Make Takeout Healthy Tonight

By on June 19, 2012

Completely You: Food

By Nancy Kalish for Completely You

Love getting takeout? So do I. But I don’t love the fact that it often comes loaded with extra calories, fat and sodium. For example, an innocent-sounding dish like eggplant in garlic sauce from your local Chinese restaurant can actually set you back 1,000 calories, 13 grams of saturated fat and 2,000 milligrams of sodium. Even tofu with mixed vegetables can weigh in at 900 calories, 9 g of fat, and 2,200 mg of sodium. Mexican takeout is just as bad. A chicken quesadilla can carry a whopping 1,010 calories, 27 g of saturated fat and 1,980 mg of sodium.

So what’s a concerned eater to do? I’ve come up with some tricks for myself and my clients to trim down some of our favorite meals. Print out a copy of this article and throw it in with your takeout menus so you can use it the next time you order.

1. Asian Food

  •  Order your sauce on the side. Full of vegetables (including healthy greens) and lean protein, Asian food is a healthy choice … until it’s smothered in typical takeout sauces, which are loaded with sugar, salt and calories. Many dishes come covered with a full cup of sauce or more. So order yours on the side and put yourself in control, adding just 1 or 2 tablespoons.
  • Choose steamed over fried. Go ahead and order the shrimp or pork dumplings, but get them steamed to save calories and fat.
  • Go for brown rice. White rice has been stripped of all its nutrients and fiber, unlike brown rice, which is a whole grain. Some sushi places will even make rolls with brown rice if you ask.

2. Pizza

  • Make the move from thick crust to thin crust. The difference can be substantial when it comes to calories. At Pizza Hut, for example, you’ll save 50 calories per slice, which can really add up.
  • Ask them to go light on cheese or skip it altogether. Add more cheese flavor at home by sprinkling your slice with 1 tablespoon of grated Parmesan or Romano.
  • Switch from meat to veggie toppings. This not only cuts calories and fat, but also amps up the health benefits. Go ahead and pile on as many veggies as you want (peppers, mushrooms, onions, olives) to satisfy your hunger.

3. Mexican Food

  • Ask for vegetarian refried beans. They don’t contain lard like the regular kind do. You’ll save calories too.
  • Choose a soft burrito with a vegetable filling. You’ll save lots of calories over any of the fried options or quesadillas and other dishes with lots of cheese.
  • Swap guacamole for sour cream. Guacamole is full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants. Stick to a 1/4 cup portion, though, since it can come with a lot of calories. Don’t forget to pile on the salsa as well to get a hefty dose of prostate cancer–preventing lycopene from the tomatoes.

4. Fast-food Burgers

  • Order the child’s size. It will still satisfy your beef craving but with less damage to your waistline and your heart. Better yet, order a grilled chicken sandwich or salad.
  • Request double the lettuce and tomatoes. Yes, they count as a full serving of vegetables.
  • Dress your salad at home. Filling up with some greens is a great idea. But most restaurant dressings are usually loaded with fat, and the reduced-calorie kind are often full of sugar and chemicals. Your best bet: using your own oil and vinegar at home.

What’s your favorite way to make takeout healthy? Comment below or connect with us @Completely_You

Nancy Kalish is the managing editor of Completely You. She is a certified health coach, and an editor and writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has covered health, nutrition and oral health for Prevention, Health, SELF, Real Simple, The New York Times and more.

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