How to Order a Healthier Take Away

Updated: Oct 25, 2021

I was asked by SheerLuxe recently about watch-outs when ordering that cheeky take-away and how to make healthier choices. Read on to find out my take...


healthy food for diets

In your opinion, are there some takeaways that are always best avoided from a nutritional

point of view? E.g. fried chicken, fish and chips etc? Can these dishes ever be healthy?

Absolutely. If you are someone that is having any more than 1 take away per week

then fried food should be avoided. Too much fried food can clog your arteries and

lead to heart disease if it's regularly consumed. If you are having it occasionally, once

every couple of weeks or months or so, then you don't need to worry too much.


Many cuisines use a lot of salt and oil (as that's what makes food taste so good), so if

you are having takeaways a lot it can really impact your cholesterol levels and lead to

weight gain. The main culprits are chips, burgers, spring rolls, tempura, battered fish


What are some of the healthier cuisines available when ordering? What

should you be looking for? Any keywords/buzzwords to look out for?

Services like Deliveroo have so much on offer, and even cuisines/restaurants that you may think

are unhealthy, often have lighter meals on offer too. For example, Vietnamese Bun is

a better option than an oily noodle or creamy curry dish. It’s a warm salad with glass

noodles and a choice of protein. Alternatively, opting for wholegrains where

possible, such as with pasta or pizza bases is always a better choice.


Use the filters when searching to avoid suggestions you may be tempted by, or to only select healthy choices. There is a filter for “healthy” or "light meals". Thai, Vietnamese and Japanese food can be healthier options, especially Pho, Stir Fries and soups.


People say that Asian cuisine is always a good option as it’s light – is this true? What about

sushi rice?

Yes and no. For example, a chicken katsu curry can have over 800 calories, and offer

little nutritional value. However, if you swap the white for brown rice, and order a

side of green vegetables you’ve hit some key nutritional goals.


In terms of being a light option, it’s like any cuisine - there are lighter smaller meal

choices, or there are heavy warm meals. It’s more important that you’re looking at

the ingredients - sugar and salt content, and if you can make healthy swaps such as

brown rice and add in extra veggies.


Asian food is sometimes prepared using flavour enhancers, which are synthetic

chemicals added to make the meal more flavoursome. You know how you get very

thirsty sometimes when eating asian food? That’s the salt and enhancers at work, as

they both dehydrate your body. Avoid Flavour Enhancer 651 and Monosodium

Glutamate (MSG) and sulphur dioxide. Most places are great at stating they don't use MSG, but if unsure you can ask if they will remove this for you in the comments of your order.


Sushi is probably the healthiest Asian option. It's so fresh and has a good mix of

protein, fats and carbohydrates. Obviously deep fried sushi rolls and tempura are not

as healthy as your classic nigiri, maki and uramaki, but as long as you have everything

in moderation you can enjoy a little bit of everything


If you like noodle dishes, such as from Wagamama, is there any way to make this

healthier? E.g. swap for brown or rice noodles?

Absolutely, if you can substitute anything for whole grains this will provide a healthy

dose of fibre which will make you feel full, and get things moving post meal.


Always make sure there is a good vegetable to noodle ratio - minimum 50/50. You

want to be getting your nutrients in every meal, so whatever you’re craving, you’re

nourishing your body. The vegetables will also help to stabilise your blood sugar

from the huge carb hit, and make you feel fuller for longer. Add an extra side of

vegetables if you're not sure, and try to eat this first, before you fill up on the noodles.


If you’re in the mood for a naughtier takeaway, do you have any tips for making it

healthier? E.g. how to make an Indian or Chinese healthier?

Indian and Chinese meals can get a bad rep, but as long as you’re making smart

choices it can be a nutritious meal.


Firstly, assess the restaurant; the location, the photos provided, the scope of their

menu will all tell you a lot. If they come across as a greasy takeaway you wouldn’t

enter off the street, move on.


Secondly, start with a base of vegetables and protein. Both cuisines make vegetables taste AMAZING! Chinese broccoli with garlic, Indian sag aloo (potato with spinach) are always simple and delicious. With Chinese, look for tofu or lean cuts of meat, and

Indian meals there is paneer (a firm cheese) and lentils or chickpeas are often added to most meals. By adding in extra vegetables you are instantly increasing your fibre and nutrient intake. These meals are also diet staples, so they're less altered to cater for different tastes.


Thirdly, go for dishes that are more vegetable (eg: tomato) than oil or cream based. You could consider cutting out the deep fried poppadoms and cheesy naan, but let's be honest, these are the best bits of a naughty take away!


Ask the chef for their more traditional recipes rather than the Westernised versions like a chicken korma.


If you’re craving Italian, what are your top tips for making this healthier? Are there any

simple swaps you can make?

Yes, where possible select wholegrain pasta or pizza dough. Share a pizza and a

side salad and some other veggies with a friend or partner rather than having a whole one to

yourself.


Try and order traditional - they’re simple recipes that whilst they may use rich foods,

they are often good fats (like olive oil) and are designed to fill you up with small

serves. Check out the side dishes on offer as you can get the real authentic Italian

pizza with a healthy dose of aubergine, tomatoes and salads on the side


Quite a few places now offer base choices, such as wholegrain, sourdough, spelt, GF.

Picky Wops (in Brixton) have a great line up, as do Zia Lucia.


If you love dips, dressing and condiments, do you have any tips for making these

healthier? Is there anything you can have in your fridge to serve instead? Any favourite

brands?

Takeaway dips, dressings and condiments are very likely to contain high levels of

vegetable oils, sugar and salt, so if they can be avoided or reduced that would be best.


Overall, I’d recommend using your own, where you can see the ingredient list and

allow you to make a considered healthy choice when out food shopping. There are so many

sugar free, organic and healthier versions of your traditional condiments on the

market. This is also more cost effective, as you’re often charged extra for sauces. Alternatively,

whilst you're waiting for your order to arrive, you can practise making your own!


I like MR Organic tomato ketchup made with 80% real tomatoes and I really like

Sauce Shop who are a couple that make great condiments with healthy ingredients. They've got pretty much everything! The Chipotle Mayo is great.


If you’re trying to cut back on meat but the restaurant you’re ordering from doesn’t have

lots of veggie options, do you have any tips for creating a balanced meal when ordering?

There is not really an excuse for not finding meat-free, high veggie options, especially right now. Vegetarianism, veganism, meat-free Monday's or just generally reducing meat intake is growing exponentially and food suppliers have had to follow to keep up. I just did a quick look and checked Veggie and vegan options in my area and there was over 300 options!


Go back to the filters - you can filter by vegetarian/vegan, healthy, healthy options and some food services also have 'Meat-Free'


Often getting your veggie uptake up is through sides or add ons so make sure to scroll through the entire menu (sides are usually at the bottom).


Also remember you can add food you already have in the fridge to the meal - make a side salad, or prepare your own rice whilst you’re waiting.


If you’re gluten free, do you have any tips for ordering sensibly, or favourite restaurants

that do gluten free food?

Again, use the filters to ensure the restaurant has clearly labelled their items and caters for

this option. Always add that you’re GF to the comments to avoid-cross contamination (vital for

coeliacs)


The trouble with gluten is that it can be in a lot of sauces, especially ones you don't

expect like soy. So if you are coeliac it's especially important to call and double check with them that they have GF options. Some places may not cater for coeliacs as they can't guarantee cross contamination. Always better to call and ask rather than get sick afterwards! I'm a big fan of Basilicos gf pizza.


If you’re on a low-carb/keto diet, do you have any tips for ordering sensibly, or favourite

restaurants?

Start by identifying what source of protein you want the centre of your meal to be. This will make it easier to search what you’re after, and then you can use sides to top up low carb options


Ordering grilled chicken or lamb chops can be accompanied by a side salad. Turkish Shish kebabs on a stick are great for keto options. I like Best Kebab in Stoke Newington.


What are some of your favourite healthy options on Deliveroo and what do you order?

If I’m feeling naughty I like to go for a Halo Burger but my favourite healthy options are Nem Nem, Rosa's Thai, Holy Cow and Mildreds


healthy gut healthy you

BEST FOODS TO ORDER AT…

Indian: Palak Paneer (Spinach and paneer cheese), black lentil dahl, chicken & chickpea

masala curry, grilled lamb chops

Suggested places to try: Tayyabs, Atcha, Nusa Kitchen


Chinese: Steamed cabbage dumplings, NiuRou Fun (braised beef with vegetable, noodles

and soup), salt & pepper squid, spicy seaweed, and any mushroom dishes.

Suggested places to try: Sichuan Folk (can offer GF options too), Master Wei Xi-an Cuisine,

Yauatcha (for a very special treat)


Asian (noodles/sushi): Vietnamese Bun or Pho, Thai Green/Red Curry

Suggested places to try: BunBunBun, Pho, Rosa’s Thai, Hanoi Cafe


Lebanese: Falafel salad box with hummus and pickles

Suggested places to try: Your local Turkish to get it piping hot, Fanny’s Kebabs (check out

their rice boxes), Best Kebab


Italian: Grilled vegetable mezze plate, whole grain pasta with sauce of choice + veggies (not

carbonara)

Suggested places to try: Picky Wops (amazing selection of pizza bases), Pasta Evangelists, Zia

Lucia, Basilicos. Nudo Pizza offers a healthier alternative to greasy pizza and uses wholegrain bases


Fish & Chips: Grilled, not battered, fish if you can!

Suggested places to try: Fish House (order the whole roasted fish and add sides), Poppies


If you're looking for further nutritional advice, book with me for a free 20 minute consultation.




_________________________________________________________________________


Kelly Mulhall

Registered Nutritional Therapist

Dip CNM, mBANT, mANP, mCNHC











Kelly is a Registered Nutritional Therapist who focuses on positive physical and mental wellbeing, achieved through diet, lifestyle, sleep and exercise. Having struggled for years with IBS and hormonal imbalance, and increasingly frustrated with the lack of support and helpful advice from her GP, Kelly began her own journey of healing the body from the inside out. After seeing huge improvements she quit her job to study nutrition and focus on harnessing the healing powers of food to help other people in similar situations.


I am not attempting to prevent, treat or cure any physical, mental or emotional issues. Do not disregard medical advice or delay seeking medical advice because of information you have read on this website. Do not start or stop taking any medications without speaking to your primary health care provider.
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