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24 Healthy Takeout Options For Popular Cuisines – Health.com

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Takeout can be the most accessible option for many people, and it does not always have to be high in calories, fat, and sugar. Some healthy takeout options include vegetable dishes and baked or steamed foods instead of fried ones. Every restaurant and cuisine is different, but you generally want to make sure your takeout includes some produce and has minimal dressings and sauces.

Takeout seems easier than ever. Nearly one-third of adults in the United States used food delivery apps to order from a restaurant or store in 2021. Read on to learn what takeout options are the healthiest and tips for ordering.

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Thai food is rich in vegetables and lean meats, so you’ll have no problem finding a delicious and nutritious option. Try one of these orders.

1. Summer Rolls

Reach for these instead of spring rolls since they are steamed instead of fried. Thai-style vegetables are usually not high in fat, but spring rolls are typically higher in calories and fat since they are fried. Summer rolls also pack vegetables and lean protein.

2. Chicken Satay

Seasoned, skewered, and grilled chicken is a good source of protein, which helps produce and repair cells. Chicken satay also comes on a stick, making it fun to eat. You can ask for the peanut sauce on the side if you are trying to reduce added fat and calories.

3. Green Papaya Salad

This salad features julienned papaya, beans, Thai chilis, several fresh vegetables, and peanuts for a deliciously spicy dish. Research has found that papaya contains lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that can repair cell damage in your body.

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Italian food gets a bad rap thanks to its plethora of carb-heavy dishes, but the key is balance. Carbs are your body’s preferred energy source, and pasta is a type of carb. Try making substitutions instead of opting for one particular dish over another.

Remember to also mind your portion sizes. One serving size of pizza is equivalent to one-quarter of a medium pizza. As for pasta, one serving size is a one-half cup, but restaurants may serve more than that.

1. Go for Tomato-Based Sauces

You can enjoy a pasta dish every now and then. Marinara or other tomato-style sauces may be lighter in calories than others if you are trying to manage your weight. Those sauces will also be lower in oil and saturated fats.

Tomatoes are a source of lycopene and nutrients like potassium, iron, folate, and vitamin C. The fruit provides other antioxidants, such as beta-carotene, and phenolic compounds. Research has found that the nutrients in tomatoes may help reduce heart disease risk.

2. Choose Thin-Crust

Opt for a thin-crust pizza to avoid the extra calories of thick, processed flour crust. You can even add vegetable toppings for extra nutrients.

3. Add Protein

Try adding protein to your Italian dishes, especially pasta, which can leave you hungry not long after you eat it. Protein helps keep you full for long periods. For example, you can enjoy grilled shrimp in a pasta fra diavolo or add grilled chicken in a penne pomodoro.

Chinese food offers plenty of options if you are looking to fill up on vegetables, lean meats, and grains. Some of the following substitutions or options can help you pick a balanced meal.

1. Order Brown Rice

This is a simple substitute, and it’s often one that restaurants are able to make. Brown rice is a whole grain, meaning the entire grain remains intact. As a result, brown rice offers more fiber than white rice. Fiber adds bulk to your meals, helping you feel full for long periods. Research has found that brown rice also contains a moderate amount of proteins, minerals, vitamins, and several bioactive compounds.

2. Steamed Dumplings

Steamed dumplings pack vegetables and protein like shrimp, making them a balanced choice. You can also have a side of steamed broccoli or bok choy for more vegetables. The sauce usually comes on the side with steamed dumplings, so you can limit added calories and fat.

3. Steamed Chicken and Broccoli

Opt for a steamed meat and vegetable entrée. One ounce of chicken adds about seven grams of protein. Broccoli is a source of vitamin C, which supports your immune system and helps protect against cell damage. Just remember to ask for sauce on the side if the dish at your go-to restaurant includes one.

There’s a wide range of foods to choose from with Japanese food. You can choose from plenty of plant-based dishes and ones with animal protein.

1. Miso Soup

Miso soup is basically a bunch of miso-infused broth with some tofu, nori, and onions. Keep in mind that miso soup can have a high amount of sodium, with about 1,470 milligrams (mg) in one cup. Experts advise that you limit your sodium intake to 2,300mg per day or 1,500mg if you have high blood pressure.

Despite its sodium content, a study published in 2015 found that, among middle-aged Asian men who frequently consumed miso soup, participants were likelier to have a low heart rate. The researchers did not link miso soup to hypertension (high blood pressure), a heart disease risk factor.

2. Chicken Teriyaki

As with Chinese takeout, opt for chicken and vegetable dishes. For example, chicken teriyaki with vegetables is a balanced option. Order the sauce on the side if you are conscious of your sodium intake.

3. Tuna or California Rolls

Sushi is a collection of rice, vegetables, and cooked or raw fish wrapped in a roll of seaweed. The preparation and seasoning can take away from the overall nutrition. Sushi dipped in tempura and fried and then covered with a creamy sauce will have more fat and calories than sushi wrapped only in nori with fish, rice, and vegetables.

Try tuna or California rolls, which are flavorful and low in fat. Both contain a fair amount of protein. Tuna rolls supply omega-3 fatty acids, which might help reduce your heart disease risk.

Mexican food has plenty of delicious, healthy options. Many Mexican dishes have beans that pack filling fiber and vegetables.

1. Choose Whole Beans

Whole beans are boiled in water as opposed to refried beans, which are cooked with added fat. As a result, whole beans are low in fat and calories while delivering all the protein power of beans.

Beans generally offer several health benefits. Phytochemicals in beans help improve cholesterol and blood sugar. These bioactive compounds protect blood vessels and reduce chronic inflammation markers. Research has shown that beans also support healthy gut bacteria.

2. Limit Cheese and Sour Cream

Ask for cheese and sour cream on the side so you can control portion sizes. Those dairy products are safe in moderation, but too much cheese and sour cream increases your saturated fat intake. Saturated fat may increase your cholesterol, which is a heart disease risk factor.

3. Veggie Burrito Bowl

A veggie burrito bowl with brown rice, sautéed onions and peppers, a double order of beans, guacamole, lettuce, and salsa contains plenty of produce to help meet your goals. Experts advise five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. The fiber in beans will help keep you full for long periods.

Indian food packs flavor and plenty of vegetables. You may enjoy one of the following balanced options.

1. Dal

Dal is a lentil-heavy dish with delicious spices like cinnamon and cumin. Some dals are made with coconut milk. Look for one with a tomato base if you are wanting to reduce dietary fat intake.

Cinnamon is not only a delicious spice, but research has also shown that cinnamon packs compounds that act as antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and antimicrobials. Cinnamon might protect against cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

2. Chana Masala

The main ingredient in chana masala is chickpeas, which offer plenty of protein. Chickpeas have several nutrients like:

  • Fiber
  • Folate
  • Healthy fats
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Vitamins A, C, and E

Some evidence suggests that chickpeas may help manage weight, regulate blood sugar and insulin, and improve heart disease risk. A nice perk of this dish: You can enjoy it as-is or over brown rice.

3. Tandoori Chicken

Tandoori chicken packs flavor and is a good way to get some protein into your meal. Make sure to ask for brown rice instead of white rice for more fiber and nutrients if you plan to enjoy yours with rice.

Greek food includes elements of the Mediterranean diet. Research has shown that the Mediterranean diet helps improve your blood sugar, cholesterol, and heart disease risk.

1. Hummus

Hummus is a dish of ground-up chickpeas mixed with tahini. One cup of ready-to-eat chickpeas contains 12 grams (g) of protein and a little over 10g of fiber. Enjoy yours with fresh vegetables or a whole-wheat pita.

2. Fattoush Salad

This salad features bread pieces and tons of green leafy vegetables. Research has found that one serving of green leafy vegetables per day might slow age-related cognitive decline. Enjoy yours with a vinegar dressing.

3. Falafel Pita

Order this Greek dish on a whole-wheat pita for fiber and protein. Falafel is a vegetarian-friendly protein option made up of ground beans or chickpeas.

You do not have to give up these traditional comfort foods. Making simple adjustments to soups and burgers can help increase your nutrient intake.

1. Broth-Based Soup

Broth-based vegetable soups are often healthier options than cream-based soups. The broth cuts out added fat and calories. Enjoy your soup with a salad to make it a balanced meal.

2. Veggie Burger

Traditional burgers are high in saturated fat, which may increase your cholesterol and lead to weight gain. Instead, opt for a veggie burger and top it off with tomato and lettuce for even more nutrients.

3. Vegetarian Chili

A vegetarian chili can be a satisfying and filling choice. This variation is lower in fat and higher in fiber than traditional chili, thanks to the beans.

You do not need to give up your favorite restaurant dish to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Instead, keep these tips in mind when ordering takeout:

  • Consider how your food is cooked: See whether the restaurant can bake or steam your food instead of frying it. 
  • Control your portion size: Many restaurants serve large portion sizes. Try eating half of your meal and then saving the other half for later.
  • Drink water: Soda and other fountain drinks often have a lot of added sugar. Alcohol is another source of “empty calories,” which contribute to weight gain but do not offer nutrients.
  • Eat a side of vegetables: It’s OK to enjoy a side of french fries every now and then but ask for a side of steamed vegetables if you want to cut your calorie intake.
  • Enjoy dessert in moderation: You can enjoy sweet treats every now and then. You can ask another person to split a dessert with you. 
  • Order dressings and sauces on the side: This allows you to control how much goes into your meal. 

Takeout is often an easy, accessible option for many people. You can make simple adjustments to popular dishes across several cuisines to have a balanced meal. For example, ask for brown rice or whole-wheat bread instead of ingredients made up of refined white flour. Other healthy options include baked or steamed foods instead of fried ones and vegetable dishes.

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