How to Stay Healthy(ish) When You’re Ordering Takeout

Ordering takeout can wreak havoc on your healthy eating — but it doesn’t have to. No matter what type of food you’re ordering, there is always something reasonably healthy on the menu, and it doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice flavor. Eater.com and Grub Hub worked together to determine the five types of takeout Americans order the most, and I decided to break down what you should look for if you’re going with one of those five options.

If you’re ordering chicken…

It’s easy to indulge in fried chicken sandwiches and combo meals full of greasy meat when you’re ordering takeout. Although fried chicken does have protein, it also has plenty of trans fat, sodium, and calories your body won’t enjoy digesting. Look for grilled chicken if possible, such as a grilled chicken sandwich with lettuce and tomato. Ask them to hold the mayo, and put some hot sauce on instead — you’ll cut down on the saturated fat and trans fat but still add flavor. Chick-fil-A offers both a grilled chicken sandwich and grilled chicken wrap, along with plenty of salad options that will still provide tasty chicken with the added nutrients of leafy greens and other veggies.

It might help to look at the menu’s nutrition information prior to ordering. Sometimes, meals sound healthy but are actually full of fat and sodium. This will help you nail down those healthier options and remember them for future orders.

If you’re ordering Chinese…

Think veggies. Chinese food menus almost always have vegetarian options and options that use grilled chicken instead of fried. Dishes like chicken and broccoli or grilled shrimp with assorted vegetables are much better options than General Tso’s or sweet and sour chicken. If you’re tempted to order an egg roll, it’s best to skip it. Instead, opt for a steamed appetizer, such as steamed vegetable dumplings. It’s not easy to avoid the sodium that comes along with Chinese food, but cutting out anything fried and loading up on vegetables and protein will make things a little easier on your digestive system and won’t sabotage your healthy eating kick.

If you’re ordering pizza…

Some people may disagree, but I would advise that you don’t order gluten free dough as a healthy substitute. (Gluten free foods tend to have added sugars and fats to make up for the flavor loss.) If whole wheat dough is an option, that’s great, but if not, just stick with regular dough. Try a margherita pizza—it’s typically made with tomato slices instead of sauce, which will lower your sodium intake. Otherwise, most places do have vegetarian options, which will at least add some nutrients into your meal. Avoid heavier slices like buffalo chicken and meat lovers’ pizza, which are loaded with sodium and fat.

If you’re ordering a burger…

This one can go one of two ways. If you’re stopping at a fast food place, you should probably avoid the burger. And it may seem like salads are the best option, but some of them are loaded with fat and calories (especially the ones that have “crispy chicken” in the description and are served with a heavy dressing). Actually, you can get away with a four-piece chicken nugget and small fries pretty easily—It’s not too bad for you, and the chicken provides a good amount of protein. Salads are okay, but pay close attention to the toppings and dressing because those calories can add up quickly.

If you’re ordering sushi…

Sushi has a reputation for being one of the healthiest takeout meals, but it can go downhill fast. White rice, soy sauce, tempura, and spicy mayo are key ingredients in most sushi rolls, but you’ll want to avoid them if you’re aiming for a healthy meal. Most sushi restaurants offer a brown rice alternative for just a little extra money, so choose brown rice if you can swing it. Avoid anything with tempura, since the fried food won’t help your healthy eating.

A tablespoon of soy sauce contains a whopping 875 milligrams of sodium (and according to the American Heart Association, your body needs less than 500 milligrams per day), so use half a tablespoon if you need it. The spicy mayo has a strong flavor, so if you love it on your roll, try to remove about half of it before eating. You’ll still get the taste with only half the fat and calories.

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