Takeaway is one of life’s great pleasures. You get delicious food, prepared by an expert, pick up or brought to your home, and there’s minimal clean up. And, even better, most of the time you’re sharing the experience with people you love. It’s magical.
Eating takeaway from restaurants, cafés and fast food outlets has become so commonplace, however, that studies have shown it can have an impact on your health.
So here are 10 ways that you can make a healthier choice when you’re getting takeaway!
1. Look at the menu beforehand
It sounds simple but it really works. Looking at the menu ahead of time allows you to think about your food choices without the influence of a busy evening and the mounting pressure to decide what you’ll order right now, especially if you’ve got a hungry tummy. You are far more likely to make a healthy choice if you can look at the menu when you have time to consider your options carefully.
Even better is pre-deciding what you’ll eat, so when the time comes to order, you’ll go with your original healthier option and be less tempted to order less healthy options in the moment.
2. Don’t go too hungry
In the same way you shouldn’t go to the supermarket when hungry, ordering food when you’re too hungry can lead to impulsive choices that are more likely to be high in fat, salt and sugar, and low in whole foods. While you might not want to eat as much for lunch if you’re getting take out for dinner, letting yourself become starving is counterproductive. Have a piece of fruit or a yoghurt in the hour before you order and it will prime you for better choices when you’re making the food decision.
3. Load up on veg
One of the single most-effective ways to choose a healthy option is to choose something high in vegetables. Restaurants and café’s have made a huge effort to cater to vegetarian and vegan clients by upping the flavour on vegetable-based dishes. Have a look at the salad options, try a vegetarian meal or order a side of veg!
4. Get your sauce on the side
Sauce can contribute a high number of calories, particularly when a meal is dished up with a big dollop. A great tip is to always ask for the sauce on the side, so you can control how much you want on your meal and in your mouth.
5. Put your knife and fork down
When you eat quickly, or with lots of distractions, it’s easy to miss the physical cues that you’re satisfied. This can lead to eating far more than you need, which can be unhealthy, particularly if you find yourself getting take away regularly.
Slowing down the process of eating by putting the food or your utensils down between bites, can not only allow you to gain more enjoyment out of the food, it can also help you to better recognise fullness and satiety. This might feel weird but it’s a fantastic tool in mindful eating.
Plus, because you’ll have eaten less, you’ll have more chance of having leftovers for tomorrow!
6. Prioritise your courses
While you may have grown up with the idea of three courses (or more) to a meal, there is no reason why you have eat that way now.
Before you order, think carefully about which courses you’ll really enjoy and then just pick the most important. For instance, you might absolutely love having dessert when you’re getting take away, but you’re not that fussed on any of the main options. You could have one or two entrees for dinner and save that space in your stomach for dessert.
7. Share with friends
It’s often the first few bites of a food that are the most enjoyable – experiencing the novel combination of flavours and trying something you might not be game to make at home.
Sharing smaller plates with more people can be a great way to get a variety of tastes, without having to eat a full meal of anything. You could order a number of entrees, 1-2 mains and dessert to share with the table. This tactic can also help to avoid meal envy!
8. Be drink wise
Alcohol and soft drink can be VERY high in energy and often contribute to the high calorie consequence of eating food made away from home. Alcohol can also lower our inhibitions and make it more challenging to make a conscious food choice or listen to our appetite.
Be clear on what you want to drink before you’re confronted with the wine list. Decide how much you want to drink and what you want it to be.
If you’re wanting to avoid the extra energy altogether, a sparkling mineral water, or soda and lime can be a refreshing compliment to any takeaway meal.
9. Avoid ‘all-or-nothing’ thinking
Just because you’re getting takeaway for one meal, doesn’t mean you need to count the whole day as a ‘write off’. Making conscious choices before and after dining out can help to mitigate the impact of a high energy/salt/fat/sugar meal on your overall food choices.
If you are ordering takeaway for brunch, plan a healthy snack for the afternoon when you might get hungry again. If you’re having takeaway for lunch, include a dinner that’s high in vegetables. If you have big dinner ordered, return to your normal pattern of eating the next day.
10. How does it fit in?
It’s not what you do on occasion that determines your health and wellbeing, it’s what you do on a regular basis. If you find that takeaway has become a regular part of your weekly schedule, it can be helpful to prioritise the meals or events that you REALLY want to enjoy and not worry about healthy food choice, and the situations where you can be more conscious.
For instance, if you have three takeaway meals over the weekend – brunch with some friends, dinner with some fancy food, and lunch with family – you may want to prioritise the fancy restaurant as a time to not worry about making healthy food choice. As a result, you may then need to choose a simple egg on toast with breakfast, rather than the French toast, and choose a salad at lunch with family, rather than the chicken parmy!
If you’d like some more specific help around making consistent healthy food choices so you can achieve your goals, get in touch with our team of dietitians at The Healthy Eating Clinic.
For individualised advice and support our team of dietitians at The Healthy Eating Clinic want to equip you with habit-based nutrition advice so that you can eat well for the rest of your life! Make an appointment today