How to Choose a Takeaway on a Diet

Published: 16th September 2019

Many of us love a takeaway but, as they tend to be so unhealthy, they’re often written off as soon as we start dieting.

Although takeaways will always be a treat and always hold a higher calorie count than many other foods, that doesn’t mean you have to avoid them entirely if you’re on a diet and need a quick dinner!

Today we’re going to be providing you with our top tips for choosing a takeaway without totally ruining all your hard work with your diet!

The Cuisines by Calories

We tend to tar all takeaways with the same brush, considering them all to be as grossly high in calories and fat as each other but that isn’t necessarily the case.

Let’s take a look at the cuisines by calories:

American: we’re talking burger bars, Domino’s pizza and even hotdogs when we touch on American takeaways and, typically, these are some of the worst culprits for ruining our diets! They’re very heavy in simple, starchy carbs that we know we should avoid if we’re trying to eat healthily.

Everything tends to be covered in a lot of melted cheese and often with lashings of full fat sauce, so if you’re trying to avoid ruining your diet whilst having a takeaway, American diners may be one to give a miss.

Italian: with high street Italian restaurants now being available for home delivery thanks to chains such as Uber Eats and Deliveroo, you now have access to fresher, healthier takeaway options.

Although Italian takeaways usually consist of pizza and pasta, there is always the option to opt for a salad or many of the big Italians sell lower-calorie options, such as thinner based pizzas with plenty of salad, which is ideal for keeping your ‘treat’ dinner between the 500-600 calorie mark.

Chinese: Infamous for being terrible for our digestive systems, Chinese takeaways typically use an ingredient called MSG, also known as Monosodium Glutamate, which is a form of salt that is widely added to Chinese fast food and there are a lot of health concerns related to the overconsumption of MSG.

Another issue with Chinese food is the fact that nearly everything is fried. The rice dishes, the prawn toast, prawn crackers, spring rolls and so on are usually all fried along with oil which is a method of cooking we tend to avoid when trying to save a few calories.

Indian: Indian takeaway food is often put in the same boat as Chinese and automatically thought of as being bad for you but there are actually more options for staying on the healthy side at an Indian takeaway than you may think.

Although a lot of the curry sauces are high in calories, fat and salt, particularly cream-based sauces such as Masala, there are more options for avoiding these unhealthy ingredients. Most of the types of rice at Indian restaurants are boiled not fried and the tandoori style meats are simply unprocessed meat, cooked in a tandoori oven which is an open fire oven. They come with no sauce and aren’t cooked with an excess of extra oil and can be served with salad to stay a little healthier.

Onion bhajis, samosas and other Indian snacks are typically deep-fried which is worth being aware of.

Making Healthy Choice at the Takeaway

So, you’re getting a takeaway but what are the top tips you can follow at ANY type of takeaway to make the healthiest choice possible?

  1. Opt for the Smallest Sized Portion – at many takeaways, there will be different sized portion options, so the obvious way to be as healthy as possible is to always opt for the smaller sized portion, particularly for things like chips, rice, etc.
  2. Swap for Salad Where Possible – Swap your side dishes such as chips, rice, garlic bread etc. for a side salad where possible to help get your 5 a day and avoid extra simple carbs.
  3. Choose Vegetable Based Sauces – A lot of sauces at Chinese, Indian and Italian takeaways are cream-based which are obviously more calorific and high fat, so if you can avoid these kinds of sauces (Masala, Carbonara, etc) and choose something tomato-based with a high vegetable content, you’re automatically making a healthier choice.
  4. Avoid Additional Sauce if You Can – if you’ve chosen to order a burger, kebab, hot dog or something along those lines, avoid adding extra sauces if you can or if you really want something, add your own at home where you can control the amount and choose low-fat options if you want to. Takeaway sized portions of mayonnaise can be pretty big and super high in calories.

Make a Fake-Away Instead

If you’re trying to be super strict on your diet to hit a weight loss goal and don’t want to risk ruining all your hard work for a takeaway, try making a ‘fakeaway’ at home – a homemade version of your favourite takeaway dish!

There’s not much you can’t recreate at home with the right tools and ingredients and often, it can work out cheaper and just as easy to make your favourite dish at home instead of getting it from a takeaway restaurant.

We’ve got top tips for making healthy pizzas on the blog if that’s what you fancy or if you want something Chinese or Indian, BBC Good Food has a great selection of takeaway style recipes for you to make yourself at home!

So, there really is no need to say no to a Friday night takeaway when you’re on a diet with the help of these top tips!

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