Healthy Take-Away Ideas
Take-away foods are never an ideal choice, but what do you when life is chaotic and your family has made the call of takeaways? Fast-food restaurants have bad reputations, with the foods being high in empty calories (there is only energy and no healthy nutrients), fat (particularly trans- and saturated fat), refined carbohydrates and salt. However, many fast-food chains have tried to incorporate ‘healthier’ options of their favourite items on their menus. So if you limit your takeaways to the absolute minimum and are clever about your choices, you won’t completely spoil your health or weight loss efforts.
Learn how to stay on your healthy eating plan when you are faced with takeaways using these tips:
1. Portion portion portion. This is the most important part when ordering takeaways. The regular sizes (and kiddies portion for that matter) are generally more than enough – if you super-size your meal you will get about three times the calories of the regular size. Try to match the portions that you would generally eat at home.
2. Don’t add any extras. By extras I mean chips, potato wedges and sugary cool drinks as well as additions of cheese or bacon on a burger. These are unnecessary and just add extra calories. If you have a burger or sandwich, your carbohydrate intake will be adequate. If you feel you do need something extra with the meal rather opt for a salad (add your own olive oil and balsamic vinegar), baked potato or corn on the cob. If you feel you really must have the chips, then rather share a portion.
3. Stay away from fried foods. Always order the grilled or baked options rather than fried ones.
4. Don’t be afraid to change up the order. Ask if there is a whole-wheat option available; ask for the butter or mayonnaise to be left off (you can add the lower fat tomato, barbeque or chilli sauce); ask for the skin to be taken off the chicken (this option is available at certain fast-food restaurants).
5. What to drink? Water is always best (you can choose sparkling if you want to change it up), but if you want some flavour with the water rather choose diet cool drinks to avoid unnecessary sugar. And dilute with water wherever possible.
6. Get nutrition smart. Most fast-food chains have got the nutrition details of their meals available on their webpages. It is always a good idea to read through the menu and nutrition information before you go so that you know what your choice is and you don’t get unnecessarily tempted once you are at the store.
Let’s look at some meal ideas at some of the popular fast-food restaurants:
Sushi is a fantastic choice for a healthy take-away because fatty fish contains good omega-3 fats and there’s no frying involved in the preparation. Spice the meal up with wasabi and ginger, and make sure you ask for low-sodium soy sauce. You do need to watch the amount of sushi pieces that you eat – ideally no more than 8-12 pieces with rice.
Nando's chicken is flame-grilled and not fried. It is therefore lower in fat than deep-fried chicken. At Nando’s you also have the option to order your chicken without skin. The chicken and pine burgers are both under 400kcal and a good choice if you are in the mood for a burger. If you are not too hungry you can always give up half of the bun! Other good options are the chicken strips and rice option, or you can order the chicken steak or ¼ chicken (leg and thigh) together with a salad or the coleslaw, the spicy rice (half may be enough) or the flame grilled mealie.
Steers is known for its burgers. The best options include the basic chicken burger or the get real chicken or beef burger. Steers also has a ¼ peri-peri chicken option which would be perfect with their green salad. The chicken salad is also an ideal choice.
The grilled burger or the KaChing snack burger are your best burger options. The KFC grilled twister can also be a suitable choice, but preferably order it with no sauce. If you need some extras choose the green salad or the regular coleslaw as an add-on. The KFC salad is a good option for a lighter meal.
The only burgers that could be used in a healthy eating plan are the hamburger and the tendergrill chicken burger. Add any of their two salads to complete the meal.
The hamburger or 4 piece chicken McNuggets are the best choice at McDonalds. Have them with the green salad or corn cup, or choose the crispy chicken salad as your meal.
From a portion perspective, the only pizza that I found that was of acceptable portion (where you could eat the whole pizza) is the Debonairs read deal pizza option. Most of these pizzas are under 400kcal. To improve the meal even more ask for half the cheese and have more vegetable toppings. Butlers also has the pumpkin or zucchini bases where the calorie intake will be lower. ColCacchios has the ‘foro’ pizza with the salad in the middle which would also be a better choice.
Simply Asia is the common choice for Asian food. Try to choose steamed dishes – stir-fries are healthier as they tend to be low fat and are made with many vegetables. Choose extra veggies or steamed rice as your side. You could also order the soups or dim sum. The portions are on the bigger side at Simply Asia (there are no meals under 400kcal), so as a general rule, try to eat only half of the take-away in one sitting.
You can choose most of the items on the menu, although the general calorie intake is quite high. Half portions are a good idea! The best option is the citrus sriracha trout or chicken salad. Also very important is that you don’t have a meal and a smoothie – it’s either or!
Choose grilled fish, or throw the batter away. Grilled calamari and rice is also a good option. Some places offer a salad, or rather have a roll instead of the oily slap chips.
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