Whether it’s working from home or simply having fewer out-of-house activity options, the COVID-19 pandemic has given people the opportunity to focus more attention on home. This includes cooking more meals at home. An estimated 65 percent of us, however, are ordering takeout regularly, as well. As anyone who has tried it at some point in his or her life can tell you, choosing healthy takeout options can be a tricky task. It can be particularly tough if you’re watching what you eat or are on a specific diet to lose weight.
Blount Memorial registered dietitian Heather Pierce says there are ways to enjoy takeout and still eat healthy foods. “It’s not always easy to make healthy choices because there are so many potential pitfalls at restaurants,” Pierce said. “For example, some will tell you to simply get a salad if you want to eat healthy. Many salads, however, can have more calories than a fast food meal consisting of a burger and fries. If you’re choosing to eat a salad, be sure to watch out for high-calorie traps, such as croutons, dressing, candied nuts, dried fruits, fried tortilla strips and cheese,” she explained. “Overall, a good goal is to focus on protein and non-starchy vegetables, because these will be the most satisfying. If there is a starch (e.g. potato, rice, pasta, bread), limit the quantity by leaving it for the end of the meal. If our meals are predominantly starchy foods, we are likely to be hungrier sooner. So, simply switching the order can help both satiety and blood sugar management. Beans are a starch, but they are great protein and fiber sources that can help with fullness, as well,” she said.
Pierce also offers some specific suggestions when ordering takeout. “If you’re ordering Italian, aim for tomato-based sauces over creamy sauces, get a protein option with pasta dishes, or choose thin crust pizzas with extra vegetables,” she said. “If there are zucchini noodles or cauliflower crusts, give them a try. Oriental foods also offer lots of opportunities for lean proteins and vegetables. The key here, though, is to watch your portions. Many of the takeout containers may actually be meant for two servings. Get brown rice, if possible, or see if you can order extra vegetables and just leave out the rice. And, since you are at home, try pairing your meal with cauliflower rice as a low-carbohydrate alternative. This is available in the freezer section of your store. If miso soup is available, this is a way to reap the benefits of fermented foods for gut health,” she explained.
“Mexican foods can be heavy in starches, but you can plan to center the meal around the protein and vegetables, particularly with something like fajitas,” Pierce continued. “You can use fajita mixture and pico de gallo over a bowl of greens at home for a filling option. With chips, get a handful, and break them up a bit so you will have more chips to dip in salsa without going overboard. Burrito bowls also are a good option to reduce some of the carbohydrates. If you can choose whole beans over refried, you’ll save some calories, as well,” she said.
“It all boils down to making a conscience effort to improve your diet, which means doing a little planning,” Pierce said. “Apps such as ‘Calorie King’ or the accompanying website www.calorieking.com offer nutritional information on several fast food and chain restaurants,” she said. “Just do your research before you order,” she added.