Take Out Food Advice
Takeout Tips and Traps
By Joe Wilkes
From the Million Dollar Body Club - Join Today and Workout to
In a perfect world,
we'd all be able to spend the morning browsing the farmers market for the
perfect seasonal produce and spend the afternoon making nutritious meals that,
in their flawless presentation, would bring a tear to Martha Stewart's eye. But
in reality, sometimes you don't even have time to make do with what's in the
fridge. You might even have to resort to what's hanging on your doorknob or
stuck in your windshield wiperthe scourge of diets everywherethe
delivery menu. A full meal (or more) brought to your door in 30 minutes or
less. No cooking. No cleaning. It's like going to a fine restaurantin
your underpants. A dream come true. But it can be a nightmare for your figure
if you succumb to some of the common pitfalls of deliverable cuisine. Here are
some things to keep in mind, so you can order your dinner in without having to
let your pants out.
What to watch out for
things come in small packages. Unfortunately, most
delivery food comes in large packages. It's rare that you can get someone to
bring you one or two slices of pizza. You usually get the whole pie. And
Chinese and Thai food come in those top-heavy tapered white boxes, so while it
may seem you've only eaten half a container, you've actually gone through most
of it. Before you dig in to your freshly arrived repast, get a plate from your
kitchen. (Come on, someone else cooked the dinner, you can wash one plate!) Put
a serving on your plate and put the rest in the refrigerator for another time.
By removing the extra food, you'll significantly reduce the chances that you'll
power-eat your way through two or three meals worth of calories straight out of
Don't eat the "minimum."
One problem with delivery, especially for single people,
is that there's usually a $10.00 or $12.00 minimum for delivery. Don't be lured
into loading up your order with fatty appetizers or extra desserts just to
ensure free delivery. Order two regular-size entrées, and put one in the
refrigerator for tomorrow's lunch or dinner. You'll save money by not ordering
takeout two nights in a row, and that's also two nights in a row you don't have
to cook. You win!
Watch your sides.
Your diet's already in trouble since you have to order a
banquet's worth of food just to get the delivery guy to show up at your door.
Don't get talked into the add-ons like egg rolls, breadsticks, or chicken
wings. Your pizza's already going to run you about 300 calories a slice; do you
really want to add a 300-calorie order of wings to that?
Read the fine print.
The best thing about Chinese, Thai, and other ethnic menus
is that since the dish is in a foreign tongue, they usually have to add a
couple sentences about what's in the item and how it's prepared. Look for words
and phrases like "steamed," "boiled," "all white meat," etc. Stay away from
words like "fried," "crispy," "cheese-filled," "creamy," etc. Also, some menus
include heart icons, next to the healthier itemskeep an eye out for
up. While some claims that spicy food will boost your
metabolism are overexaggerated, there are some other benefits to eating the hot
stuff. First off, peppers and curries add a lot of flavor, without adding
sodium. Pick dishes that emphasize spice over salt. Secondly, if your mouth is
on fire, you might be encouraged to drink more water to cool you off. And water
will help fill you up in addition to its other myriad benefits. Avoid using
high-calorie sodas, beers, or drinks like Thai iced tea (200 calories a
serving) to put out the fire, though. So, sprinkle some hot peppers on your
pizza or order your food extra spicy, if you can take the heat!
What to order
Most of the restaurants that deliver are
local eateries, not national chains, so we can't give you specific nutritional
information for all of them, but here are some tips for good things to order
and bad things to avoid for three of the most popular categories of
steamed. Order steamed rice, not fried, and brown rice (it has extra
fiber), if they have it.
Veg out. Look
for the dishes that are mostly vegetables and are steamed rather than fried. If
you order dishes like beef and broccoli, ask them for extra broccoli.
up. Egg-drop, wonton, and hot-and-sour soups are good low-cal, low-fat
options (although they usually have plenty of sodium, so no extra soy sauce!).
Fill up on some soup and put away half your entrée for later.
word. Stay away from deep-fried dishes like egg rolls, crispy orange
chicken, General Tso's chicken, sweet-and-sour pork, etc.
Lay off the
sauce. Watch out for sauces made with corn syrup or oil. Request low
sauce or no sauce. An order of kung pao chicken seems healthy but it's
sautéed in enough oil that it can have up to 76 grams of fatmore than an
entire day's worth. If possible, ask how it's prepared.
Pass up the
salt. Ask for low-salt options. Don't use the full-sodium soy sauce
packets that come with your meal. Instead, invest in your own bottle of
low-sodium soy sauce. Also, make sure your restaurant is one of the many that
no longer use monosodium glutamate (MSG) in their dishes.
up. For dinner combos, see if you can substitute healthier options for
the normal items. For example, at my Panda Express, they'll give me an extra
serving of steamed vegetables instead of the side of starchy chow mein or fried
rice that it typically comes with.
The future is bright, and
light! A fortune cookie only has 30 calories, no fat, and potentially
some good news or a daily affirmationtreat yourself!
- Don't pick
up the phone. It's hard to find healthy pizza and it's far better to
make your own. See our "Guilt-Free
Pizza" tips for more on that, but if delivery's the only option, read on .
veggies. Load up on veggie toppings like peppers, onions, mushrooms,
tomatoes, fresh garlic, jalapeños, etc.
Less cheese. Ask
for low-fat cheese or ask them to use half the cheese.
Defeat the meat.
Try and stay away from fatty meat toppings like pepperoni, meatballs, and
sausage. Instead, try leaner options like Canadian bacon, chicken, or
crust. Not all pizzas are created equal, and neither are their crusts.
Look at the chart below to see the different calorie counts from two pieces of
a large cheese pie cut into eight slices.
up. Many of the same tips for Chinese food apply to Thai food as well.
Try and get steamed brown rice, lots of vegetables, and stay away from heavy
sauces and high-sodium dishes.
Don't get saucy.
Satay is a good option, but try not to use too much of the peanut dipping
sauce, if any; that's where your calories will start to add up.
(coco)nuts. Watch the coconut milk. It's delicious, but usually
extremely fattening. Try and look for dishes flavored with ginger, citrus,
curry, or chilies instead. Or ask if they can prepare your dish with low-fat
Hold the milk.
Thai restaurants offer a lot of delicious low-fat soups that you can fill up
on. They also have some soups that are high in fat because of coconut milk. Try
and order soups that don't include it.
Green and lean. Thai cuisine includes many
salads that are a meal in themselves, such as Yum Nuah (beef salad) or Pla
Goong (grilled shrimp salad). Many of these have simple lime juice dressings
that are low in fat. But, as with American salads, caveat emptor, and
ask the restaurant what's in the dressing.
Go fish (or
tofu). Check out the fish and tofu options. Even more than their
Chinese counterparts, Thai restaurants have lots of dishes featuring seafood
and tofu. And if you don't care for seafood or tofu, the Thai spices might help
you overcome your aversion.
So while it's
unlikely you'll lose much weight on a takeout diet, there are still a lot of
ways you can minimize the damage. But if you're still afraid that takeout
temptation will take out your resolve, try turning that "30 minutes or less"
into a Power Half Hour® while you're waiting for your food to
arrive. Then you can enjoy that Szechwan chicken with a side of virtuousness.