Are you looking for new healthy take out options? Fun Fact: The global online delivery/takeaway market is estimated to be worth about $53.6 billion (2018). Many of these items like meat-lovers pizza, bacon double cheeseburgers, and fried chicken aren’t stuff anyone should be eating daily. When we think of healthy menu items the most obvious one is probably salads. You can’t go wrong with fresh veggies, lean meats, and oil/vinegar dressing. However, one of the main drawbacks of eating anything too often is it can get boring. That’s also true with salads. You can mix things up and go with a garden, tuna, or chef variety. However, sometimes variety is the spice of life—literally.
It turns out ordering healthy takeout items is easier than it might seem. Sometimes you can just make some tweaks to turn unhealthy classics into healthy choices. For example, go with pizza toppings like veggies and tuna instead of processed meats. Select grilled burgers over fried ones, and load up on veggies like lettuce, tomato, and mushrooms. When picking side dishes to go with boiled potatoes and steamed veggies over French fries and onion rings.
What Makes Takeout Food Unhealthy?
In recent years several casual dining chains have become game-changers in how people think about fast food. As the name suggests the main feature of these restaurants is serving food quickly. If you’re on the go then take-out is a more practical option than spending time eating in the restaurant.
Traditional fast food has features like highly-processed and fried. It tends to contain unhealthy ingredients like salt, sugar, and trans-fat. Besides that, there also might be artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives.
These factors can provide benefits like better-tasting and longer-lasting menu items. However, it can also raise health issues. For example, many items like cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and chicken nuggets are part of the so-called Standard American Diet (SAD).
The irony is that in many cases the original versions of the menu items like beef, chicken, and fish are healthy. These protein sources are “complete proteins” and contain all 9 essential amino acids (EAAs) required daily.
The problem is that the foods have been morphed into versions that aren’t anywhere near the original versions. For example, a food experiment in the documentary Super Size Me (2004) showed that McDonald’s burgers and fries didn’t decompose after several months.
When ordering healthy takeout the take is to get back to basics. If you’re on a diet like Keto Ultra, Whole30, or Vegan then it’s important to follow the guidelines of those diets. That includes going low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) when ordering on Keto/Atkins, picking whole foods on Whole30, and ditching animal products while on the Vegan diet.
That said, the general approach should be to get back to basics. For example, consider there’s a big difference between baked sweet potato fries and deep-fried French fries. When you peel, dehydrate, and fry potatoes you’re getting a lot fewer nutrients versus baked sweet potatoes with skins.
Healthy Take Out Items
LITTLE HAMBURGER AT 5 GUYS
We often think of hamburgers as unhealthy. It depends on issues like ingredients, freshness, and size. This one only has around 500 calories including the bun. You still get 25g of protein and lots of fresh veggies like lettuce, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, and mushrooms. The toppings are free so load upon them.
GRILLED CHICKEN COOL WRAP AT CHICK-FIL-A
While the restaurant is famous for its chicken sandwich there are healthier options. They include this option. It includes grilled chicken in a wrap filled with lettuce, cabbage, carrots, and cheese. The wrap is low-carb since it’s made with flaxseed flour instead of traditional wheat flour.
CHICKEN BOWL AT BOSTON MARKET
This poultry item is high in protein, healthy fat, and vitamins/minerals. You get lots of healthy veggies including steamed veggies and corn/mashed potatoes. If you want to go low-carb then skip the potatoes. It can be attempting to add gravy. If you do then make sure the chicken bowl isn’t swimming in the stuff.
LOADED VEGGIE OMELET AT DENNY’S
This can provide lots of flavor, texture, and nutrition and less than 500 calories. You can also get an English muffin and fresh fruit instead of fatty meat and greasy potatoes. Besides that, the egg provides a good source of protein, healthy fat, and vitamins/minerals.
BURRITO BOWL AT CHIPOTLE
In recent years burrito bowls and similar offerings have been trending since they ditch the high-carb flour tortilla. You’re still getting lots of healthy stuff like:
- Fajita steak
- Pinto Beans
If you’re on a low-carb, high-fat diet then you can still go with guacamole since it’s loaded with healthy unsaturated fat. Meanwhile, you might want to swap out the high-calorie rice.
Top Tips for Making Fast Food Healthier
1. Watch portion sizes
Avoid “Supersize” options. There are better options like kid’s meals or even sharing regular sides. If you order traditional sides like French fries and onion rings you should consider sharing. This can help to make your fast food meals healthier.
2. Read menu descriptions
Watch out for items that are:
These methods often make food high in unhealthy fat and sodium. Some sound healthier than others but think about what’s involved. “Breaded” usually involves bread crumbs made from high-carb refined flour.
3. Pick grilled/roasted meats
This provides benefits like the meats being lower-fat and higher-nutrient. Fried foods, in particular, are a bad idea since they’re often fried using unhealthy oils/fats. Roasted/Grilled options can still be nutritious and delicious.
4. Go with high-protein/fiber foods
This mostly includes options like meat, fish, and eggs in terms of protein. You can also find plant-based options like grains/nuts/seeds and beans/peas. Meanwhile, high fiber foods include options like grains, veggies, and fruits. Fiber can provide several benefits like better digestion, lower net carbs, and weight loss.
5. Keep your meal under 500 calories
This is often easier than it sounds. Make sure to read nutritional info so you’ll know the exact calorie count for menu items. You can also swap out stuff like mayo, fries, and sodas that cause calories to spike. You should also consider cooking methods as deep-fried foods are super-high in calories versus healthy take-out.