Healthier Takeaways

NHS

Takeaways are often cheap, convenient and satisfying but, unfortunately, they're not always very healthy.  

Some takeaway meals can push you over your recommended daily maximum amount of salt and fat, which can lead to a variety of health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes. Some takeaways and restaurants now list calories on their menus, which helps you make a healthier choice.

Below are some tips on foods to avoid and healthier options when ordering your favourite takeaway.

Fish and chips

There are lots of ways to make your trip to the chippy a healthier one. Have a portion of baked beans or mushy peas with your fish and chips. Watch out for other foods that are high in fat, such as pies and sausages.

The thicker the chips the better, because they absorb less fat. Try to have a smaller portion or share your chips. Ask for your fish and chips without salt – if you want some salt, then add a small amount yourself.

Don't eat all the batter around your fish, because it soaks up a lot of fat. If available, have fish coated in breadcrumbs, as it soaks up less fat.

Fish and chips that are cooked in oil at the right temperature taste better and absorb less fat. So watch out for soggy batter and chips, because this is often a sign that the oil wasn't hot enough.

  • Try to avoid: thin-cut chips, pies such as cheese and onion or steak and kidney, and jumbo sausages.
  • Healthier options: fish coated in breadcrumbs, mushy peas, thicker-cut chips without salt.
Italian

If you're having pizza, choose lower-fat toppings, such as vegetables, ham, fish and prawns. You could ask for some extra veg on your pizza to bump up your daily fruit and veg portions. But if you don't want to increase the saturated fat content and number of calories in your meal, don't ask for extra cheese.

With pasta dishes, if you want a lower-fat option go for a sauce that's based on tomatoes or vegetables, rather than cream.

If you're having a starter or a dessert, then you could go for a smaller main meal, such as a starter-size pasta with a side salad – Italian restaurants often serve 2 sizes of pasta dishes.

Rather than garlic bread, which often contains a lot of butter (and is therefore high in fat), you could try bruschetta, which is a tasty ciabatta bread toasted and topped with fresh tomatoes and herbs.

  • Try to avoid: large deep-pan pizzas, pizzas with a cheese-stuffed crust, triple cheese with pepperoni pizzas, creamy pasta sauces, garlic bread.
  • Healthier options: small or medium pizzas with a thin base and vegetable or lean meat topping, tomato-based pasta sauces, bruschetta.
Chinese

Anything that's battered or marked as "crispy" on the menu means it's deep-fried. Watch out for starters such as prawn crackers and spring rolls, because these are generally deep-fried. Anything in batter will be high in fat. Sweet and sour pork is usually battered.

Steamed dishes are the best option, but stir-fries are fine because they're usually lower in fat and include vegetables.

  • Try to avoid: sweet and sour battered pork balls with special or egg-fried rice, prawn toast, spring rolls.
  • Healthier options: crab and corn soup, steamed dumplings, steamed vegetables and plain boiled rice, steamed fish, chicken chop suey, Szechuan prawns.
Thai

Try to stick to stir-fried dishes or steamed dishes containing chicken, fish or vegetables instead of curries.

Thai curries, such as the popular green and red curries, contain coconut milk, which is high in saturated fat. If you choose a curry, try not to eat all the sauce. Have some steamed rice with your meal instead of egg-fried rice.

  • Try to avoid: fried rice, fishcakes, spring rolls, prawn crackers, satay skewers with peanut sauce, and sweet and sour dishes.
  • Healthier options: clear soups such as tom yum, salads, stir-fried meat, fish or vegetable dishes, and steamed seafood dishes, such as fish or mussels.
Indian

Try to avoid anything that's creamy or deep-fried. To reduce the amount of fat in your meal, choose dishes with tomato-based sauces, such as jalfrezi and madras, or tandoori-cooked meat, plain rice or chapatti. Also choose plenty of vegetables, including lentil side dishes (known as dhal or dal).

  • Try to avoid: any creamy curries, such as korma, passanda or masala with pilau rice, naan, bhajis, pakoras and poppadoms.
  • Healthier options: tandoori-cooked meat or jalfrezi or madras with chicken, prawns or vegetables, plain rice and chapatti.
Kebab and burgers

Doner kebabs can be high in fat. For a healthier option, go for a shish kebab, which is a skewer with whole cuts of meat or fish and is usually grilled.

If you're having a burger, avoid breaded or battered chicken or fish patties, extra cheese, bacon strips and high-fat sauces such as mayonnaise. Instead, go for a regular, single-patty hamburger without mayonnaise or cheese and have with extra salad.

  • Try to avoid: large doner kebab with mayonnaise and no salad, burgers with cheese and mayonnaise, thin-cut chips, chicken or fish patties deep-fried in batter.
  • Healthier options: shish kebab with pitta bread and salad, grilled burgers made from lean fish or meat (beef or whole chicken breast) and without cheese and mayonnaise.

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