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Over the past few months, we’ve experienced a renaissance of home cooking, cookbooks and family meals.

With many people working from home, and schools and camps closed, we may have more time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we have the motivation or the energy to cook every night.

Although meal planning, meal prep, and batch cooking can save you time, between taking Zoom calls, keeping the kids occupied, serving up three meals and plenty of snacks all day, every day, and all the clean up, it’s no wonder we’re totally exhausted.

While many restaurants are open and have outdoor dining, many of us are still apprehensive about dining out.

And so take-out it is.

Pizza, burritos, and burgers and fries are easy, kid-friendly options, but if you’re looking for healthy takeout options, the good news is there’s more to choose from than ever before.

From what to order and what to avoid, here are 9 healthy takeout tips.

1. PICK PROTEIN-RICH FOODS

When ordering takeout, look for protein-rich foods that satisfy hunger and prevent blood sugar spikes.

If you’re going to go the burger route, consider swapping a big juicy burger for sliders, or order fish, seafood or chicken.

Also, when you’re ordering pizza, avoid ham, sausage, and pepperoni which are high in sodium and highly processed.

Plant-based options like beans, legumes, and tempeh are great choices too, but stay away from meatless burgers like the Impossible Burger which is heavily processed and high in saturated fat.

2. FILL UP ON VEGETABLES

Unless you’re ordering a salad as a main dish, most meals don’t come with vegetables. So one of my best healthy takeout tips is to find ways to get in a serving such as:

  • Substitute French Fries for a salad or side vegetable.

     

  • Order a large green salad that the whole family can enjoy. Classic house salad or seasonal greens without extra meat, cheese and toppings are always great choices.

     

  • Order cauliflower crust instead of regular pizza crust.

     

  • Order two types of vegetables on pizza.

     

  • Order a broth-based vegetable soup.

     

  • Order an appetizer like salsa, lettuce cups, or hummus and fresh vegetables.

     

3. LOOKING FOR HEALTHY TAKEOUT? AVOID MENU ITEMS WITH THESE WORDS

When ordering takeout, there are certain menu descriptions that are a tip-off that the meal is high in calories, sodium, added sugars, and saturated fat. Some include:

  • Au gratin
  • Battered
  • Breaded
  • Creamy
  • Crispy
  • Crusted
  • Glazed
  • Golden
  • Loaded
  • Pan-fried
  • Refried
  • Smothered
  • Stuffed

4. SWAP REFINED GRAINS FOR WHOLE GRAINS

White pasta, white rice, and bread are so delicious but swap the refined stuff for whole-grain options, which have more vitamins, minerals, and filling fiber.

High-fiber foods satisfy hunger, balance blood sugar, and can prevent and treat constipation.

Look for dishes made with brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread, pasta, or zucchini noodles or request them as substitutions. When ordering pizza, try to get whole-wheat pizza crust.

5. RE-THINK DRESSINGS AND DIPS

Most salad dressings and dips are high in calories, saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.

Instead, ask for olive oil and vinegar, a balsamic vinaigrette, or avocado in place of a sour-cream based dip.

If you’re ordering Italian, a marina sauce is better than a cream-based Alfredo sauce, for example.

Plus, always ask for sauces and dips on the side so you can control the amount.

Diners and deli-style options like chicken, tuna and egg salad are delicious, but they’re often loaded with mayonnaise. Instead, stick with grilled chicken, a turkey sandwich, a salad with hard-boiled eggs, or an omelet (go light on the cheese).

6. TO ORDER HEALTHY TAKEOUT, FORGET FRIED FOODS

Restaurant take-out menus are filled with fried foods, which are usually high in calories, saturated fat, and trans fat.

Instead, choose meals that are steamed, baked, roasted, or grilled or ask the restaurant to prepare your meal that way.

7. STICK WITH SUSHI AND NOTHING EXTRA

After reading “A Parent’s Guide to Intuitive Eating,” by Dr. Yami Cazorla-Lancaster, I became inspired to serve my kids new types of cuisine.

Now that they’re older, I felt better about letting them eat sushi so I recently ordered curbside takeout and they enjoyed it.

Sushi can be a healthy takeout option if you know what to order.

Instead of rolls made with cream cheese, mayonnaise or tempura (fried) rolls, stick with sushi rolls that have fish, rice, and veggies only, or order sashimi.

Appetizers like edamame, miso soup, and salad are all great ways to round out the meal too.

8. AVOID JUICE AND SUGARY DRINKS

Many kids’ meals, especially those from fast-food restaurants come with juice, soda, flavored milk, lemonade or another sugary drink—all of which are high in sugar.

In September 2019, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Heart Association, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry issued Healthy Drinks, Healthy Kids, the first-ever consensus recommendations on what constitutes a healthy kids’ drink for kids ages 5 and under, as well as the types of beverages parents should limit or avoid.

I recommend you read through the age-based guidelines but a good rule of thumb when ordering out is to stick with water, milk or plant-based milk.

9. CHOOSE HEALTHY CHINESE FOOD OPTIONS

Chinese food is a favorite in our house. Pork-fried rice is my downfall which is why we don’t order it often.

The good news, however, is that Chinese food can be a healthy takeout option if you know what to order.

For starters, instead of fried dumplings and spring rolls order the steamed versions instead.

For your main meal, order chicken, fish, or seafood entrees with vegetables, and steamed with sauce on the side instead of sautéed which is usually swimming in the sauce.

Broccoli, bok choy, eggplant, and string beans are all healthy vegetable options.

Finally, instead of white rice, fried rice, or lo mein, stick with brown rice.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE HEALTHY TAKEOUT TIPS? LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS. 

Author Details
Julie Revelant teaches parents how to raise children who are healthy, adventurous eaters. Through blog posts and videos, her goal is to shift the conversation from short-term, problem picky eating to lifelong, healthy eating and healthy futures. As a health journalist, Julie has written for FoxNews.com, FIRST for Women and Woman\'s World magazines, WhatToExpect.com, RD.com, TheBump.com, Care.com, and Babble.com.

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