By: Emily Duerr, RDN, LD
Sometimes life can be too chaotic for you to keep up with daily demands AND put a home-cooked meal on the table—and that’s okay. This is true even when things are normal, but especially true during the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic. But you may find yourself asking, “How can I still meet my health goals when I have to rely on take out?” Don’t worry—with planning and consideration, it can be done. Here are some tips to help you stay on track when ordering takeout:
Balance your meals:
Eating the recommended amounts from each food group can help you feel full and satisfied from your takeout meal without overdoing it.
Aim to fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables, a quarter of your plate with lean protein, and a quarter of your plate with a high-fiber starch (think potatoes, corn and grains such as pasta, rice, bread — this even includes breading on fried foods).
Pro tip: If you can’t find appetizing, non-starchy vegetables on the takeout menu, bring your main entrée home and add a side of veggies from your pantry, fridge or freezer. For example, if you’re having pizza, pair 1 or 2 slices with either raw veggies, a homemade salad or steamed frozen vegetables.
Be aware of your portions:
Sometimes we can get over-eager on our takeout order and find ourselves with way more food than our body actually needs. Here are a few ways to help you manage portions:
- Save half of your meal for leftovers. You could even ask for your meal to be split in half and boxed separately. Pro tip: Store leftovers (wrapped tightly in an airtight container) for 3-4 days in the fridge and reheat to a minimum internal temperature of 165˚F.
- Practice intuitive eating and stop eating when you feel full.
- Resist the temptation of “buy one, get one free” deals that could lead to over-ordering.
Look up nutrition facts before you order:
Did you know the FDA requires restaurants with over 20 locations to provide customers with access to nutrition information?
Before you order, check out the restaurant website for nutrition information — some places use a nutrition calculator, while others may have a chart format.
If you don’t have time to look for full nutrition info, restaurants with over 20 locations will also have the calories listed on their menu so you can take them into consideration when ordering food to-go.
Ordering from a restaurant that doesn’t have nutrition information available? Do your best to balance your meal (don’t forget to fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables!) and to practice intuitive eating.
Watch out for items that may add extra calories, salt, sugar, and saturated fat to your meals.
While toppings, sauces, dressings, and condiments can add delicious flavor to your meals, they can also add up in nutrients you may be trying to limit. Don’t be scared to ask for these items on the side so that you can control how much you consume.
Pro tip for salads: ask for your dressing on the side and dip your fork into the dressing BEFORE you pick up your greens, that way you get dressing in each bite, but not too much.