Everyone has their favourite takeaway – be it pizza, Indian, Chinese or fish and chips.
And these dishes all have one thing in common – they can give us that dreaded guilt when we realise we’ve consumed a truckload of artery-hardening calories.
However, all that can change. Registered nutritional therapist Jackie Lynch, author of The Right Bite (£6.99, Nourish Books), has revealed how we can have a bit of what we fancy – without harming our health.
“ Fast food needs to be treated with caution if you want to keep things healthy,” she says.
“It tends to be high in sugar and refined carbohydrates that cause weight gain, trans fats that are bad for your heart, and salt that can push up your blood pressure.
“But carefully chosen takeaways can actually contain some surprising health benefits.”
Here, Jackie guides us on what the smart choices for a healthy takeaway:
A large burger, medium fries and cola adds up to almost 1,000 calories, says Jackie, which is half the daily recommended allowance for women.
“Your average burger contains up to 3g of salt – half the recommended daily allowance in one meal,” she says.
“Some of the chicken or fish burgers are leaner, with the saturated fat content being five times lower.”
Jackie suggests having a ‘naked’ burger without a bun, since the average burger bun has roughly two teaspoons of added sugar.
“Or at least choose a basic hamburger over a cheeseburger. It contains far less sugar, saturated fat and calories.
“Keep fries to a minimum – a large portion adds up to 439 calories – small fries are 230 calories a portion.”
Three slices of deep pan pepperoni pizza equals over 900 calories. It’s also full of starch, fat and salt.
“Toppings such as processed meat need to be treated with caution – just three slices of pepperoni spicy sausage exceeds the recommended limit for salt,” says Jackie.
“Instead, a thin crust vegetarian pizza is likely to be lower in saturated fat and salt than a meaty deep pan.
“Adding peppers, mushrooms, onions or spinach can boost fibre content to help neutralise excess sugar in the base, plus it adds healthy antioxidants, B vitamins and magnesium to support immune function and increase energy levels.”
Just four pieces of fried chicken in a variety box add up to almost 900 calories and could take you up to the maximum daily recommended amount of saturated fat (20g) in one meal, warns Jackie.
“Eating lots of deep-fried food is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis, which is fatty deposits in the arteries,” she says.
“Ideally, the chicken shouldn’t be fried. Some outlets offer a grilled version, which can knock off around 100 calories from breast or thighs and around 50 calories from drumsticks and wings. It also halves the saturated fat content.
“Otherwise try opting for more of the lower-calorie drumsticks and wings, and fewer breasts and thighs.”
Jackie says a typical fried drumstick has 137 calories and 2g of saturated fat as opposed to a fried thigh which has
295 calories and 5g of
Stripping off some of the batter and just eating the chicken will also limit the damage, too.
FISH AND CHIPS
It’s all about the size and proportions with this old favourite: more fish and fewer chips will make a significant difference to the fat and carbohydrate content of the meal.
“More fish means you make the most of all the beneficial nutrients,” says Jackie.
“Fish is a great source of lean protein, B vitamins and iron. Chips are empty calories.
“Mushy peas are a good addition as they’re almost fat-free and a good source of protein. But lose the curry sauce – a generous serving can be
With its lean, spicy meat or fish and a range of vegetables and spices such as garlic, ginger and turmeric which support digestion and have antibacterial properties, Indian food can be really healthy.
But many dishes commonly found on an Indian takeaway menu include creamy, sugary sauces that are a far cry from what you’d find in India, says Jackie.
“A tomato-based dish such as rogan josh is a good option as it contains less than half the saturated fat of a korma and far fewer calories at 435 compared to 605,” she says.
Jackie advises trying a vegetable side dish instead of rice or bread. Potato dishes such as sag aloo (with spinach) or aloo gobi (with cauliflower) are a good way to include starch without heaping on the rice – and spinach and cauliflower contain immune-boosting antioxidants.
Her other tip is to prepare your own brown rice at home. It contains eight times as much fibre as white rice.
The danger word on a Chinese menu is ‘crispy’, warns Jackie.
“Anything that’s crispy is likely to be battered and deep fried which sends the fat and calories soaring,” she says.
“Choosing a chop suey or similar stir-fried dish is your best bet.
“You’ll get all the health benefits from the ginger and garlic-based sauces while keeping the calories and fat down.”
Jackie explains that a 350g serving of chicken chop suey has 397 calories and 3g of saturated fat as opposed to 507 calories and 47g saturated fat in four sweet and sour pork balls.
Again, ordering a vegetable side dish is better than rice.