Healthy Takeaway Guide
body + soul
April 19 2011
More Australians than ever are eating takeaway food. Here's how to do it the healthy way. By Tatyana Leonov
Australians today are increasingly reaching for the takeaway menu instead of the fridge door. Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show a 2.8 per cent increase in takeaway food and fast food consumption between December 2009 to December 2010, and data collected by BIS Shrapnel in 2010 found that Australians are spending approximately 42 per cent of their food budget on eating out - compared with just 12 per cent in 1960.
"The main nutritional concern with takeaway food is the serve size and nutritional quality of the meal," says Dr Alan Barclay, a spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia. "Serve sizes are usually much larger than what would customarily be eaten at home and the dishes themselves are often more calorie-laden and higher in sodium."
Longer working hours, coupled with busy social calendars, have led to an increase in people opting for the easy and fast options of takeaway food.
In an ideal world, we would all work less, prepare nutritious meals daily and have plenty of relaxing, stress-free time. Realistically, we need to learn how best to look after our bodies in the life we live now.
"Takeaway foods can be enjoyed as part of a healthy eating plan, provided they are eaten occasionally and in moderated portions," Dr Barclay says. And, of course, knowing what to order also plays an important role.
In the data collected by BIS Shrapnel, in 2010 the top five cuisines that Australians were ordering were Chinese, Modern Australian, Italian, Thai and Indian. Here's what to look for:
- What to avoid: Anything that is deep-fried, such as dim sims, spring rolls or sweet and sour pork.
- Choose this instead: Stir-fries with plenty of colourful vegetables or noodle and vegetable-based soups. Anything steamed is also a good option: steamed dumplings, buns or vegetables.
- Remember: One cup of cooked rice equals one serving of carbohydrates. It's very easy to overdo the rice: a takeaway meal might contain two or more carbohydrate servings, so just transfer the food to a plate and measure out the correct serving size.
Modern Australian food
Usually a combination of protein, vegetables and carbohydrates, modern Australian cuisine is a good choice if you know what to order.
- What to avoid: Crumbed and fried meats.
- Choose this instead: Grilled or barbecued lean meats. When it comes to chicken, skinless is best. Opt for grilled fish (fish high in omega-3 fats such as salmon, tuna and mackerel are great choices) with a side of a salad. Combine good-quality meat with a fresh salad or steamed vegies. * Remember: Fish and chips is a popular takeaway option, but most vendors also sell salads. If you must have chips ask for the smallest size and share.
- What to avoid: Thick pizza bases, high-fat pizza toppings such as bacon, cheese and salami, and any cream-based pasta sauces.
- Choose this instead: A thin base with plenty of vegetable toppings or tomato-based pasta sauces such as bolognese, napolitana and marinara.
- Remember: One pizza is way too much for just one person: share! Pasta can also be shared, just order a salad as a side. If it's available ask for whole-wheat pasta and team with a lean protein such as chicken or seafood.
Thai cuisine is often abundant in nutritiouis, fresh vegetables and good proteins such as seafood and chicken.
- What to avoid: Anything deep-fried - that means no spring rolls, chicken wings or money bags - and coconut milk-based dishes, as they're high in saturated fat. Go easy on the satay sauce.
- Choose this instead: Steamed or grilled meats where possible. Look for dishes made with lime, lemongrass, basil, chilli and seafood.
- Remember: Don't skip the soup and salad menu as these will be your most nutrient-rich choices. Hot and sour prawn soup and Thai beef salad are some of the healthier options.
- What to avoid: Ghee (clarified butter) and cream-based curries are high in saturated fat content.
- Choose this instead: Share your entrees and go for yoghurt-based dishes. Look for words like oven-baked and grilled
- Remember: A typical Indian meal will be accompanied by steamed rice and bread. Naan is popular but it's made from white flour and often brushed with butter. Roti is thinner and usually made from a whole wheat flour blend.
Recreate a healthy version of your favourite takeaway meal at home
- Add vegetables to stir-fries, curries and pizza.
- Choose wholegrain - brown rice, pasta and bread are all more nutritionally-dense than their white counterparts.
- Include a side salad with a meal. You'll eat less of whatever else you cook and get the nutritional benefits of fresh, raw vegies.
- Go for low-fat varieties for anything dairy-based.
- Use oil sparingly and choose oils that are low in saturated and trans fats.
Tick of approval
More takeaway outlets are carrying meals with the Heart Foundation tick. Tick meals contain at least one serve of vegetables - or equivalent in fibre - and meet strict standards for salt and saturated fat.
Did you know?
The average serve of takeaway fish and chips has 34g of fat, which is more than half your daily requirement.