When six o’clock rolls around and you realize you have nothing planned for supper, you don’t have to despair or turn to unhealthy pizza. Real food is best, and there are plenty of healthy meals you can whip up in just a few minutes, but if you don’t have the right ingredients on hand or simply do not have the time to cook, make these healthy substitutions to minimize the health dangers of takeout foods.
Avoid fried foods
This is the most obvious takeout danger. According to numerous studies, fried foods are damaging to your health in multiple ways. Not only are fat-saturated foods unhealthy, but the frying process often damages the food, leaving it devoid of nutrients and high in oxidized fats, which can quickly lead to cholesterol buildup and chronic inflammation. A study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that fried foods from restaurants (which typically use more degraded, unhealthy oils) increased the risk for both type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Individuals who ate fried foods four to six times per week were 39 percent more likely to get type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Even individuals who ate fried foods once a week had increased risk. Bottom line: eat fresh or baked foods when ordering takeout.
Don’t order off-the-cuff
When you are hungry, you tend to order more food. This can prove problematic when ordering takeout, as most takeout places already serve large portions that should feed two or three people. Before ordering, take some time to calculate the calorie portions of each of the foods you plan to order. Avoid ordering more than one serving of food per person to curb overeating.
Watch the dressing
You might think that ordering takeout salad is much healthier than other options, but when you layer on sugary, fatty dressings, the health effects of salad are greatly reduced. Always ask for dressing on the side and look for dressings that have fewer ingredients. Some fat with your salad is beneficial for maximizing nutrient absorption, but chemicals and extra sugar are extremely unhealthy. Choose dressings with an olive oil base that do not contain added sugars.
Make vegetables the star
Most takeout foods are junk foods, with meat as the star. However, you can increase the health value of your takeout if you view meat as the side dish and vegetables as the main dish. Order dishes that contain a lot of vegetables. Even pizza can be made healthier by adding extra veggies and cutting back on meat and cheese. Look for vegetarian options, if available, or split a single serving of meat between two people and fill up on veggie side dishes.
Avoid potatoes, bread, rice, and noodles
Most takeout restaurants offer grain or starch-based side dishes like rice, noodles, bread and potatoes. Rather than choose these unhealthy sides, ask for a vegetable substitution instead. If you do choose to eat a starch or grain, make it a smaller portion.
A lot of takeout restaurants ask you to add on additional items at the end of your purchase, such as a dessert, a sugary beverage, or an appetizer. Resist the urge to add these last-minute items to your order. In addition to destroying your healthy eating patterns, they will also dramatically increase the cost of your takeout meal.
By implementing these simple tips you can minimize the damage done by takeout food. We’re certainly not recommending you eat takeout every night, but when you do choose to eat it, protect yourself by making healthier decisions.
—The Alternative Daily