Nutrition

How can you navigate the take-out menu?

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Let’s say you’ve had a long day at work, you’re exhausted and have no energy left to cook dinner, so what do you do? Why you order in of course. For many families, ordering in is a regular occurrence and although the traditional delivery meals tend to laden with saturated fat and more grease than a run down car, it doesn’t always have to be this way. Today we’re going to look at ways that you can safely navigate the menus and order in without throwing in the towel on a healthy lifestyle.

Let’s start by determining what you’re actually in the mood to eat; if you’re hungry and didn’t eat enough during the day chances are your judgement is already clouded and you’ll be gravitating towards pizza or burgers or fried Chinese food. If that’s the case then maybe consider taking a step back and eating a small snack like a handful of nuts before even looking at the menus, otherwise you’ll just end up ordering everything available, spending way to much and gorging yourself on the not so good for you stuff. Once that’s out of the way, think about what you’ve already had to eat that day; if you’ve had an Asian or Indian style meal at lunch for example, you can rule those out as options for dinner. Instead take this meal as an opportunity to try something a little different. What about Lebanese, Mexican or Greek? There are probably a lot of options in your area so give something new a try for a nice change of pace.

Once that’s out of way and you decide what food you’re in the mood for, it’s time to build your meal. Unless you exercise at night, you’re dinner should consist of lean protein and lots of non-starchy veggies and some whole grains. If you do eat meat and fish, then go for un-breaded grilled chicken or fish, and stay away from the creamy sauces, fried fish and meats. Opt for a vegetable side dish instead fries, fried rice or mashed potatoes with gravy. Maybe consider a salad in a vinaigrette, sautéed vegetables or a vegetable soup with couscous, steamed rice or taboulet. If you decide on Indian then a good option is chana masala (chickpeas), some mixed vegetables and jasmine rice. If you go for Thai then try a big bowl of soup with tons of veggies and tofu in a spicy vegetable based broth. If you choose Greek, then try a souvlaki without the pita with a Greek salad. If you really absolutely have to have that pizza, or baked cheesy lasagna or greasy tacos and you really don’t want to compromise, then don’t beat yourself up over it and make it your treat meal of the week. Food is meant to be enjoyed so don’t starve yourself or think that just because you’re healthy doesn’t mean you can’t have a good meal. If you are however willing to compromise even just a little, then maybe order a pizza with veggies and no meat with a little bit of cheese (yes, you can ask for that) on a whole wheat crust if it’s available. Or go for the vegetarian soft shell tacos, with no sour cream and the guacamole on the side.

Another important thing to keep in mind is portion sizes; the menu may say it serves 1 but realistically you know that mountain of food is enough for 3 people. Consider portioning out half of your meal once it arrives and save it for your lunch or dinner the next day, or just share one meal between two people instead. Even if you order a healthy and balanced meal, the portion size may be enough to through off all of your health conscious efforts and derail your diet.

However you eat and whatever you choose to eat, remember that each meal that you consume is an opportunity for you to be healthy and nourish yourself, so choose wisely. You know what a healthy meal and a healthy portion looks like, so don’t delude yourself with greasy fast food and think “it’s not so bad”, because unless it is your treat meal of the week, it is no good. Remember to respect your body and all of the efforts that it puts in to keeping you well.

Start It, Finish It

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