Delivery Food Strategies
Ordering takeout tonight? Read this first.
Watching what you eating doesn't mean tossing your beloved takeout menu collection in the trash. Your standing order from the Mexican restaurant on the corner or the pizza place with three kinds of crust doesn't have to be a black hole of PointsPlus® values. With a little caution, you can enjoy a quick meal and not have to spend the rest of the night working it off at the gym.
"I love fast-food places," admits Dawn Jackson Blatner RD, LDN, the resident dietician for lifetimetv.com and an American Dietetic Association spokesperson. "They can be nutritious; you just have to be smart."
According to Timothy S. Harlan, MD, host of former Food Network show Cooking Thin, fast food should be kept to a minimum, but when hunger calls remember to order a single meal and split it up: "Restaurants always give way too much for a normal person, and half a portion is generally enough."
Harlan thinks sandwich shops give you, the customer, the most control. "Try to make ordering food like being in your own kitchen, and choose a lot of fresher, healthy ingredients you would find in your own house." Other favorites are salad and soup joints.
Another tip: When making healthy choices, consider your entire order, not just your entree. "The calories in your cup count too," Blatner says. "Don't wash your good choices down with soda; stick with an unsweetened iced tea."
Below, Blatner and Harlan offer targeted expert advice for any take-out cuisine you're craving.
Asian: Rice out of sight, out of mouth
Blatner adds this tip: "A bite of rice has four times more calories than a bite of vegetables."
"Proximity is the name of the game here. If you don't have it on your plate, you're not going to eat it," she says. "Fill up on the steamed veggies, and cut your rice portion in half."
Beware hidden fat as well. "Go for a made-to-order stir-fried dish, but ask them to go easy on the oil," Harlan says. "And stay away from coconut milk — 1/4 cup has 111 calories, almost all from fat." His choice at Japanese restaurants: Sushi and sashimi and rolls with a lot of veggies (but avoid deep-fried versions such as spider rolls).
Mexican: Chips and extra cheese are not your friends
Blatner suggests avoiding the brick of fat in the cheese enchilada and ordering something a la carte, like a fajita, "which is vegetable heavy and allows you to layer on your own cheese, sauce and guacamole."
The healthiest choice is generally going to be a taco salad, as long as you eat just a little bit of the deep-fried tortilla, advises Harlan. Or order soft tacos: it's hard to go wrong with a fresh corn tortilla with a meat or veg filling and lettuce, tomato, and a bit of cheese.
Pizza: Keep it local
"The major chains are the most guilty of making this an unhealthy food, so it's best if you go to a neighborhood joint," says Harlan. "It's even better if they make whole-wheat pizza dough for a boost of fiber."
While it may be obvious that you should steer clear of the artery-clogging cheese-stuffed crust, Harlan said it's also wise to avoid the fatty meat toppings and get your pie piled high with mushrooms, peppers, tomato sauce, olives, onions, roasted garlic, eggplant, artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes instead.
"I have to eat pizza once a week," Blatner says. "But I always go with a thin crust and go easy on the cheese with a little basil and artichoke on top." She also suggests ordering a bowl of minestrone soup to go along with your pie. "Having this fills you up, and I swear you'll eat several fewer bites of the pie."
Burger Joints: There's no value in some of those meals
"Get whatever is the smaller sandwich, and swap out the fatty sides of rings and fries for a side salad or a fruit cup," Blatner recommends. "The major hidden calories are in the slice of cheese and special sauce snuck in under the bun."
"Seek out the best lean burger, French fries or fried chicken your town has to offer and splurge on that," says Harlan. "Life is too short to eat bad food."