It has to be said that there are times when nothing but a decent takeaway will do. Sometimes it's as an accompaniment to a great movie on a Saturday night; sometimes it’s simply because you’ve just moved house and can no longer find the crockery! However, with all the deep-fat frying and MSG associated with 'fast food', it can be hard to marry the idea of a takeaway with the notion of good nutrition.
But you don't need to resign yourself to thinking of takeaways as a guilty pleasure - if you make the right menu choices, a takeaway can be healthier than you’d expect. Read our guide to the guilt-free takeaway and learn how you can order food without feeling as though you’ve really pigged out.
Healthier Chinese takeaway option
If you avoid fried foods and MSG (monosodium-glutamate) -laden dishes like sweet and sour, crispy chili beef, fried noodles, prawn crackers and spring rolls, and instead go for more traditionally Chinese food such as noodle soup, dim sum and steamed dishes, a Chinese takeaway can actually be remarkably healthy.
Instead of guilt-filled... Battered sweet and sour chicken, prawn crackers and fried rice = 1200 calories
Go for guilt-free… Chicken with vegetables and cashew nuts, and boiled rice = 750 calories
Healthier Pizza option
If you think of pizza as bread topped with antioxidant-rich vegetables and tomato sauce, you’re ordering along the right lines. Otherwise pizza can be a nutritional nightmare, loaded with saturated fat, heavy on the calories and low in nutritional value. Skip the dips, and think twice before you order garlic bread — often the pizza alone will be more than enough.
Instead of guilt-filled... One slice of stuffed crust meat pizza = 520 calories
Go for guilt-free… One slice of thin crust vegetable pizza = 160 calories
Healthier Burger option
Burgers are similar to pizza in that the preparation and accompaniments determine how healthy (or, rather unhealthy) they are. Toppings like bacon, coleslaw, chili and cheese add saturated fat, calories and salt. Go for grilled rather than fried whenever you can, and ask for extra salad.
Instead of guilt-filled... Double cheeseburger, large fries and non-diet drink = 1150 calories (over half the average woman’s daily recommended intake of 2000!)
Go for guilt-free… Hamburger, small fries and diet drink = 500 calories
Healthier Kebab shop option
Avoid that fatty lump of meat on the spit, and go for grilled chicken and salad instead. Or throw caution to the wind and opt for falafel with hummus or tzatziki.
Instead of guilt-filled... Doner kebab = 830 calories
Go for guilt-free… Falafel with hummus = 400 calories
Healthier Indian food option
Indian food has an unfair reputation as the most fattening of all takeaway foods, but remember it’s not the country of origin but rather the menu choice you make that ultimately determines this. Go for a spinach or tomato-based sauce over a creamy one for a dose of vitamins and antioxidants, and choose leaner options such as chicken, prawns or fish in place of fatty meat like lamb. Grilled tandoori meat with salad is an excellent option. Avoid deep-fried snacks such as pakoras and bhajis.
Instead of guilt-filled... Lamb korma, pilau rice and peshwari naan = 1025 calories
Go for guilt-free… Sag aloo (spinach and potatoes), boiled rice, plain naan = 360 calories
Healthier Thai food option
Providing you steer clear of heavy peanut or coconut curries like Massaman, Thai food is overall a great takeaway option.
Instead of guilt-filled... Beef Massaman with coconut rice = 670 calories
Go for guilt-free… Som tam salad with sticky rice = 370 calories
Healthier Mexican food option
Avoid deep-fried options such as chimichangas and opt instead for grilled meat dishes. Load up on guacamole for vitamin E and salsa for the antioxidant lycopene, and go easy on the high-fat cheese and soured cream. Fill up with a serving of Mexican rice on the side to stop you reaching for more than you need.
Instead of guilt-filled... Beef and cheese enchilada with soured cream = 380 calories
Go for guilt-free… Chicken fajita wrap = 200 calories
Healthier Japanese food option
Possibly the healthiest of all the takeaway foods. Buckwheat noodle soup, sashimi, crunchy edamame — all great options — being low-fat, rich in omega-3 oils, and high in isoflavones respectively. Watch you don’t overdo the soy sauce, which will contribute to your salt intake, and again, avoid fried foods.
Instead of guilt-filled... Chicken katsu (breaded fried chicken) with fried noodles = 465 calories
Go for guilt-free… California roll (six pieces), plus miso soup = 370 calories
Healthier Chip shop option
The hardest of all the takeaway joints in which to find a healthy option — chip shops by nature deep-fry nearly everything! Avoid anything in batter or any form of fried pastry. Your best bet is a small portion of chips with a drop of ketchup for the lycopene (an antioxidant found in tomatoes which may help prevent cancer).
Instead of guilt-filled... Battered fish and chips = 1000 calories
Go for guilt-free… Small portion of chips with ketchup = 260 calories