Most modern women are beyond busy and—no matter how much we enjoy it—simply don’t have enough hours in the day to whip up dinner every night. You know what, though? That’s okay! After all, one of the modern world’s greatest perks is the fact that services like Seamless exist, and we can order pretty much any type of grub at any time and have it delivered right to our door. The only problem? Finding healthy takeout takes a little work.
When it comes to typical delivery food, many types of common cuisines are packed with waistline saboteurs like saturated fat, astronomical levels of sodium, and problematic refined flour. The good news is that with a few smart choices, an effortless meal doesn’t have to ruin your diet.
Read on for your healthy takeout cheat sheet that outlines 6 types of common delivery food, and tips to make informed choices for each.
If You’re Ordering… Pizza
We all know that pizza isn’t the best thing for us, but it’s certainly not the worst. That said, there are things you can do to make it a total waistline saboteur. Here’s how to make ordering pizza a healthy takeout option that won’t totally bust your diet.
- Pile on the veggies. Adding toppings like mushrooms, broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, onions, or salad will allow you get the fiber-rich benefits of produce.
- Steer clear of meat toppings like pepperoni, ham, or sausage. These are largely processed, and loaded with sodium and fat.
- Blot! Some folks roll their eyes at this one, but experts say that blotting the oil from each slice can shave around 30 to 40 calories. Not a ton, but better than nothing!
If you can, order whole wheat or thin crust. This means less white flour, and less carbs.
- Try eating a salad before you dig into the pie, which will fill you up.
If You’re Ordering… Sushi
Sushi is one of the healthiest things you can order—nothing terribly wrong with fresh fish and a little white rice—but there are some hidden pitfalls lurking on that takeout menu.
- As tasty as they are, standard spicy rolls are made with mayonnaise, Philly rolls are made with salty smoked salmon and cream cheese, and anything with tempura means it’s deep-fried, so stay away from these types of rolls.
- While a California roll isn’t unhealthy, per se, its abundance of avocado and (often) imitation crabmeat aren’t the best choice if you’re already eating spicy rolls, or anything fried.
- Choose a mix of rolls that only include fish and vegetables like cucumber, radish, scallion, or carrots, and treat yourself to one “treat roll” like Spicy Tuna.
- If you’re low-carbing it, ask for your rolls to be wrapped in cucumber instead of rice, and fill up on starters like miso soup, a little edamame, or seaweed salad.
- Instead of dunking each piece into salty soy sauce, try swirling your chopsticks around in the sauce first, then picking up your sushi—you’ll still get the flavor with way less sodium.
If You’re Ordering… Indian
The great thing about Indian food is the fact that everything is so flavorful. However, there are certain dishes that are loaded with saturated fat and calories. With the right choices though, Indian can be a healthy, satisfying meal.
- Don’t start with samosas—they’re delicious, but they’re also deep-fried and—in many cases—packed with starchy potatoes.
- While a little basmati rice is often necessary with Indian food, it’s easy to overdo it. Limit yourself to around a half-cup (or roughly the size of your fist.)
- If you’d rather have bread than rice, skip the empty-calorie naan, which is made from white flour. Pick roti instead, which is the whole wheat version.
- Anything labeled “tikka masala” means it’s made with high levels of cream and ghee butter. Instead, choose delicious tandoori dishes (which are grilled in a tandoor oven and feature plenty of complex spices.) If you want something creamy, order a side of raita, the refreshing cucumber and yogurt sauce, which is way less fat-filled than creamy dishes.
- Add an order of protein-rich veggies like chickpeas (chana masala), spinach (saag), or flavorful lentils (daal.)
If You’re Ordering… Mexican
Mexican food is spicy and satisfying, but also can be loaded with saturated fat and sodium.
- Stay away from refried beans, which are usually filled with lard or pork. Instead, stick with a small serving of black beans.
- Skip nachos, which are fried chips topped with greasy extras like cheese and sour cream.
- Choose a dish that’s wrapped in a soft tortilla and make sure it’s filled with lots of veggies, flavorful salsa, and lean protein like shrimp or chicken. Ask for cheese on the side so you can control how much you sprinkle in, and choose a little heart-healthy guacamole rather than fatty sour cream.
- If you’re really watching what you eat, unroll your burrito or tacos, and just eat the filling.
- Take it easy on the rice—if you find you really want it, limit yourself to a serving the size of your fist.
If You’re Ordering… Diner Food
Ordering from your local diner or coffee shop is a safe bet since there are lots of options that aren’t particularly unhealthy, but a few wrong choices could result in a major fat -and-calorie-fest.
- The first rule of thumb: Always ask to substitute French fries if you’re watching your diet. Most diner food comes with fries and an order can have over 700 calories. Instead, try a steamed veggie, a side salad, or a plain baked potato.
- If you’re ordering breakfast-style food, stick with egg-white omelets filled with veggies, and ask for a slice of tomato instead of hash browns.
- Steer clear of diner tuna or chicken salad, which are typically packed with crazy amounts of mayo. Instead, try grilled chicken on pita, or a turkey sandwich.
- Go for a turkey burger or a veggie burger instead of a beef cheeseburger.
- Dinner-size salads are always a safe bet, so long as they’re not drowning in dressing. Always ask for the dressing on the side, and forgo things like croutons, eggs, or bacon. Instead, top your salad with lean protein like grilled chicken or shrimp.
- Look to Greek-style dishes, such as Chicken Souvlaki. This often comes with a filling Greek side salad and yogurt tzatziki, so it won’t be as painful to forgo the pita if you’re watching your carbs.
If You’re Ordering… Chinese
Chinese takeout has a reputation for being super-greasy, but with a few smart choices, you can still enjoy the tasty flavors without all the far, salt, oil, and calories.
- Always go for steamed dumplings instead of fried. Even better, go for steamed veggie or shrimp dumplings, as opposed to meat.
- Love egg rolls? Scoop out the inside and eat it on its own, as the shell is deep-fried and loaded with grease.
- Choose steamed entrées like shrimp or chicken with veggies (as opposed to sautéed) and ask for your sauce on the side. However, be sure to add vitamin and fiber-rich bok choy, string beans, and broccoli rather than baby corn and water chestnuts, which have little nutritional value.
- Pass on the noodles, which are made from refined white flour and often arrive drowning in oil.
- Ask for brown rice instead of white, which is higher in fiber.
- Stay (far!) away from deep-fried dishes like General Tso’s Chicken—it often has up to 1,500 calories, a whopping 3,200 milligrams of sodium, and plenty of MSG. Yuck!
- Most Chinese soups aren’t terrible, calorically speaking, but they’re loaded with sodium. Your best bet? Eat the tofu and veggies out of the hot and sour soup, or a wonton or two if you’re really in the mood, but leave the broth.
Lastly, make it a point to always drink water with your takeout, as opposed to sugary soda (or chemical-laden diet varieties). This will work to flush out the extra salt you’re ingesting, and keep you hydrated.