By Amy Gorin, MS, RDN
When it comes to ordering healthy take out food and low-calorie fast food, use these tips. You'll have plenty of healthy takeaway options and healthy takeout food choices at your fingertips!
Love getting takeout but not sure how to make it healthy? Go ahead and use these dietitian tips to get going with your nutritious order.
Just like you, I love a quick and easy meal. Here's how I accomplish getting just that at the drive-thru!
Consider Ordering from a Chain Restaurant
When I order takeout, I often want to try the newest up-and-coming restaurant. I love enjoying unique, innovative dishes.
But research makes a case for planning more takeout meals from chain restaurants: In a study in Health Affairs, researchers looked at restaurants that voluntarily listed calorie information before 2014. These included Chick-fil-A, Jamba Juice, McDonald’s, Panera, and Starbucks.
The study authors analyzed menu items at these chains, as well as ones at 61 other chains that hadn't listed calorie information.
Their findings are very promising: Menu items at chains offering calorie information had lower average calorie counts, versus those at restaurants not supplying calorie information. For example, new items introduced at Chick-fil-A were an average 108 calories less than new items introduced at other chicken restaurants.
In the past couple of years, we’ve seen chain restaurants offering more calorie information on menus. This is because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) set in motion a mandate for all restaurant chains with 20 or more nationwide locations to display calorie information on both menus and menu boards.
Place Your Healthy Takeout Food Order in Advance
When I order takeout food, I consider the extras that tend to be higher in calories, such as fries and desserts. So I was excited to find out that Grubhub.com and Seamless.com have a tool allowing you to pre-order your food up to four days in advance.
Rather than wait until ordering when you’re ravenous, you can place your order when you’re in a good place to make smart choices! Pre-placing an order could help limit making last-minute add-on decisions that could increase the calories of your meal.
You can also pre-plan the takeout you’re ordering for your (likely virtual!) book club or the delivery for when you’re working through a conference call lunch .
Meal planning is important for other reasons, too: It helps you think about what you really want and helps you stay within your daily calorie budget. While Grubhub and Seamless partner with many local restaurants, they also offer foods from several chains. Here are healthier choices to consider:
- Panda Express Mushroom Chicken
- California Pizza Kitchen Asparagus and Arugula Salad + Dakota Smashed Pea and Barley Soup (cup)
- Fatburger Grilled Chicken Sandwich (ask for extra tomato and onion slices)
- Veggie Grill “Beef” Barley Soup (bowl) + Herb Roasted Veggies (side)
A version of this content originally appeared on WeightWatchers.com.
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I'd love to hear from you! What are your tips for ordering healthy take out food?
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