Whether it is for a quick lunch or a ‘can’t be bothered to cook’ evening, takeaway food is a staple for most of us – even though we know that it is not always healthy. What can we do to enjoy our takeaways with a clearer conscience?
Our fast food menu in the UK is an eclectic mix from all over the world. We can enjoy fish and chips far from the coast, savour Chinese stir fries and spring rolls and delight in Indian food that is actually very different from that eaten in India. Pizza and pasta is available ‘just-a like mamma used to make’, although whether a genuine Italian chef would recognise some of the concoctions on offer is questionable. Chicken tikka pizza, anyone?
It is no wonder that our national waistline is increasing with all this on offer. Excessive fast food consumption is also bad for the heart and circulation, and doesn’t do the wallet too many favours either. We love our takeaways – so how can we reduce the damage?
Is takeaway food always bad?
No food is bad in itself – we need a variety of food types and nutrients and all food has value to us. So the occasional takeaway treat is perfectly allowable, but if too many of our meals are heading towards the fatty, sugary and high-calorie route then it is time to take control.
The other issue with takeaways is excessive portion size – this has got worse in recent years. Portions at fast food places are much bigger than is usually served when we cook for ourselves, and so it is all too easy for our evening ‘snack’ to provide an entire day’s calories. This is not good as a regular event!
How can takeaway food fit into a balanced diet?
Current thinking is that a balanced diet consists of the following approximate proportions of food types:
There is no need to ‘micro-manage’ this at every meal, but over periods of a week or so this is the balance that we should all aim to achieve. Your takeaway needs to fit into that balance.
What are the healthier takeaway choices?
As with all of our diets, the two keys to healthier fast food are portion control and limiting fat, sugar and salt intake.
Portions from Indian and Chinese takeaways and chip shops are usually much bigger than necessary. Anyone who has ever eaten at an Indian or Chinese restaurant will know how easy it is to order far too much and have lots leftover – the same applies with takeaways. The trouble with takeaway food is that we often collect it when we are really hungry, and will eat far too much. Eating after an alcoholic night out also tends to wreck portion control, so with all the empty calories in alcohol this kind of evening can do some serious damage to weight.
Takeaway rule 1 is ‘don’t order too much’. For example, the staff will usually be happy to show you how big a portion of rice or ‘regular chips’ is, so you can decide how much you actually need. Pizzas are another item that is often colossal so try to share with a friend – it is a meal out, not an eating competition!
Takeaway food tends to be high in fat, salt and sugar, the three things that really need to be limited in all our diets. So takeaway rule 2 is about making the best choices. Here are the things that we need to treat with caution:
Here are the better choices:
There’s no need to give up on your takeaway treats – but choose with care, order frugally and make sure you walk to the shop rather than taking the car!