Healthy Take Out Food

February 25, 2015

The words “healthy” and “take out” are rarely seen in the same sentence!

The problem with takeout meals is that they are often prepared in a hurry, using ingredients that are frozen, processed, or pre-packaged. You often think of Chinese food, Indian food, hamburgers, or Tex-Mex food as the classic takeout, and none of these inspire confidence in their extreme healthiness and you may end up tossing them down the garbage disposal.

So is it possible to get healthy take out from a restaurant? The answer, as you’ll be thrilled to hear, is yes!

Healthy Take Out Food Options

Every takeout restaurant has a few options of healthy foods, though you’ll rarely see these healthy takeout lunch or dinner items highly advertised. For example:

  • McDonalds serves salads and snack wraps made with grilled chicken and fresh veggies
  • Taco Bell serves proper steak tacos (made with soft corn tortillas) and burritos made with real beans
  • Dunkin Donuts offers an egg white veggie sandwich and a tuna salad sandwich
  • Starbucks has salads, hummus, quinoa, and other natural snacks
  • Subway offers a wide selection of vegetables, not to mention proper chicken, turkey ham, and roast beef
  • Wendy’s offers grilled chicken sandwiches and delicious salads
  • Burger King offers a veggie burger and apple slices
  • KFC offers chicken wings, breasts, legs, and thighs grilled rather than breaded and deep-fried

So, you can see that there ARE healthy take out food options, they’re just a bit harder to find!

Looking for a Healthy Takeout Dinner? Try This…

healthy take out food options

If your goal is to enjoy takeout food without ruining your diet, you’ll be thrilled to hear that there are A LOT of ways to make your takeout healthier! Here are some of the smart choices to make when ordering takeout:

  • Pizza

    Pizza may be delicious, but it’s one of the least healthy takeout meals around (thanks to all the white flour in the crust). Order your pizzas with veggie toppings (no salami or pepperoni), and order thin-crust pizza whenever possible. Stay away from cheese in the crust (more fatty and more expensive). If you must go for a meat topping, order ham–it’s fairly lean!
  • Chinese 

    Healthy Chinese take out is actually not as hard to find as you might think. You’ll want to stay away from any of the heavily friend or greasy meal options, so say goodbye to your spring rolls, deep-fried chicken, and lo mein. Try the chicken, beef, and pork dishes where the food has been sautéed, preferably with A LOT of veggies. Chicken Kung Pao, General Tsao’s Chicken, and anything that has been breaded and fried is a no-no!
  • Mexican 

    If you’re going to order takeout from Taco Bell or Chipotle, ALWAYS get the soft corn tortillas. Hard taco shells are highly processed and loaded in trans fats–plus, they are 100% NOT Mexican. White flour tortillas are tasty, but they’re devoid of nutrients and high in calories. Order soups, rice, and salads, and stay away from the tortilla chips.

    Grilled steak and chicken are excellent options, especially if they’re served with refried beans. If you can get accustomed to it, Pozole (hominy soup) is one of the best meal options to consider!
  • Hamburgers

    If your goal is to eat healthy, hamburgers shouldn’t be on the menu. But, if you’re Jonesing for a burger, always order the grilled chicken, turkey, or veggie burger options. Hold off on the onion rings, fries, soda, or milkshake, and DEFINITELY skip the apple pie. Tuna and chicken salad may seem healthy, but they’re SUPER mayo-heavy. If you can order a salad instead of a burger, you’ll be far better off!
  • Indian

    Indian food can actually be quite healthy as far as takeout goes. It’s often made with natural ingredients, is loaded with spices, and is usually fairly balanced. Just make sure to avoid samosas and go easy on the rice. Naan bread may be wonderful with your curry, but it’s white flour–thus empty calories.

    The best options are daal, chana masala, saag, and any veggies/legumes the menu offers. Finally, anything that comes with the words “tikka masala” on it means that it is loaded with ghee butter and cream–a lot of fat!
  • Sushi

    For those who love Japanese food, sushi is one of the healthiest takeout options around. However, it does contain a lot of high-calorie, low-nutrient white rice. Stay away from any fried rolls, and be wary of avocadoes and cream cheese in your California rolls. Order miso soup, edamame beans, and seaweed salad to help you fill up.
  • Italian

    Pasta is INCREDIBLY high in calories, so it’s going to have to go! Chicken Parmesan is usually breaded and deep fried, so it’s another option to order with extreme caution. You can order spaghetti squash with marinara sauce, along with chicken and fish dishes that have NOT been fried. Avoid anything that is too cheese-heavy (such as Alfredo sauce).
  • KFC/Popeye’s

    Fried chicken is absolutely delicious, but VERY high in trans fats. The mashed potatoes and gravy are totally devoid of real nutrients, and even the coleslaw is loaded with mayo. Order corn whenever possible, along with grilled chicken. White meat is the best choice for those who want to keep their calorie consumption low. Stay away from those white flour biscuits if you value your health.

Eating healthy take out food may be hard, but it is possible! It’s all about knowing how to make the smart choices when ordering out. Follow the advice above and NEVER have an unhealthy takeout meal again...even when in a lunch pinch 🙂

Kaitlin Gardner

About the Author

Kaitlin Gardner

Kaitlin Gardner currently lives in Pennsylvania and is married to her best friend. In her spare time, she loves to go hiking , hand with her family and friend and enjoy nature.