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...
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. Most apps now have 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
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 calorie rich 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 very 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 with Indian meals there is paneer (a firm cheese) and lentils or chickpeas are often added to most meals (look for dahls). 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
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
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). Or swap it around - order a vegetarian main with a side of meat.
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
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
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
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
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.
Registered Nutritional Therapist
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.