vegetables. Try to avoid stir-fry dishes with satay, sweet chilli, black bean and oyster sauces. Choose dishes with soy, vinegar, chilli sauce, lime and lemon, as these contain less added sugar.
  • Choosing lean, wholegrain and reduced fat alternatives when available.

Now that I have shared some of my tips, here are some examples of healthy takeaway meals [3]:

Subway 6 inch turkey breast roll                             McDonalds seared McChicken wrap        

Sushi Sushi – salmon hand roll                                  Chicken Tikka

There you have it….some practical tips on how to choose healthy takeaway alternatives. Remember takeaway food can be enjoyed as part of a well-balanced diet, provided that it is eaten occasionally and in moderation. Making the right food choices creates a difference in our lives – we can reduce weight gain and our risk of developing chronic diseases.

References:

  1. Cancer Council NSW. Fast Food – Exposing the truth. The takeaway on fast food meals. 2013 Feb 22nd. Available from: http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Fast-Food-Exposing-the-Truth-22-February-2013.pdf
  2. Dietitians’ Association of Australia. Fast Food and Takeaway [internet webpage]. Available from: http://daa.asn.au/for-the-public/smart-eating-for-you/nutrition-a-z/fast-food-and-take-away/
  3. Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute. Eating out the healthy way. 2014. Resource Available from: http://admin.bakeridi.edu.au/Assets/Files/Eating%20Out%202014.pdf