We don't always have the option to prepare meals at home, whether it's due to being busy with life's other responsibilities, health conditions that cause fatigue, or situations that make packing a lunch unfeasible.
Takeout was made for these occasions, as well as times when you just want to try something other than your own cooking. No matter how many tries go into recreating a restaurant favorite at home, it rarely tastes quite the same.
If you're planning to get takeout but you're also trying to maintain a healthy diet, don't worry. Healthy takeout food exists, and there's no shame in treating yourself to something you enjoy. Follow along to learn more about how to eat healthy while ordering takeout from your favorite eatery.
Takeout food is stereotyped as being fattening and unhealthy, and yet, despite being just as calorie-dense, sit-down restaurants don't often get the same judgment about the food they serve.
In most cases, healthy eating is possible whether you're getting takeout or eating at home. Though it might be more challenging to make smart choices when ordering takeout, researching menus and substituting fattening elements with vegetables or lean protein helps.
Maintaining a healthy diet involves how you eat just as much as what you eat, so in addition to providing healthy menu items and substitutions to try when you're eating out, we'll also provide you with a few healthy habits to adopt. This way, you can approach healthy eating on more than one front.
Eating out in the US presents a vast array of options. Whether you're trying to pick smart lunch options during your work break or you're focusing on eating healthy as a family despite a busy schedule, there are calorie-smart entrees and sides available at practically any eatery.
Let's explore some of the most popular cuisine types in the US and present a few options for healthy takeout food from each restaurant type.
If you're getting pizza, try opting for more vegetable toppings than fatty meat toppings. It's also a good idea to try thin crust to cut down on the carbs. Gluten-free crust is worth considering if you have an inflammatory health condition, but if you're trying to reduce calories, avoid this option (gluten-free crusts are often more fattening to make them more palatable).
For pasta, use tomato-based sauces whenever possible, and to add protein to what you're eating, add either mushrooms, grilled fish/shellfish, or grilled chicken.
Italian restaurants also usually offer salads, so if you're adding a salad to your plate, limit the cheese toppings and try a non-creamy dressing (caesar or vinaigrette).
Chinese takeout usually offers an array of vegetable dishes. Moo shu vegetables, chop suey, or moo goo gai pan are worth trying. Meat and vegetable combinations are also filling and can be relatively healthy options. For example, eggplant or broccoli with beef, shrimp, or chicken are decent choices.
Chinese restaurants often have healthy soup options as well, like egg drop or hot and sour. Steamed dumplings are also a decent dish to consider, as they can be made with either vegetables or meat filling.
Many Japanese sushi or sashimi dishes are healthy, so if you like fish, look into a few different sushi dishes. California rolls contain cooked fish, as do several other options if you're hesitant about eating raw fish. Further, some sushi dishes are made with vegetables (mushrooms, avocado, cucumber) rather than fish.
Teriyaki dishes are a filling option, and you can choose either meat, tofu, or extra vegetables in your teriyaki noodle dish.
Salads aren't uncommon at Thai restaurants, and they're usually packed with an array of interesting tastes and textures. For a hand-held item, summer rolls are good to try. They're similar to spring rolls or egg rolls, but they're not fried. The vegetables inside are raw and the dish is incredible on a hot day.
Chicken satay is also a relatively low-fat eating option, and to reduce the fat and calories even further, ask the cook to go easy on the peanut sauce or serve it on the side.
Mediterranean cuisine has been a popular choice for health-conscious diners for many years. Greek dishes are a common example of Mediterranean food, and there are several items you can try while eating Greek.
Mediterranean pizza is typically healthier than other pizza options. Not to mention, Greek restaurants also offer several salad options.
If you're a vegetarian, getting takeout from a Mediterranean restaurant might be one of the easiest options for you in terms of variety.
When getting takeout from Mexican restaurants, there are a few different ways to make your food a little healthier. First, if the eatery offers brown rice, ask for brown rice instead of white. Additionally, swap flour tortillas out for a bowl option.
Black beans might be a better choice than refried pinto beans depending on how they're prepared, and if you want to stick to eating a low-carb diet, fajitas are an option to consider.
Eating takeout from Indian restaurants is usually versatile, and this cuisine type is often easier for vegetarians. Several Indian curries are rich in protein and low in fat, as are masala dishes and daal.
Tandoori chicken is also a good option if you'd like something meaty when you order takeout. If you want bread, go with roti and pair it with hummus.
Cooked vegetable dishes, like aloo gobi, are also relatively healthy and they're quite filling.
Soups with a broth base are usually decent options for individuals who are trying to eat better. Additionally, salads are often a big part of American eatery menus. If you're getting a meat entree, ask for it grilled rather than fried or cooked with a lot of oil.
For sides, cooked vegetables can be tasty. If you want a dish that's carb-based, see if whole wheat options are available.
Fast food restaurants are posted all over the US, so if you're going to eat at one of the many popular fast food chains, here are a few of the healthier options you might want to try.
On top of seeking out healthier food options as a whole, adopting healthier eating practices will also help ensure that you're making smart choices even while eating out.
Limiting the amount of food you eat in a single sitting is a good idea for healthy eating in general. If you get takeout, serve yourself a portion of the full serving on a different plate/bowl. Put the rest away, then work on eating the portion in front of you. Part of the benefit of takeout is the fact that you can save leftovers for later.
Listening to your body is also imperative when it comes to healthy eating. Controlling your portion size is one thing, but don't treat this practice as law. If you have too much in front of you, only eat until you're comfortably full. If you're still hungry after finishing your portion, have a bit more to eat.
Also, avoid waiting until you feel like you're starving before you get something to eat. Being moderately hungry is enough of a cue that you need food. Waiting until you're famished makes it easier to overeat because your body's fullness signals might not trigger until you've become painfully full.
If you have a schedule you're following, maybe a small snack will help satiate your hunger until mealtime.
If you get something to drink from a takeout restaurant, keep an eye on the calories. Instead of getting a sugar-packed soda, try tea or just water with lemon. Most restaurants list the calorie content of each item on their menu, drinks included, so scan the menu to find healthier options.
We often forget to include sauces and condiments when we think about healthy eating, but we should. Sauces can add hundreds of calories to an otherwise reasonably healthy dish. If you're eating takeout, try to limit how much sauce you use, forego it entirely, or swap it out for a more calorie-friendly option.
Keep an eye on how your food is prepared because often, the method of cooking can add or subtract calories. For example, food that is deep fried is going to be more fattening than grilled, baked, or steamed food. Altering the cooking method can allow you to eat what you want without all the added calories.
Eating healthy doesn't have to be unpleasant. You don't have to stick to celery sticks and bland protein bars to maintain your diet, and you shouldn't. Instead of cutting takeout from your eating plan, choose nutritious menu options and eat mindfully and you can enjoy the best of both worlds.
Jay Todtenbier is an original founder of SupplementRelief.com in 2010 and has operated the business ever since. He is also a tennis instructor and gospel musician. Formerly he spent 25 years in business development, technology and marketing with startups and major corporations having gone through the tech boom in Silicon Valley in the 90s. He became passionate about, and began studying and practicing Wellness as a Lifestyle after experiencing chronic, personal health challenges including depression, auto-immune disorders, and being overweight that impacted his ability to live a healthy, vibrant life. Since then, he has been an advocate for healthier living encouraging others to live better through making small, gradual changes to lifestyle behaviors relating to whole-foods nutrition, stress management, reasonable exercise, proper sleep, and the use of targeted, high-quality supplements.
Learn more about Jay Todtenbier.
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