After a hard week, the lure of an easy takeaway for dinner is so appealing. But ordering fast food can feel like you’re undoing any effort you’ve made to eat healthily during the rest of the week.
Takeaway doesn’t have to be all about eating junk food. There are plenty of healthy fast food options in Australia. Dietitian Lyndi Cohen recommends ways to make healthier choices whether you dine out regularly or if it’s more of a special treat.
Pick your mindset before you pick your meal
Lyndi suggests that instead of thinking about the foods you should avoid, focus on the foods you want to eat. This kind of mindset will help you crowd out the less healthy options with healthier choices.
When it comes to ordering a side, opt for a salad or veggies.
Look for the options that have the most vegetables and include things like legumes and wholegrains as that’s an easy way to choose healthier options.
What’s a healthy take away option?
No matter what is your preferred type of takeaway, Lyndi offers these ideas on how to make the healthier choice.
Choose brown rice and include things like avocado for healthy fats. Edamame and seaweed salad is a nice way to add in a few more veggies.
This option can sometimes be a bit high in sodium due to the amount of salt in ingredients like soy sauce and fish sauce, so adding in more veggies and a lean protein can help counter this, by adding more volume and roughage to the dish.
Consider what the best source of protein is for you. Select brown rice when you’re ordering a stir fry to increase your fibre intake.
Rice paper rolls
A quick and easy lunch out and they come with all sorts of yummy dipping sauces. Look for ones that have plenty of vegetables and lean protein, like tofu.
A healthier choice to help you include plenty of delicious plant-based foods including plenty of colourful veggies. It’s a really satisfying meal when eaten with the dips.
These can be a great way to crowd more vegetables, beans and wholegrains into your diet. Pick your own ingredients to help it suit your needs and tastes.
Eating out healthily
Eating at a restaurant or pub doesn’t have to automatically mean huge, heavy meals that leave you feeling bloated and sleepy.
Lyndi says “At most Australian eateries or pubs, you’ll be able to find a grilled fish and salad or a salad. If you do choose these options, make sure they’ve got tasty ingredients included, like salad dressing, avocado, or feta.”
Just because the menu has the option of a huge steak that needs its own table, doesn’t mean you have to eat it.
“Look for quality over quantity and choose the smallest steak with the best cut. When it comes to ordering a side, opt for a salad or veggies to help you eat more veggies. Order chips that can be shared around with friends and family,” says Lyndi.
Consider the options that tickle your taste buds. “It can be a bit disappointing if you end up with a flavourless salad. Make sure what you order is satisfying because healthy eating should be fun. It shouldn’t be bland, and it doesn’t have to be boring”, says Lyndi.
Convenience food can also be a healthy takeaway food option. Instead of automatically heading towards the drive-thru, consider the healthier options your local supermarket has available.
A bag of pre-packed salad, a roast chicken and fresh crusty wholegrain bread roll from the bakery is a very quick, tasty and healthier meal that needs little-to-no cooking or preparation.
Include the whole family
Go through the options with everyone in the family so that no one feels left out. Discussing ways to make their favourite food healthier is a great way to start a new habit. Adding it into the weekly family meal plan may help you be more consistently healthy.
Keeping the healthy takeaway habit
You need to find the balance of what healthy looks like for you. Stay away from an ‘all or nothing’ mindset so you don’t set yourself up for disappointment. Look for options that sound delicious and figure out how you can make eating out as healthy as possible without depriving yourself.
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Lyndi Cohen is a media Nutritionist and Dietitian who regularly appears on Aussie TV screens and in magazines with the goal of reaching as many people as possible. She is all about cutting through the sea of wellness misinformation with common sense and scientific data.
Reviewed by the healthylife Advisory Board July 2021.