Life would be miserable without takeaway food, especially when Friday rolls around and you can’t be bothered cooking.But, for those looking to stay trim, negotiating the minefield of calorie-laden menu options can prove challenging. Yet, it’s not all bad. There are plenty of ways to still enjoy a takeaway without sending your calorie intake soaring.
© Dmitry Lobanov / Adobe Stock
Whether you opt for Italian, Chinese or Indian, be mindful about choosing a dish with a healthy sauce. One of the biggest culprits for increasing calorie load is sauces laden with cream, cheese or coconut milk. As well as being high in saturated fat, they’re also often very salty.
If you choose a pasta dish or curry, pick one that has a tomato-based sauce. Avoid creamy kormas, green curries and sticky sweet and sour dishes, some of which can contain well over a thousand calories alone. Alternatively, opt for a sauce-free dish, such as chicken tikka.
It’s not just cooked dishes that you need to watch out for. Salads, although a seemingly healthy option, can quickly make it onto the naughty list if you layer them with creamy sauces and dressings. In fact, some salads boast the same calorie content as a medium-sized pizza. However, if a salad without a dressing is a no-no, then at least ask for the dressing on the side, so you can control how much you add to your meal.
Pizzas are one of the most popular takeaway foods, but they can be bad news if you’re looking to stay in shape. However, with a little careful consideration, there’s no reason why this dish should be off the menu.
Choose a small- or medium-sized pizza and bulk it out with a salad instead of opting for a large one. Thin pizza bases contain less calories than deep-pan ones, and if possible, look for those that have a tomato base and vegetables, without any cheese. Certainly, if you’re calorie watching, pizzas with cheese-stuffed crusts, triple cheese or pepperoni should be avoided.
Grilled not fried
One of the biggest takeaway pitfalls is fried food, especially anything that’s deep-fried, crispy or battered. Food fried in oil is high in fat, which is bad news for your waistline, and even your heart health.
Where possible, choose grilled dishes rather than fried ones to slash your fat intake. For example, a piece of grilled chicken contains around 5.4g of fat compared to 12.7g for deep-fried chicken. Tandoori dishes are normally grilled, so if you’re craving an Indian, this is a good bet for keeping fat and calorie intake on an even keel.
If fish and chips are on the menu, you’ll consume less fat by opting for grilled fish in breadcrumbs, or not eating the batter on the fish, as this is soaked in oil. Choose a chippy that serves thick-cut chips rather than thin ones, as less oil is absorbed in chunkier potatoes.
Look for steamed dishes or stir-fries, and if you want some rice, steamed or boiled is a healthier option compared to fried rice.
If you’re in the mood for a kebab, a shish kebab contains less fat than a doner, as the meat or fish is usually grilled.
You can avoid piling on the pounds on takeaway night by going easy on portion sizes. If a chippy tea is on the cards, shun a large portion of chips in favour of a small one. You can always bulk your meal out with mushy peas, a salad or vegetables.
You might think that sides or extras are innocent enough calorie-wise, but some are guilty of sending your calorie load through the roof. For example, some portions of takeaway garlic bread contain over 600 calories. Instead, stick to bruschetta or ciabatta if you want a healthier bread-based side option. Other sides with a bad calorie reputation include prawn crackers, crispy seaweed, spring rolls and bhajis.
Increasing numbers of takeaway joints now label calorie count on their menus, making it easier than ever to choose healthily. Of course, with everything in moderation, the occasional disregard for calorie count shouldn’t have too big an impact on your waistline.