6 Healthy Takeout Tips to Keep You On Track

 Depending on where you live, you might still be feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In many places, restaurants are still only offering carry-out services or delivery, instead of allowing patrons to dine indoors. 

And, if you’re feeling the stress of the pandemic and life in general, you might be tempted to get takeout more frequently than usual because you don’t want to cook!

Unfortunately, takeout food is often notorious for being greasy, fatty, and full of sodium. 

But, with a few tips and a little bit of knowledge, you can enjoy takeout while staying on track with your health and fitness goals. The COVID-19 pandemic will eventually come to an end, but in the meantime, this is good information to have on hand. Not only can you use it now to stay healthy, but in the future whenever you’re craving carry-out!


1. Choose Whole Grains

More often than not, there will be a whole grain option no matter which type of cuisine you choose. Granted, they aren’t always offered upfront. That means you have to be willing to ask for substitutions, which most restaurants are happy to do for you. 

If you’re ordering Asian or Mexican cuisine, you’ll typically get some type of rice as a side dish. Ask if they have brown rice instead of white. Some places are even willing to swap out noodles for brown rice, which will help to create a more filling, nutrient-dense meal. 

Brown rice is high in fiber and will keep you fuller longer, so you won’t over-indulge later. 

If you’re ordering something like Italian, the same rules apply. Ask if pasta dishes can be made with whole wheat noodles, and pizza crust with whole wheat flour. These are more common requests than you might think, so don’t be afraid to speak up!

2. Choose a Lean Protein

While a juicy cheeseburger is delicious, it isn’t the best protein option for you. Instead of beef or pork, opt for leaner protein choices like chicken, turkey, or seafood. Not only are they lower in calories and saturated fats, but they actually tend to have more protein than beef or pork

If you’re a vegetarian, ask about protein substitutions, including tofu or seitan. More restaurants are becoming conscious of their vegetarian/vegan customers, so there are more options available. 

3. Load Up on Veggies

Speaking of going vegetarian, one trick to get a large volume of food that is high in nutrients and low in calories is to double up on the veggies. 

Ask for extra vegetables on whatever dish you order. Or, ask for a double order of vegetables in place of something laden with carbohydrates. For example, if you’re given the option of rice or potatoes as a side dish, ask if you can have two servings of vegetables instead. 

Veggies are full of fiber and nutrients your body needs. You can eat a ton of them and feel completely satisfied, instead of feeling weighed down and lethargic by starchy sides. 

4. Pay Attention to Preparation

If something on a takeout menu sounds good, but you’re not sure how it’s prepared, don’t be afraid to ask when you’re ordering. Try to avoid things that are fried or sauteed, as that usually means they’re laden with oil. 

Instead, choose options that are grilled, broiled, or oven-roasted. Something that seems healthy, like vegetables, can be filled with extra fat and calories when they’re sauteed in oil. But, when they are roasted or grilled, they retain their nutrients and stay low in calories. 

5. Cut Back On Dairy

Dairy products are a staple in so many takeout favorites, especially Italian dishes. While cheese tastes amazing, it’s also high in calories and can leave you feeling heavy and full. 

That doesn’t mean you need to give up on cheese or other dairy products completely! If you order a pizza or pasta dish from your favorite Italian spot, ask if it can be prepared with half the cheese. You’ll still get the flavor and texture you love without all of the excess fat and calories. You might just find that you never needed that much cheese in order for the dish to be satisfying. 

If you’re ordering from a Mexican restaurant, ask for things like sour cream on the side. This allows you to control how much you put on your food, rather than having it slathered all over everything before it even gets to you. 

6. Get Sauce On the Side

In addition to getting certain dairy products on the side, it’s always a good idea to ask for sauces and dressings separately, too. 

Depending on the dishes, certain sauces can completely destroy an otherwise healthy meal. Buffalo sauce, for example, is made with melted butter. Most Asian sauces have a ton of sugar. Many salad dressings are loaded with oil or cream bases, like ranch. When your food gets doused in a sauce or dressing after being cooked, you’ll never know how many calories its adding, or what other ingredients you might not be thrilled about. 

When you get a sauce or dressing on the side, again, you’re in complete control. You can choose to pour a little on your food, or dip your fork into the sauce before picking up a bite. You’ll undoubtedly be amazed at how much sauce is left over by the time you’re done, saving you excessive amounts of sodium, sugar, and calories. 

Now, more than ever, it’s important to support local businesses and find the best carryout restaurant in your area. Most restaurants are struggling and could really benefit from customers ordering takeout a few times a week. But, that doesn’t mean you need to give up on your diet or keep from eating healthy. 

Keep these tips in mind the next time you’re craving takeout or you just don’t feel like cooking. By making a few smarter choices, asking questions, and swapping out a few ingredients, your diet won’t get derailed, and you can enjoy feeling healthy, full, and content from your favorite takeout spot while still staying on track with your health goals. 


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